The Mountains

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Romance

Chapter 5 (v.1) - Chapter 5 - One Last Time

Submitted: August 05, 2018

Reads: 90

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Submitted: August 05, 2018

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“Madison Lelah, age twenty one. Time of death was around eight in the evening yesterday,” the coroner told Matthew and Henry.

Matthew looked at the body. “This kill is a lot more violent than the others which indicates that the killer knew her personally, something we haven’t seen with the other victims.”

“She put up quite the struggle. She has defensive wounds along her arms, but there’s nothing under her nails.”

“So the killer must have cleaned it up after.”

“He’s a sadist. Look at the burn marks on her body.”

“There’s also something I almost missed,” the coroner mentioned. “There was a small hole where her belly button is. I took a closer look and found an arrow trinket inside her abdomen.” She handed Matthew an evidence bag.

Matthew observed it closely. “The arrow is a symbol of power and knowledge. There’s a good chance the killer is forced to be submissive in his home life and is using homicide to make up for it.”

“Should we now start to look for people who were abused or made suspicious trips to the hospital as a child?” Henry asked. “Tripping down the stairs, falling into doorknobs, and so on.”

“Yes and I think we’re looking for someone around the age of the victims.”

“Why’s that?” the coroner asked.

“He might be envious of the victims’ home lives,” Henry said. “We should look for parents who were known to be aggressive as well. They may not necessarily have a record, but the locals would know him or her as angering easily.”

“I’ll call Gabriella. We’ll deliver the profile soon.”

At the site of the crime scene, Jennifer spoke with Officer Altoona. Reporters were standing around the crime scene tape and shouting questions.

“This is right off the main road. The killer must have had a lot of confidence,” Jennifer said.

“Does it say something about the police force here that we haven’t caught the guy yet?” Altoona asked. He’d been reading up on serial killers, feeling inadequate about Pembrooke’s policing.

“Absolutely not. It’s especially hard to get suspects in a town as small as this one since the residents are all so similar. In cases like this, you have to hope someone sticks out like a sore thumb but still be careful not to use them as a scapegoat. It’s not easy.”

***

Annalise laid on the couch in the living room, some crime show playing on TV. Her parents had decided to spend Saturday together, forcing her to be trapped at home as the cops no longer allowed teens to roam the neighborhood alone. They were patrolling 24/7, so she could hardly risk sneaking out.

Pembrooke was once again in mourning and the media was finding out. She had heard about the story on national television. Some town in the countryside that no one had ever heard of was now sporting the look of the FBI that hadn’t arrested a single person since the start of this mess.

It was frustrating. And as much as her and her Veronica Mars team of teen investigators tried to dwindle down the list of possible people, it wasn’t working.

The knock on the side door spooked Annalise into a standing position. She had double bolted every door and every window on the first floor. After looking in the peephole, her adrenaline calmed down and she let Dean in.

“You’re not supposed to be out and about by yourself,” Annalise said, locking the door behind him.

“That’s true, but Beth is stuck babysitting for the day and I’m bored, so I thought I’d stop by and say hi.”

Annalise stared at him with suspicion. “Do you want a glass of water?”

Dean shook his head and kicked off his shoes. “I was doing some thinking.”

“Well that’s a first.”

Dean chuckled, “I think we all need a break. Jason’s brother is in a frat at some college not too far. They’re willing to let us stay the night at the house as long as we don’t look like high school kids. From what Jason was saying, I think the frat’s trying to make themselves seem cooler than they really are, but I think we’d all have a great time.”

It sounded inviting. Anything that involved not having to think sounded inviting. But it also sounded like a really, really stupid idea.

“If it’s any consolation, Beth’s inviting some of her cheerleader friends.”

“What about Liz?” Annalise asked.

“I think she’s going on a date? Either that or she’s forcing the cops to give her their notes. Both are plausible.”

Annalise sat on the couch, picking up her spicy water from the coffee table. “So, you’re saying we drink away our feelings for an evening?”

“Is that not what you’ve been doing all week?” he nodded towards her bottle. “I mean, I’m not stupid. No one makes the face you’ve been making when they drink water.”

She paused mid sip and closed the lid. “You got me there.”

“Why are you doing it? To drink away your feelings all day?” he cocked an eyebrow.

“To soothe the pain away,” she admitted, giving Dean a weak smile. “It’s the best remedy yet.”

“It’s not the healthiest remedy.”

“And going to a frat party is?”

“A frat party is just one night. Plus, you’re going to ruin your liver if you continue on this path.”

