Title: The Stain
Series: Adept Series
Pairing: Chloe/Peter Bishop
Disclaimer: Don't own
Summary: Chloe and the team are trying to solve a very strange case indeed, so it would be great if Homeland Security weren't dogging them all of a sudden. It also doesn't help that, given recent developments, the unravelling is starting to show, especially in her relationship with Peter. The team's about to gain a new member... and lose another.
Who was Peter's fifth candidate?
Chloe had met the fourth already, it had been her first Secret Compatibility Test in which she'd actually known what was going on and had gone into it with the mind-frame of honestly giving the person a chance. This time the "connection" was Jared, as Rick Sanchez was a Secret Service agent and Head of the president's security detail. He seemed nice enough, but there definitely hadn't been any interest from her. While she hadn't gotten physically ill like she had with Brice, all instincts in her body had been at "No Go".
That only let Peter with one candidate left, and she couldn't help but wonder who this guy was and when they'd spring him on her in their subtle attempt to put her through a Compatibility Test.
Drip drip drip.
Staring up at the blood as it dripped down below, she couldn't help but remind herself that now was not the time to think about these things right now. Not with a mutilated body to investigate. Not when it was the second of its kind which had happened in the last two days.
"I shouldn't have had that second taco," Jared whispered to no one in particular as he took pictures of the crime scene. He shook his head and angled the lens. "How? I mean, come on! Local law enforcement are acting like we're stepping on their dicks by taking over the crime scene, but suicide, really? What sort of idiotic—."
"What does that remind you of?" Chloe asked curiously as she stared at the body.
"A horror movie I saw once when I was like, eleven," Jared answered immediately. "I was so scared afterwards that I peed my bed, and when grandpa confronted me about it I told him Seeley did it."
Chloe barked in laughter. "No."
"Yes! I then told him that Seeley had a problem with peeing the bed, but that I hadn't wanted to, you know, make him feel bad by telling on him," Jared continued with no shame or repentance whatsoever.
"Your poor brother."
"Poor brother? Gramps totally spoiled him for like a day! And Gramps wasn't one to spoil!" It was obvious that Jared resented not being spoiled that day. "Seeley hadn't even peed the bed! I had! Where's the justice in this world?"
Chloe laughed and shook her head, before suddenly a wave of dizziness descended over her. She brought a hand to her head and leaned against a nearby column as she waited for it to pass. Usually it was over in a second but the episodes were growing longer and longer.
Ever since the night she'd collapsed with a nosebleed on Peter's balcony things had been wonky. She and Peter were fine, they strengthened the bond regularly, and yet it didn't seem to last as long as it used to - not at all. It also didn't seem to be charging her as much either.
Was this because Peter was actively rejecting their situation by trying to trick her into getting his replacement? Was he that desperate to leave and be done with all of this madness that it was affecting the bond? Was it sensing his distress and reacting?
Something in her chest hurt, it was as if something inside of her was ever so slowly tearing apart.
Pushing away the pain, fighting the dizziness, Chloe shook her head, opened her eyes, and forced herself to concentrate on the murder. If she gave her mind something to obsess over until solved she'd get a bit of a break from its over-analysis of everything she must've done wrong to make Peter feel so trapped he'd go behind her back to find someone to pawn her off onto.
Since Anne was off doing some research for Chloe, in the meantime Peter and Lincoln Lee (the newest addition to what Chloe had officially named - with the President's blessing - the Fringe Division) were canvassing the area and talking to witnesses. That meant that it was just Chloe and Jared here with the body in the cordoned off area.
"What does it look like to you?" Jared looked up from the pictures on his digital camera.
"Le Mat," Chloe responded immediately.
Jared turned to look at her with a look of utter confusion. "The revolver?"
"No." She shook her head. "Le Mat - also known as The Madman or The Fool." Sure the proportions were a bit off, and some things were clearly improvised, but the man impaled on the wall looked very much like The Fool.
Jared looked up at the impaled body and then let his camera hang against his chest via the strap as he grabbed his phone and began searching. Within seconds he found something, checked the body once more, and then turned the screen towards her. "What about this homeless guy looks like this rich, prissy dude?"
