Cause Of Death, Part II


dana_icon.gif robyn_icon.gif saito_icon.gif

Also Featuring:

matthew_icon.gif sadler_icon.gif

Scene Title Cause of Death, Part II
Synopsis Robyn Quinn's investigation into Cassandra Baumann's death hits an unexpected turn.
Date February 4, 2020

Broken glass glitters softly in the night, catching ambient light spilling in through the broken windows; distant street lights that do little to push back the darkness. Kitchen chairs move of their own accord, skittering across the floor and coming to slam up against the walls and hang there, suspended in mid-air as though by some magnetic force. Bare feet tread across the broken glass, leaving bloodied footprints in their wake.

In the darkness, shallow and sharp breathing hastens from below the dining room table. Those bare, pale feet draw close to the table’s edge. A haunting figure cast in the waxing moonlight, pale as a corpse, lifts one long finger into the air. The kitchen table rises weightlessly from the floor, bobbing like a balloon until it comes to rest with a crunch against the ceiling. The boy, once hiding beneath the table, stares up wide-eyed at the gaunt monster before him, unable to look away; barely able to remember to breathe.

“Don’t be afraid, Matthew,” Sadler says as the light catches his eyes just right, revealing a pale red glow behind his pupils.

“I’m a friend of your mother’s.”

Ten Days Earlier

Agent Quinn’s Office

Fort Jay, Governor’s Island
New York City Safe Zone
February 4th
7:17 am

It looks like a conspiracy theorist exploded in here.

Paper files are pinned to the walls of Robyn’s office, connected with colored strings to one another, with Post-It notes stuck to those strings and decorating two wheeled whiteboards cluttering the office floor. Three boxes of paper files from Staten Island Hospital are emptied on the floor, organized by date and readability. Photographs of Brink Extermination, a company based out of Phoenix Heights. Photographs from Drivers Licenses of Harold Brink and Leonard James Norton, the owner and co-owner of Brink Extermination identified as accomplices to the now-identified William Sadler.

“Brink was a dead-end, business was shuttered two months before Cassandra’s death,” Saito backtracks through their evidence. “Harold Brink and Leonard James Norton are MIA. A search of their apartment appeared to be… fruitless, at first blush.” Saito paces through the evidence, past photographs of the demolished warehouse Cassandra died in.

“That brings us to the third suspect,” Saito says, pointing to a photograph of a burn-scarred Chinese man. “Chan Tin-chu, Ghost Shadows Triad, SLC-Expressive with an ability of…” he twirls his stylus in the air, “Exploding.” He shifts a quick, furtive look at Robyn, then back to the photo. “Last seen surviving the blast that destroyed the warehouse. Chan is a person of interest in one of our other ongoing investigations regarding Refrain distribution on Staten Island…”

Saito then points to a plastic bag with broken glass inside of it. “And we found used Refrain injectors at the scene of Baumann’s murder, corroborated by — uh — Cassandra’s vision of Sadler using Refrain.” He shakes his head, tapping a Post-It Note with a question-mark on it. “Chan’s been MIA since the blast. No one SESA has access to has seen him, either. Probably went into hiding from… probably Sadler.”

Then there’s the mystery woman, Cassi Hayes. Saito has a print-out of her 2010 California driver’s license. She was sixteen. She’d be Colette’s age now. “Hayes is the other enigma in this. I had to dig deep, but it turns out she was a former resident of the Commonwealth Institute, Arcology-level. She was one of the children abducted by Retrievers and intended to live in the arcology and wait out the apocalypse.” Saito shakes his head thinking about that.

“Her sister Dahlia was also a ward and died during experimental trials into the Gemini project,” Saito goes on to explain. “Cassi was rescued by the Ferrymen, she— was one of the children you rescued, Robyn.” He turns to her, brows creased with worry. “She went into the care of the Ferrymen up through 2014 when she was shepherded to Canada, and we lost track of her. The last known appearance she made on the grid was a withdrawal of $55 from an ATM in Clovis New Mexico, just outside the Dead Zone.”

Saito motions to the warehouse photos. “Then she shows up in the Safe Zone, a captive of Sadler’s. Voss was able to get us access to Cassi’s file from the Institute, and they classified her as…” Saito looks back to Robyn, “temporal manipulation. According to the tests they did on her ability, she could slow down time.” Saito glances to the photo of the factory, then back to Robyn with his brows raised. “How Sadler was able to catch her is… I don’t even know.”