“What do you suggest as a substitute?” she questioned. “Because I don’t think I mind ruining a good liver as long as I’m happy.”

“But you’re not,” he said, finally sitting down on the couch beside her. “Friend to friend, I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen you smile and it reach your eyes,” he faded off and it felt as if his deep green eyes were reading her mind. “I’m not trying to be deep or anything. It’s just – You just seem empty.”

Had he considered the fact that maybe she did feel empty? She didn’t. Sure, she was numbing the pain, but that was just about the only emotion she wasn’t feeling. She was still angry and confused especially as to why in that moment as they locked eyes, all she wanted to do was kiss him.

“You should tell her,” she interrupted their conversation, not wanting to speak further about her new habit.

Dean lowered his head in defeat. “Annalise.”

“I’m serious. It’s not fair to her.”

“You’re right, it’s not. But it would also kill her if she found out.”

“Dean-“

“What would happen if I told her? We’d break up, that’s obvious, but that’d also be the end of your friendship with her and because of that, she’d probably also lose Liz as a friend. It’d break up the whole group.”

He put his hand on her knee, making sure not to break eye contact. He was right. Plus, Liz would never forgive her. It just felt so wrong keeping that secret from her.

“Besides, who’s to say it won’t happen again?”

“What?” she choked.

“We’ve already broken the rules once. Who’s to say we can’t do it again?”

“You’re out of your mind,” she cackled. “If you think-“

She truly hadn’t thought he’d do it again, but he had. And she thought he deserved a good whack in the face, but she couldn’t seem to move. As if she was put under a spell, the second his lips touched hers, she was a dummy and he was a ventriloquist.

This felt different than the last time, maybe because she was sober, but it felt like a spark or fire had ignited and she really didn’t want to stop. In a swift moment, it was like Beth didn’t exist.

“This isn’t something you can explain, Dean,” she whispered. “Drunk is one thing, but…”

“I know, I know.” They kissed again. “And I know I shouldn’t want to do this, but,” he put his hand on her thigh, “you just make me want to forget the rules.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t find ourselves alone together anymore.”

“I would believe you meant that if you pulled away,” he kissed her jaw.

She was truly lost in a trance of lust. She let him kiss her neck and put his hand under her shirt, but then an image of Ethan flashed in her mind and she froze. This is wrong he said. It was enough for her to push Dean away.

When she had moved out of arm distance, the guilt hit her and any hint of lust was gone. It wasn’t betraying Beth that had caused it, that seemed trivial now. It was Ethan. She had been in love with him and this, whatever her and Dean were doing, felt like she was betraying Ethan.

Annalise had no idea how she could become such a different person when she was around Dean.

“I loved him,” she had to say. She had to get it out of her system. “I still love him.”

Dean stood up. “He’s gone now. It’s time to start moving on. It’s been a month.”

“I’ll move on when I’m ready,” she said, but she knew that wouldn’t be for a long time. “And weeks doesn’t erase the years of what we had.”

“You just had a friendship up until the very last day.”

“It was more than just a friendship.”

“You kissed once. I’m sure I could give you greater satisfaction than he ever could.”

Annalise couldn’t believe her ears. Her and Dean had been friends for so long and he’d never spoken to her like that before. Not only was it painful to hear, he acted as if he never knew how much she cared for Ethan. He most certainly didn’t care.

Infuriated, she yelled, “Don’t you dare invalidate my feelings or what Ethan and I had. We’ve been through hell and back together and if you can’t wrap that around your head, you need to leave.”

Dean stared at her for a moment then stormed out, slamming the door behind him.

He revved the engine and shot out, speeding home. Furious with how he acted, he wondered how to right things and how to look on the positive side of all of it. He knew Annalise would want to be left alone, but he had to send an apology text. She couldn’t ignore him forever; his shoes were still at her house.

The house was empty as usual. Dean slammed his fist against the door in a fit of rage.

So, what was the positive of this turn of events? Well, Annalise hated him right now, but his plan was working. And he cared for her more than she knew. He goofed really bad and he had to show Annalise how he felt because he knew, whether she liked it or not, that she would feel the same way. He made a mistake along the way, but overall, it was working.

He stormed to his room and took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself. The room was pristine other than the candles and trinkets littering his desk. There was no TV or laptop in this room. Just a bed, closet, and desk.

Dean took out his book from under his desk, looking through the pages. His thoughts were a little clearer now: There was a bump in the road, but the problem was solvable. He needed to apologize, get on Annalise’s good side again, and make her forget her worries. It had already worked once before, why wouldn’t it work again?