"Wrong deck. You're searching Rider-Waite, which, while the most commonly used deck, is incorrect when it comes to this interpretation." She motioned to the man dead before them. "I, on the other hand, am referring to the eldest surviving tarot cards: the Visconti-Sforza tarot deck."
Jared put his finger to his phone screen and then lifted it right up. "How do you spell that?"
Someone cleared their throat off to the side.
Chloe and Jared turned around, and her eyes widened when she saw the newcomers.
"Agents Wanek and Singer," the shorter one declared as he held out his badge. "Homeland Security."
"We're here to help the investigation in any way possible," Agent Singer assured her as he put away his badge.
Chloe raised an eyebrow as she stared between one and the other, unable to believe what was right in front of her. "Agents… Wanek and Singer."
"Yes ma'am," Agent Wanek declared. "Is there a problem?"
She gazed between the two of them, not exactly sure how she was supposed handle this situation. "No, of course not, Agent Wanek." She motioned to the body and then turned to him. "Why is Homeland Security interested in the death of a homeless man?" She folded her arms over her chest and leaned forwards. "Has the NSA been a bit… leakey… again? Did the vic stumble across some important, national information while dumpster diving?" Her eyes widened in mock fear. "Should we show you where the closest dumpsters are? You might want to jump in yourselves just to be sure."
Jared's eyes widened on her in horror.
Agents Wanek and Singer shared a look before Agent Wanek cleared his throat and straightened his jacket. "Ma'am, I don't like your attitude. Homeland Security—."
"Has no jurisdiction over this investigation." She raised an eyebrow. "So, thanks for the offer to assist, but this is not the case for you."
"Ma'am—," Agent Singer began.
"It's Agent," she interrupted immediately. "Special Agent."
"I notice you haven't shown a badge or named a department, or even given a last name, Special Agent," Agent Wanek announced with a very fake smile.
She leaned in close and gave him one just as fake. "You know, that's the sort of sharp observational skills that gets you a job at Homeland Security." She then stepped back and motioned with her hand for them to leave. "Off with you. You're interrupting me and my thought process."
Turning her back on them, Chloe cracked her neck and returned to staring at the crime scene. She could hear the faint footsteps of the men leaving, as well as their hissed words to each other, they were obviously pissed. This was definitely not the last she'd see of them.
"And I thought the authorities here got touchy when we stole the scene!" Jared's voice was squeaked in shock. "What was that?"
"Relax," she advised as she tried to get back into the mental space she needed to be in to begin her initial computing. "We're not going to get in trouble."
"You can't know that," he pointed out. "Being a psychic is not one of your Adept abilities." He paused, looking hopeful. "Is it?"
She ignored him and concentrated on the crime scene.
What was going on with Chloe?
Peter couldn't exactly pinpoint when he'd first noticed that there was something slightly off about her, but ever since he'd first made note of it, it'd only gotten progressively worse. Whatever it was she was keeping it to herself for right now, and she was an adult with every right to do so, so Peter wouldn't pry unless he sensed things reach a point where things were dangerous. He figured she'd come clean to him eventually, she usually did anyway. All he had to do was wait until the time was right.
In the meantime he continued helping with all he could, keeping up his duties as Bonder, and trying to prepare everything in regards to his fifth and last candidate. Not only had Chloe not liked the other four candidates hand-selected by him and the others in his Bonder Committee, but in some instances she'd reacted negatively… as in… physically. And that really made him wonder about this whole Bonder thing. It wasn't just mental or emotional, it obviously involved chemistry, pheromones, something.
Chloe's Bonder had to fit multiple different categories, and he realized just how hard it would be to find someone like that. The fact that he himself had managed to fit them, mostly, was a huge compliment now that he thought about that. It meant that, other than the history of mental illness in his family, he was a perfect match for her, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Just how am I ever going to be able to find someone as compatible for her as I am?
Clearing his throat, uncomfortable all of a sudden, Peter looked up when Anne stormed into the meeting room. She'd called the meeting but had been late, and he was glad more than ever that she'd finally arrived.
"Behold our second vic!" Anne stood in front of the screen, tablet in hand as she cast the picture of the homeless man now in the Medical Examiner's room. Vance was looking into getting them their own room given the fact that some of their cadavers were hexed and needed certain extra precautions, but for now Ducky was helping handle them, with Chloe's supervision.
