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|DetectiveLayton92|| Tragedy, Mystery, |
Nightshade is a short story narrated by Jean Descole, explaining who nearly killed his fiancée. It takes place two weeks after the events of Bitter Truth.
Part One ~ "Safe and Sound"Edit
I couldn't believe how much I hadn't known about Nicole. Simply, it was inconcievable. No wonder why she never told me about her past: it was so sick and so twisted, I don't know how she would've brought herself to tell me.
I'm grateful to be kidnapped, quite frankly. I'd much rather be here, safe and sound with Descole, than to come home and see my ex-husband Jaime Matherson, poised with a knife, ready to kill me. In the past, he was just abusive. Physically, verbally, sexually. But now, he'd probably just get it over with. I don't care about that restraining order. He'd violate it anyway. He should be locked up, far away from here...
Now that I come to think of it...Jaime was the reason for my miscarriage. I just...I couldn't bring myself to tell Jean about it. It was his child."
To think that I never knew...and she never told me...if only we could change the past, to make the present and the future a better place...
Then by all means I'd do it.
Anything to get my child back.
And I kicked myself for letting him come to her funeral. If he treated her that badly, I wouldn't even think twice about slitting his throat, getting his blood on my own hands. And the unfortunate truth was that this was the first and only entry I had read so far, with such an impact. But I forced myself to push all those thoughts aside, and came across the 'intel' she told me about.
"The fact that I don't know who wanted me dead a year ago...well, it's eating me alive. I've decided to sort of relive the events leading up to the shot, and see if I can make sense of anything. Hell, I'll even write it as if it were a rough draft of a book. Maybe somebody'll publish it.
I'm only given so much information, so my brain is free to make its own assumptions. Treasonous. That's what this is.
Leave it up to MI6 to put an American in charge of spying on her home country.
But it turns out I'm wrong. I'm not going back to the United States to spy. I'm going to team up with the CIA. That makes more sense.
When I get there, along with a group of my fellow operatives, we are debriefed on the situation. A terrorist group is hard at work, trying to formulate a plot to destroy various countries. Two of them happen to be the United States and England. Great, that's what we need. Another wackjob wanting to kill us all to 'control the population'. If they think they need to do such a thing, why don't they just off themselves? It'd be a lot easier."
There's another blow. She never told me about these people, either. To think she kept all this information from me, but for what? My own good? I knew about her near-death experience, but I didn't know who did it or why. And apparently neither did she.
"These terrorists--who don't even have a name yet--are going to be hard to get rid of. Such groups are based upon ideas, and you can't kill an idea. The only thing you can do is keep people out of the line of danger, and hope you don't get caught in the crossfire as well.
Our group has a name now. Targent. Our plan of action: research, locate, divide, and conquer."
That's impossible, I thought. Targent followed me, not her.
"Small groups of us agents will branch off to different places that are in danger of being attacked. It's difficult, for we don't always know where they're going to strike next. The first country in the crosshairs is Kenya. We don't know for sure how they are going to terrorize the place--or why, for that matter, but we decide to take action immediately.
After four of us land in Kenya, however, it's already too late. People are dropping like flies because of an epidemic. Two of our operatives catch the virus; are unable to retreat. The disease is spreading like wildfire, but we are able to quarantine the several people infected, including the remaining agents, so we do not cause a world-wide breakout.
Next time, we will not let them get the head-start. We believe the next country to be hit is Japan."
I looked at the clock, which told me I'd been reading for longer than I should have. I couldn't sleep much that night. Too many thoughts raced through my head. The next morning, I had a quarrel with myself whether to tell Raymond or not. What could it hurt? I thought.
"...Jaime Matherson was Nicole's ex-husband and he abused her." I said it like it was some great sin. And it was, just not one committed by me.
"And that surprises you, Master?" asked Raymond. "She was mixed up in some certainly...risky business."
I paused slightly before I spoke again. "I don't care. He needs to die." Walking up the stairs to my study, I said, "I'll do it myself if I have to!"
Raymond just shook his head.
Part Two ~ "Forgive and Forget"Edit
It's hard to be a nobody, even when your life depends on it. But it's even tougher to risk your life every day, knowing that when you come home, it could just as easily end there as well.