Saito walks across the office to the other whiteboard, motioning to the ID badge for Sadler from Staten Island Hospital. “Which brings us to the man of the hour.” Saito points with his stylus to Sadler’s badge, then to a composite sketch based on Cassandra’s vision; pale, bald, sunken eyes. “Sadler was SLC Non-Expressive as of 2010 when Staten Island Hospital went under. Now he’s exhibiting multiple abilities. Current theories are he may be a successful Gemini recipient, but we have no records of Sadler from Sunstone or the Institute.”

“And that’s where this gets weird.” Saito turns, pointing to a report on Robyn’s desk. “When forensics picked through the apartments above Brink Extermination they tore the place apart and itemized everything inside. We found some things in the trash that didn’t seem significant at the time, but…” he flips through the print-out to one page, then shows Robyn a highlighted item.

syringe, used
chem. Analysis: hemlibra

“Hemlibra is an injection to treat hemophilia,” Saito explains, walking back to Sadler’s photograph. “Neither of the exterminators had this symptom, however…” he taps Sadler’s photo. “William Sadler suffered from haemophilia type A.” Saito looks back to Robyn. “Hemlibra is manufactured in Europe and is extremely hard to come by outside of hospitals in the US.” Which leads Saito to motion to his tablet. “Only one hospital within a fifty mile radius carries Hemlibra, and that’s Albany Memorial Hospital. I checked with them, and they reported a robbery in April of last year that took an entire year’s worth of the drug.”

Saito looks back to Robyn. “Here’s the weird part,” he says, walking back to the glass fragments in the bag. “On a whim, I had these vial fragments tested again. Sadler is cutting his Refrain with Hemlibra.” And all Saito can do is helplessly shrug at that.

It's hard to stay silent through Saito's rundown of what they've found - what he's found, really. A lot of her time since the discovery of Sadler's ID has been letting Saito do the legwork this time. It's not a decision made out of laziness, but rather one to let Saito strengthen his own skills. They won't always be working together, and while her skills and powers of observation have drastically increased in the years since the events he speaks of, well…

"Probably mixing pleasure with medical need," she responds flatly. "Assuming the trips are at all pleasurable, I can't say for sure. I'll admit that when I was still trying to be a rock star, I wasn't the cleanest person, but Refrain was something I had the good sense to stay away from." It's a frank and maybe not work appropriate admittance, but one that probably anyone who really knew her knew at this point anyway.

She sits up a bit, thinking. "That, or the combination catalyses something in one of these… abilities he has." Hemlibra - a pound of blood by liberal translation or inference - was an interesting wrinkle in all of this. "Can we get any information from any medical establishments overseas in the UK and Ireland about anything that went missing in the time before Albany's theft? Establishing a path of movement may help us trace backwards. He was a hematologist, so not only is he sticking to a traditional supervillain trope, it means he has the knowledge for how to acquire this drug in particular."

Lips purse. "Hell, I'll go talk to them myself if I need to. I can still put on my Irish accent." It's sort of a joke, sort of not.

With that, she turns back to the picture of Cassi Hayes, only looking at it for a moment before averting her eyes back downwards. "Why does everything go back to that day," she whispers, just loud enough for Saito to hear. Of course she knows why, but sometimes it almost feels comical how much ties back today, like it were one of Doctor Who's fixed points in time.

Except she knows better than most that it's not.

"Temporal manipulation. She's like someone I used to know." Huffing out a breath, she leans back in her seat and looks back up at the ceiling. "Not like I can ask him for help anymore, though. Explains why she just… poofed in the vision. But-" She turns back to her desk and opens the lowest drawer, pulling up the bottom of it where she hides both a flask and a notebook. There's a moment, a long, weirdly belaboured moment before it is set on the desk and opened to a familiar looking page of notes.


"So why didn't she leave as soon as she was awake? I know it's not impossible to catch a temporal manipulator off guard, particularly if they're unskilled, but…" She stops, looking back at Saito. "She moved in the vision like she wasn't used to having this ability to use. She made her way to the window before zooping away, right?"

Frowning, she looks around the room again. "There's a connection here I don't want to make." Rising up from her chair, she begins to move in a circle around their various items. "But if Sadler has, in fact, been Gemini'd… he might be hunting people for abilities to harvest. You don't undergo that treatment once. He has to still be working with his benefactors." She pauses, looking back at Saito. "So of course he's looking for the temporal manipulator from the Institute records. Particularly if…"

She turns back to look at the picture of Cassandra, countenance dark as she takes in a deep breath. "Particularly if Adam Monroe really is running that show now. I bet Cassandra got caught up in the crossfire by accident."

