Oct. 15 – 2:30am
While al-Zahir filled Erik in on the details of the murder of Sam and the text message, Alex studied her host. He had to be well over six feet in height which was accentuated by his slender build. She was amazed at how fluid his movements were for so tall a man; he had seemed to glide to the chair rather than walk. His hair appeared to be jet black in the dim light; she supposed she’d know for certain in better lighting. The fingers that wrapped around his glass were long, slim, almost delicate…an artist’s or musician’s hands. But his eyes…Alex had seen hazel eyes that looked almost golden in certain light but Devereaux’s eyes were gold and, though she blamed it on the emotional roller coaster that her day had been, she would swear they actually glowed in the dark room. There was something slightly…off with his face but, in the dim light, she couldn’t put her finger on it. That, too, she blamed on exhaustion. She had been studying him so intently that she didn’t realize the conversation had ended and they were looking at her expectantly.
“Oh…I’m sorry,” she blushed faintly, “did you ask me something? I’m afraid I was a million miles away.”
“No need to concern yourself, Miss Roberts. I’m quite certain your day dreams were farm more interesting than discovering who wants you dead.” Erik’s cold, sarcastic voice sent a chill through Alex and she shivered, wrapping her arms around herself.
“I’m sorry,” she blinked back tears as she struggled to keep her emotions at bay for just a bit longer. His lack of sympathy and her own embarrassment at being caught staring made her voice a bit sharper than she had intended. “I’ve just had a…one of the worst days of my life. I’ve been up since 5:00am today…yesterday, had three finals at the university, was told my brother had been m…murdered, my apartment was ransacked, and my life has been threatened by my brother’s killer. I’m not sure if these are common occurrences for you, Mr. Devereaux, but they’re not for me so forgive me if my attention wanders.”
“Bravo, Miss Roberts,” faint amusement now tinged his voice and Alex shivered again, this time at the sheer beauty of it. “You will need that fire, that anger to get through this ordeal, I’m sure. Back to the situation at hand…have you thought of anything else that might help us discover what she wants?”
“She…? So you know who killed my brother?”
“Perhaps. We need more information first.” Al-Zahir clarified. “For now, we have only assumptions and gut feelings. Neither of these sway a jury, I’m afraid.”
“Oh.” She sighed dejectedly. “I don’t know anything for certain but I believe Sammy had gotten access to a ‘net enabled computer somehow and was up to his old tricks. Generally he caused little harm to the systems he hacked into; he considered it a game to defeat the self-proclaimed impenetrable firewalls. He’d sneak in, change their homepage to a porn site, leave a message thanking them for the fun, or override their security cameras to show old cartoons, stuff like that. Nothing truly damaging. It was almost like a drug addiction, though. He’d get caught up in the thrill and start poking into banking systems, ATMs, things like that. Our parents had just died and we had to sell our home to pay for the funeral and hospital bills. It was so easy for him to siphon off a penny here, half a penny there. He got comfortable. He got careless and then he got arrested.”
Alex stood and began to pace, trying to think of anything that stood out. “He was restricted from computers when he got out of jail and had promised me that the only time he’d used one was at the employment agency. His parole officer accompanied him there. But he’d been so relaxed, so at ease. Almost like he’d gotten a ‘fix’, you know? He’d also been on the phone quite a lot in the last few days. The calls were always short and he would take them in his bedroom. I thought he was talking to prospective employers and setting up job interviews like he’d promised. I had even hoped that he had a girlfriend. Perhaps it was merely wishful thinking. I tried not to pry into his life too much.”
She chewed her lip and continued to pace; there was something…just outside of memory but she simply couldn’t grasp it. The more she focused on it, the fuzzier it got until she finally shrugged in defeat and dropped back onto the sofa burying her head in her hands. “I don’t know! It feels like there’s something…something just outside of memory, something important. I don’t know what, but it’s there…dammit, why can’t I remember?” Her shoulders shook with quiet sobs that she could no longer hold inside. Alex had shut her emotions away for too long and her frustration and exhaustion had finally ripped away her self control.
A glass suddenly appeared in front of her and Alex looked up into the golden eyes of her host. Her hands were shaking when she took the glass and she whispered a thank you before dropping her gaze to the floor once more.
“Drink,” Erik’s melodious voice settled over her like a warm blanket and soothed her nerves. “It will help you relax a bit.”
Alex nodded and sipped the drink, too numb to do anything but obey those gorgeous eyes and that beautiful voice. The cool water felt good sliding down her throat. She wiped her eyes with her fingers before accepting the handkerchief that, like the glass, seemed to appear out of thin air. Silence fell on the room while Alex tried to pull herself together but it wasn’t too much longer before her eyes began to droop. Devereaux returned to his chair and watched as Alex gave in to the pull of the sleep aid he’d placed in her drink. The detective took the glass from her hands before she could drop it and helped her stretch out on the sofa. She was asleep before the blanket had completely settled over her.