A picture of the homeless man, looking very much like someone who'd walked off of a GQ magazine cover, graced the screen, as well as his stats.
"His name was Ansel Ramirez, he was 45 years old, and a second generation American who was very vocal on how his grandparents' struggles as immigrants inspired him to achieve greatness. He was also one of the richest men in Washington." Anne made a face. "There's no news on his company folding under, or him having any sort of financial issues, so his extreme beggar/homeless guy makeover is a big question mark."
"Any wife or kids?" Jared wanted to know curiously.
"None." Anne flicked an article onto the screen which named Ramirez as one of Washington's most eligible bachelors.
The door opened and Lincoln Lee, Jared's friend and newest Fringe Division recruit, appeared with a large container filled with coffees in hand.
"My savior!" Jared bowed down and stole his and Anne's cups, placing hers on the table next to her.
"What'd I miss?" Lincoln asked as he held the container out to Peter.
"The second vic is a single rich guy," Peter summarized as he retrieved his cup and nodded his thanks.
"Noted." Lincoln moved around Peter to stand between him and Chloe, holding the container out towards her. "Almond mocha with extra whip."
She smiled up at him and took both his and her cups out so that he could dump the container. "Good job, Agent Lee."
"Yes, well, if getting coffee is what it takes to help keep the world spinning," he chuckled sheepishly as he pushed his glasses higher up his nose. "Thanks." He took his cup from her and turned his attention to Anne.
Kiss ass. Peter rolled his eyes and took a sip of his drink.
"I've done research into him, and I can't find anything fishy at all." Anne sounded very disappointed as she flicked more and more press shots and candids and articles in reference to Mr Ramirez onto the screen. "From what I could find he was actually pretty decent. Not only did he go to church regularly and contribute an annual amount to help with outreach programs the church sponsored, but he also started a charity which helped kids from lower income brackets to get a good education and have free lunches. He bought his parents a great house in an even greater neighborhood once he made his first million, and he's used much of his own personal wealth to make his old neighborhood better. There's after school projects and projects aimed at those recently released from prison - all in an effort to keep people busy and out of gangs."
"Sounds like he was a veritable saint," Lincoln muttered in slight awe. "Why would someone do to him what was done? Who could have something against him?"
"Don't trust outwards appearances," Peter informed him. "Some of the people who do the nicest things do so to try and keep their conscience at bay."
"I thought the same thing," Anne agreed. "But I haven't been able to find any dirt so far no matter how hard I try. Nothing at all."
"Doesn't mean it isn't there." Peter took a long sip of his coffee. "Someone did that," he motioned to the pictured of Mr Ramirez's impaled corpse, "to him. And I don't know about you, but that looks really personal to me."
"It is." Chloe waved at the hot steam that wafted upwards from her cup of coffee. "It was also a very clear message though. This wasn't just about Mr Ramirez."
"What do you mean?" Anne asked as she hugged the tablet to her chest.
"When Ducky and I performed the post-mortem on both the first vic and Mr Ramirez we found some interesting things regarding their deaths. Take Mr Ramirez for example, we concluded that cause of death was not the impaling, he was actually dead by the time he was impaled. None of the other embellishes were done until after the death either: the tattered clothes, the stocking without shoes, the feathers in the hair. None of it."
"You said that it's reminiscent of some old type of tarot, right?" Jared remembered.
Chloe nodded. "The Fool from the Visconti-Sforza tarot deck."
Anne typed quickly into the tablet and brought up an image of the card itself.
Peter narrowed his eyes as the image was enlarged. "That rod he's holding looks a lot like the one he's been impaled on."
"Exactly." Chloe nodded.
"Does he have balls on his chin?" Jared wanted to know as he squinted and leaned closer towards the screen to eye the tarot card better. "It looks like he has balls on his chin."
Peter tilted his head as he examined the card better. "I think it's a double chin."
"No, those are balls." Jared sounded sure of it.
Lincoln made a face and waved his hand to show he believed there was a fifty/fifty chance it was balls.
Deciding that they'd gone off of topic, Peter turned to Chloe. "What's the esoteric meaning of The Fool card?"