There's a weight to those words. A weight brought on by the investigation. A weight from how it all ties back to the liberation of the Arcology. The way it ties back to Gemini. The way it might tie back to Monroe.

Coincidence is just chaos with a purpose.

And Robyn finds her belief validated by a knock on her office door. Saito offers Robyn a quick glance, then offers, “c’min.” He’d been expecting someone.

When Dana Carrington comes through the door with a laptop tucked under one arm and a few sheafs of paper fresh off the printer, Saito flashes her a broad smile. “Six hits,” she says as she hands the papers out, “cross-referencing all of the case data you specified.” Dana glances up to Robyn and offers her a beaming smile. “Saito asked me to do some data correlation for you all, said I was faster than running a query and produced better results.” Her smile grows some while Saito flips through the pages and exhales a sharp breath.

“Six murders,” Saito says with a sudden look up to Robyn.

At first known, Robyn looks more than a bit concerned, but when Dana comes in her eyes light up and an actual smile crosses her face. She is always glad to see Dana, but there's more behind this smile than just that, including at least a bit of pride for Saito's forward thinking. Tilting her head towards Dana, she motions her to one of the other chairs. "Nice to see you, Dana."

"Six." She repeats the number for herself, to drive it home. "I never figured it was just Cassandra, but… ugh." She makes her way over to Saito, glancing down at the papers. "Great thinking, Saito. The faster we can get this information parsed, the better." Looking back to Dana, she returns the beaming smile. "And thanks for taking it up on such short notice, Dana."

A hand moves to her chin as she considers. "Did all of those cases end up as dead as ours? If so, Sadler's better at cleaning up after himself than I feared." Which just makes things that much more complicated. "What correlations did you run this data on, just to get us all on the same page?"

It really does thrill her to see Saito taking charge. It's been a year since they started working together, and about half that since the training wheels came off, and every time he grows more into his own it gives an unexpected swell of pride.

“That’s just it,” Saito says with a slap to the papers, “we didn’t have anything to connect these to Sadler. But I went out on a limb and compared all unsolved homicides including going as far back as the Military Police archive before SESA even had an operational headquarters here. Some old NYPD records that the Deveaux Group had in their archives as well.” He lays the six files out on Robyn’s desk. “There were, obviously, a shit-load of them, but I started filtering them out through queries relating to points of data relevant to Sadler, and I found this.

“September 7th, 2011. Jessica Carpenter.” Saito reads the first file while Dana creeps over to eye them. “Her body was found in the Hudson, fresh. Cause of death is listed as exsanguination. Coroner’s report noted massive capillary damage around her mouth, nose and throat.”

A second file. “March 4th, 2015. Douglas Hornwright.” Saito points down to cause of death. “Exsanguination.” Then to the coroner’s report. “Massive capillary damage around mouth, nose, and throat.”

A third file. “September 8th, 2015. John Doe.” Saito points to the cause of death, not even bothering to say exsanguination when it comes up again. Then to the coroner’s report with the same information.

Fourth file. “March 7th, 2016. Linda Auckerman. Same cause of death, same coroner’s report.”

Fifth file. “September 11th, 2016. Nathaniel Dunn. Exsanguinated. Same markings around the mouth.”

The sixth file. “March 3rd, 2017. Oliver Hurst. Exsanguinated.”

Dana looks up from the files to Robyn. “The deaths are all six months apart. Obviously there’s a gap when the civil war was going on, and we haven’t seen an exsanguination since 2017. But these were all filed by different offices that didn’t talk to one-another. What else I found in these files is here… the last two exsanguinations.” She flips to witness reports when the bodies were found. “Both of these witnesses claimed to see an exterminator’s van nearby to the crime scene before the bodies were found. In the last case of Nathaniel Dunn, a van was seen speeding away from the Phoenix Heights park the body was found in.”

“Cassandra wasn’t exsanguinated,” Saito points out, “but she died in January. Out of this pattern. But Dana picked up something interesting in the 2011 file report.”

Dana nods, angling a look over at Robyn. “Jessica Carpenter was a resident of the Rookery on Staten Island. She’d been reported missing a few weeks prior to her death, but no one was going to do anything back then. Even with the reclamation in progress, Staten Island was still a mess. Carpenter’s mother, Danielle, said that her daughter would drive from Staten to Manhattan over the Goethal’s Bridge. NYPD did a follow-up after her body was found and discovered her car abandoned about a block away from the Infineum chemical plant in Linden.”