That's the case with me now. People say to forgive and forget, but that's impossible after the one you love hurts you in ways you never thought he could.
This is what I'm thinking when I'm waiting to see who's going to Japan. But at the last minute, it changes. The terrorists have just set off a round of bombs in New Deli. I am not called to go to India, thankfully. But still, I feel restricted because I'm not called. I can only sit back and watch as innocent people die, and it makes me feel terrible.
We're given updates every twenty minutes. Meanwhile we try to figure out who's doing what and why. Someone asks why they tried an epidemic in Kenya, when they bombed New Deli. "There's no pattern yet," he says.
He's right. But epidemics are so unreliable, almost. You don't know if it's going to not even affect anyone, or if you're going to catch it yourself. But bombs, they're much easier to deal with.
"It was a trial run," I say. "They wanted to test if it worked, but they for some reason quit, and resorted to explosives." Everyone thinks that this is likely, so now we have a bigger issue to deal with.
I don't know how, but our agents are able to pull through, though they come home battered, bruised, and bloody. But they're able to walk and talk just fine, so they're good for the time being. That's how it is in the field. You pick yourself up and brush it off, even if you have lost some appendages.
I wish I can say how we get the information, but I've been sworn to secrecy of the highest degree. Regardless, it's everyone's worst nightmare when we find out who is about to be hit next. Here."
After reading that, it made me wonder what would've happened if they hadn't stopped the attacks.
"What would it have led to?" I asked myself aloud. "World War III? Nuclear apocolypse?"
I became very quiet to assure myself that I was hearing it.
"Raymond?" I called.
"Did you...hear something?" I asked. He shook his head. "Oh. I thought I heard Nicole...laughing."
"I'm sure it was just your imagination, Master."
I nodded, accepting this, and turned my attention back to Nicole's story.
The president can only do so much to ensure everyone's safety. There is one hell of a bout trying to decide whether to tell the civilians or not. I'm glad we do, because they deserve to know. The entire country is now on temporary lockdown.
Planes are flown over the east coast--which is unfortunately where we are--and shortly after, bombs are dropped. There's not enough shelters and bunkers for the entire United States to be safe, but we're almost certain that they don't care about the less populated areas.
We are wrong.
The terrorists are beginning to make a sweeping motion across the country, bombing from the east coast to the west.
And on the west coast is where my sister is.
The minute the bombs subside here, I fly off the handle. "Not long from now, Sacramento will be hit, and my sister lives there! We've got to do something!"
One of the agents from another agency tries to calm me down. "We've all got family out there somewhere, and they're in danger. We can't do anything but wait out the storm."
"We can return fire!" I say. But I know that won't work. It's just another desperate attempt from me to do something impossible. "We can't just sit here and watch our country fall."
They agree, though. We suit up and load our planes while the bombs are blasting somewhere in Nevada. It takes a little longer than planned to get on the planes' trails, but we do manage, and we land in California, which is pretty much deserted now.
The plan is simple. Half of us will man a few planes, and return fire that way, while the others will station ourselves somewhere safe and try to shoot them down with guns. I get stuck down on the ground, which has to be the worst place you can be. But, any missile could easily blow up one of our aircraft. So I decide it's not that bad, and I take my position.
It's hard to find a vantage point that provides both accuracy and security. All the kevlar in the world won't keep you from dying when you're hit. So, half of us take our spots in a now-abandoned warehouse, and wait silently. The rest of us, including myself, set up on the roof. There's a few concrete pillars that we can take cover behind, but nothing sufficient. Though it's not the sturdiest place to be, it's better than nothing.
Soon, fire is exchanged. The ground vibrates underneath me, so I don't hold back when I aim and pull the trigger. Then...the bombs stop dropping. But they continue to fire their own rifles. Bullets fly through the air, and I drop to the ground.
One plane down, then three, then all seven have either fled or crashed. I turn around and slink to the ground, sitting on the roof of the warehouse, leaning up against the concrete, breathing heavily and holding my head in my hands. This is not an adrenaline rush you'd like to have.
I'm so far away from the other side of the warehouse that I don't even notice the sniper training his crosshairs on me. A piece of metal goes through me, and everything goes black."