"It's really open to interpretation," Chloe mumbled as she nibbled on her thumbnail.
The pinched expression on her face, coupled with the slightly vacant look in her eyes, betrayed that she was seeing things no one else could - information stored away within her which popped out when questions needed answering. Every time he saw that expression on her face, Peter couldn't help but wonder exactly how she saw the world. She was so different, so changed by her experiences, as well as by the knowledge stored deep within her that threatened her very existence with its overwhelming presence.
"Have you been able to identify the first victim yet?" Peter asked Anne.
She shook her head and pulled up a separate screen. The skeleton that'd been discovered was pure bone, no tissue or muscle in sight. There was a white cloth which had been wrapped around the head, and its fingers had been curled around a crude, long bow.
Chloe waved and flicked her hands in the air in front of her as she mumbled to herself. To anyone else she'd look like a crazy person talking to themselves and seeing delusions. But unlike the insane people Peter had met in his life, Chloe really was seeing things that no one else could.
In fact, by the way she reached out, thumb and find together only to push them apart - it seemed like she was zooming in on some image.
"How did I not see it before?" Chloe's eyes widened, looking far too large for her face. She'd been too pale lately, and skinny. "Death."
"Yeah, uhh, the vic's definitely dead," Jared threw out there with a little laugh.
Peter, on the other hand, understood immediately. "Anne, bring up the Visconti-Sforza Death card."
Her eyes widened as she hurriedly did so and cast it on the screen. There, above them, was a depiction of the victim.
Chloe was continuing to push away things in the air in front of her, and pull others closer, arranging everything in that beautiful and terrifying mind of hers. "Given the symmetry, yet primordially contradictory nature of the Ramirez murder, one must assume that whoever the unfortunate whose bones were picked clean is somehow the antithesis of his mythological, and one might chance - alchemical - alter. Which really begs the questions as to how that can translate into living representation of a dualistic yet antagonistic nature."
Seeing Jared and Anne's confused looks, Peter opened his mouth to translate.
Lincoln turned to Chloe. "That's interesting." He removed his glasses when they fogged up with steam. "I've been trying to catch up on the million things I don't know, but I've never heard of that sort of ritual. Is it a special sort of magic only used by certain magical practitioners, or during some lunar cycle, or maybe during some pagan holy day?"
Peter rolled his eyes and looked away. If there was anything he couldn't stand, it was a teacher's pet or a know-it-all, and Lincoln was trying to be both.
"Not exactly, but it seems to be both symbiotic and counter reflective," Chloe responded without missing beat. "I've never heard it referred to as Opposites magic," she admitted. "But given the inverted nature of the symbiosis, a reversal of circumstances could be considered a—."
Her phone rang, cutting into her monologue and completely distracting her as she hurried to answer it.
Jared took this opportunity to throw a crumpled napkin at Lincoln. "No more brown-nosing!"
Peter hid his grin behind his cup.
"It's called 'understanding your job'," Lincoln muttered.
"It's called 'kissing up'," Jared countered.
Peter had never liked Jared as much as he did right now.
"You're just peed that he's the new guy, but he's still kicking your butt in every part of the job," Anne declared as she raised her cup to Lincoln, who returned the gesture.
"No he's not!" Jared gasped, hand to his heart.
"Don't let them near the body. I'm coming." Chloe came back, expression closed off. "A third body's been found. Peter, I want you to take Jared and Anne to secure the area. The info is being sent to your phones." She turned to Lincoln. "You're with me."
"Okay." Lincoln nodded.
Peter's amusement disappeared. "You're not coming?"
"No, Lincoln and I will meet you when you get back. Jared, categorize the crime scene. Anne, you're in charge of interviewing any witnesses. Peter - you're free-range and in charge."
Peter frowned. "What are you going to do?"
She was already out of the door, Lincoln trailing behind.
Anne hurried to grab her crime-scene kit.
Jared came to stand next to Peter as he stared at the door. "Did you just get kicked onto Team B?"
"There's no such thing as Team B," Peter announced as he turned to frown at Jared.
Jared slapped his shoulder. "Sure, man, whatever makes you feel better." He walked away.
Never before had Peter disliked Jared as much as he did right now.