“Infineum was abandoned back in 2006 when the nuclear fallout from the bomb drove most people out of eastern New Jersey.” Saito adds. “The NYPD didn’t follow up on that at all, and it’s possible that section of New Jersey might have been Sadler’s original hunting ground.”

"All exsanguinated. Potentially by a hemophiliac hematologist cutting his drugs with hemlibra." Robyn's eyes scan over the documents, lips contorting into something resembling annoyance. She'd been joking about fitting into a villainous archetype either, but perhaps she was more on to something that she wanted to admit. Or, once upon a time, Magnes had made her read too many comic books.

"Fuck, is he some sort of Evolved vampire?" She's, sadly, not joking about that. "The thing that I find most curious is that four year gap… and yet, the next murder was still six months later if you accout for it. And-" She stops, raising a finger. "You said there was a break in last year for hemlibra. 2019? The routine of these murders speaks to meeting a need, theoretically for their blood. They stop in 2017, and without a routine supply of blood… the robbery in 2019?"

Letting out a heavy sigh. "And that's assuming it ties back to Sadler. Anyway, I'm drifting." She closes her eyes. "What is Infineum's status now?" She doesn't really keep up with reconstruction in Jersey. "I still think Cassandra was an accident. She doesn't fit any of the criteria so far. I think his goons just… had the wrong Cassie. Remember how angry he was?"

“Infineum dissolved back in 2010, the land has laid unclaimed ever since. The war didn’t do any kindness to it, but from what I know it’s still standing. Fighting was pretty intense around there when the war hit this area,” Saito goes on to explain. “So if Sadler was there he probably would have had to abandon ship pretty fast or get caught up in the fighting.”

“The date discrepancies,” Dana chimes in, “probably coincide with the lack of any criminal records on file because of the war. Most of the police databases from 2012 to, hell, a couple of years back? Everything that wasn’t digitized was lost, probably in fires. There wasn’t a big digital push then, and with the war… Sadler could’ve had his run of Manhattan, at least until the whole thing…” Dana doesn’t finish her sentence, but caught on fire is what happened. Robyn knows that all too well, she’s been beyond the Exclusion Zone wall. She’s seen the skeletons.

“If you want, I can pull files on the Infineum site, see if we can get a lay of the land. Are you thinking…” Saito raises one brow, “checking it out?”

"I've had worse ideas," is a weird way of saying "yes", "It's been years, but if we can find any trace that he was - or has possibly come back to - that location, then it may be a great help to us. Honestly, it can't be more useless than anything else so far."

She nods to Dana, looking thoughtful. "Right. Still… this is the closest I've ever felt to actually having somewhere to go on this. It doesn't… " She stops, shaking her head. "Never mind. I don't care about his why or how. I just want to get this asshole off the streets." And maybe help Cassandra - either of them, rest better.

"What do you think, Saito?" She raises an eyebrow, looking over at Dana. "Curiously, did you see if anyone of his other victims would've been in Institute databases?"

“I didn’t run a cross-reference for that, I’d need clearance from Voss.” Dana explains, “but I can get on that. It might be a good angle, maybe he’s working from a shopping list or something.” Dana’s brows furrow, another idea crossing her mind, but she doesn’t vocalize it yet. Saito notices the shift in expression, but doesn’t call it out.

Instead, Saito turns to Robyn. “Okay, I’ll pull what I can on Infineum and we can roll with whatever Dana’s query brings back. Given that this is looking to be a, uh, active serial killer we’re going to need to inform the FBI and the NYPD. We’ll have jurisdiction, though.” Saito affirms, given the very specific nature of these murders. “Do you want to call anyone in to go with us to Infinium?”

"Epstein, if she's willing and Voss will allow it." There's almost no hesitation in that. "I want her to take Jac's place in this investigation. Besides, I think she has a pretty keen eye." Robyn pauses for a moment, thinking. "Cassandra, if she's available. I don't want to lean on the crutch of her ability and give her more… anxiety over this situation, but if we're trying to determine if he made that place his refuge her ability is potentially invaluable."

That's never not going to be weird, even with everything Robyn knows about the universe.

"Dana, can I get you to be on standby in case we come back with anything interesting? You're my go to anyway, but… I dunno. Clear your schedule. Please." The last bit is added after a moments pause and punctuated with a wide smile that quickly fades.

"Otherwise? I think we've got a great team to start with."


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