Part Three ~ "Shrapnel"Edit
"It is done," I heard through the burner phone.
"Greatly appreciated. You'll receive your pay in a few days." I pressed the 'end call' button, looked at the device, then threw it in the trash. Disposible, the number was completely untraceable. Five, probably six digits was his pay. But then again, he was an assassin, and two jobs demanded more money than one. I allowed myself a brief moment of satisfaction, imagining Matherson's quick and effortless end.
Clean, but sadistic, I thought. As for Reinel, well, at least he was off my back now. Permanently. But there was still something I wasn't expecting.
"Ok, who'd you kill now?"
That voice... I sprang out of my seat, whipped around, and almost had a heart attack when I saw who it was.
She stood there before me, still as beautiful as ever. I tried to say something, a greeting, a question, but my mouth hung open, my voice lost.
"Did you hear me?" she persisted, crossing her arms across her chest. "I asked you if you had anyone murdered for you." Her smirk was slightly sadistic. "Don't leave me in the dark."
"Reinel..." I barely managed to choke out.
"Oh! Good. He needed it." Her warm embrace assured me I wasn't mentally unstable.
"...And Jaime..." I added quietly.
She gasped suddenly and pried herself away quickly. "...Oh, dear... I'm not sure if I should kick you or kiss you."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, I'm glad he's dead." A mischievious look spread across her face as she lowered her head. "But I wanted to do that."
Now, that's the Nicole I know and love, I thought, and brought her back into a hug.
Nicole's fingertip traced the pristine, white rose on the novel's cover, blood dripping from a few petals and thorns. Dedicated to her as a gift, and sort of a biography, explaining her story. The story only she and I and her sister would ever need to know. Nicole hadn't opposed at all to the idea, and I had written the epilogue, putting all my feeling into it. And by the looks of it, she appreciated it greatly.
She gazed at the title's embossed, shiny lettering. "'Nightshade:'," she read aloud, "The perfect poison for a white rose'. I love it, Jean. Thank you."
I could only smile slightly, and nod. "'Twas the least I could do."
"...This can never be sold, you know that, right?" she asked.
"Of course. It'll be...our little secret."
"Hmph. It's a shame you can't make any more money," she joked.
I chuckled lightly. "Seems you haven't changed much, even in the afterlife."
"It's not bad, really. The initial part's a little painful. Now," she said, "I'd better leave before Raymond thinks you've gone nuts."
"Wait," I said.
She turned back around and raised an eyebrow. "Yes?"
"I have to tell you something. It's about Targent."
She nodded. "I know, it doesn't make any sense. Targent, the agency Reinel led...they couldn't've been a terror-group-turned-good, could they?"
I shook my head grimly. "I'm afraid not. The terrorists you dealt with...that group was 'Tagent', not 'Targent'. It was simply a misunderstanding."
Nicole was silent for quite some time, letting the newfound information set in. "No. That's...that's..." She reached for the nearest thing she could find--a table lamp, in this case--and flung it against the wall with surprising strength. "You mean to tell me...that I totally fucked up my career, no, my entire life, just because of a bloody 'r'?!" she shouted.
"I know this is difficult-"
"Don't lecture me! I never made mistakes. Ever!"
I stood up and approached her delicately. "No one has ever not made a mistake. It's human nature to not be perfect. What's done is done. There's little use in trying to fix it now."
She sighed, murmuring, "...I guess you're right." She glanced at the busted lamp with a sheepish grin. "Sorry about that. I had better leave, for real this time, before Raymond gets you in trouble."
One second, Nicole stood before me, and the next, she vanished. But I could still definitely sense her presence; the sound of footsteps outside the door when Raymond wasn't around, a misplaced glass of wine, a shadow that could only be seen for an instant. Just knowing that she wasn't completely gone, even if she wasn't physically here, made me feel secure, and...happy, once again.
One evening, she had returned from who-knows-where. We both rested on the sofa in front of the fireplace, just like we used to. I looked at her, struck with nostalgia, and laughed softly, a few tears welling up in my eyes.
"What's so funny?" she asked innocently.
I smiled, stroking her hair. "The fact that 'til death do us part' means nothing at all anymore."