***

Annalise and her father were waiting on line at the western themed steakhouse when she spotted Ms. Cooper and Archer sitting at a table.

She nudged her dad and said, “That’s one of my teachers over there. Ms. Cooper. And her nephew that just moved into town. I told you about him earlier.”

“Isn’t that one of the teachers you asked to write a letter of recommendation?” he looked over. “Oh! That’s Jane Cooper. She used to date my buddy all throughout high school. I thought she was still living in Pennsylvania. She hasn’t changed a single bit.” He leaned down and whispered, “well, that is except for the wrinkles. I’m going to go over there and say hi. Come on.”

A smile lit on Ms. Cooper’s face when she noticed Annalise’s dad walking towards her. “Look who it is,” she stood up to give him a hug, her smile reaching ear to ear.

“When did you get back into town, Jane?”

“About three years ago now. I decided home was where the heart was.”

“Annalise tells me this is your nephew?” He shook hands with Archer. “Arthur, is it?”

“Archer,” he smiled. “You and my aunt are good friends?”

“We went to high school together back in the day,” Ms. Cooper looked at Annalise’s dad. “Why don’t you guys come sit with us? We haven’t even ordered our food yet.”

“I couldn’t intrude,” Fred smiled. “But if you insist.”

Annalise sat down and looked at the menu, pretending she wasn’t about to order what she ordered every time she went to the steakhouse. While her father and Ms. Cooper got all caught up, Annalise peeked past her menu at Archer. His eyes, so blue and yet so warm, were already staring at her.

She raised an eyebrow and smiled. “Take a picture. It lasts longer.”

Archer laughed and shook his head. “I’ve got my camera in my bag if you’re that narcissistic.”

“A camera?” Annalise’s dad took his attention away from his conversation. “You’re a photographer?”

“I’m aspiring to be one,” Archer nodded. “My pictures are alright.”

“Don’t be so modest, Archie!” Ms. Cooper cheered. “Show them some of your pictures.” She turned to Annalise. “Archie takes the most amazing pictures. I’m surprised National Geographic hasn’t gotten in touch with him yet.”

Annalise could see his cheeks blush as he pulled out his phone. “What do you want to see? Nature? People? Landscape? Ma-”

“People,” Ms. Cooper interrupted. “They all have such different vibes to them. Ugh, I love them all.”

Archer faced his screen to Annalise, her father looking over her shoulder. A folder marked “Portraiture” was opened with what looked like well over a hundred pictures.

Annalise opened the first picture and continued scrolling until she’d seen at least twenty. Each picture was more beautiful than the last. She didn’t know anything about photography, but the way the people’s bodies were posed and how they were stood and in the frame all seemed perfect.

Ms. Cooper was right about the vibes. There were people out in the dessert, at night, in abandoned buildings, and so on. The photos looked like something you saw online but never something in real life.

“I can’t wait to explore Pembrooke with my camera. I think I can really capture the personality of the town,” Archer said, taking his phone back.

“I’m sure Annalise would be happy to show you all the spots you can go to. Winter’s coming up and soon you’ll see the top of the mountain with a layer of snow.” Fred took a large gulp of his water.

“I’m already loving autumn. Pembrooke is so colorful. I was hoping to hit the reservation once the trails open back up next week. I’m sure you know all the great trails to hike, Annalise.”

“If it’s not too cold,” she said quietly, ready to make any excuse not to go back to the nature preserve. She could hear Ms. Cooper hit Archer under the table and after that comment, the table got quiet.

Just then, the four FBI agents are seated a couple of tables away. They had been awake for nearly twenty hours when they decided to take a break for the evening. Having looked at symbolic trinkets on his computer for hours, Matthew’s eyes ached. Jennifer and Henry went back to the crime scenes, video chatting with Gabriella to see if there was any symbolism to the murder sites or if they were just out of opportunity. Opportunity seemed to be the answer, but that still left them with more questions.

They were putting road blocks on all four exits out of town with the help of the neighboring towns. Every person going in or out would have a background check including medical records.

“What we need from him right now is to make a mistake,” Jennifer said. “We can’t do anything else until then.”

“I just wish we could set him up to make a mistake,” Matthew sighed.

“At least we have the profile. Male, late teens to early twenties, history of neglect or abuse, angers easily. Maybe even the press will uncover something while they’re here.”

“They don’t seem to be working very hard,” Archer said, staring over at the FBI agents.

Annalise stirred in her seat. “They haven’t arrested anyone yet.”

“They gave the profile on the news today. Do you know anyone that fits that?”

She shook her head. “People here take their anger out in the shooting range. Not on people.”


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