Kings 15:3



Scene Title Kings 15:3
Synopsis And he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him — King James Bible, Kings 15:3
Date March 28, 2010

Newark, New Jersey

Newark, New Jersey used to be one of the better places in the state; relatively clean, affordable living. It's a short drive out to Newark from Manhattan, just under twenty minutes given the early afternoon time and the relatively clear condition of the roads. It's hard to tell, through the windows of Veronica Saywer's car, that Newark was ever really a town at all with the way it looks now.

Many places near New York suffered the aftershocks of the bomb different; some physically, some structurally, others financially; Newark got two out of three. Coming off of interstate 280 and down onto route 21, Newark New Jersey looks like a third world country. Buildings are boarded up on both sides of the street from store fronts to residential homes. Spray paint graffiti is everywhere and the presence of NJPD police cruisers traveling up and down the street are common sights.

Newark didn't get hit by debris, didn't get hit by the fallout cloud, Newark got hit by refugees. When Jersey City was evacuated because of the fallout cloud settling in on the city, Newark was in the path of the evacuation. Jersey city was a rotten place before the bomb hit, and all of the drug dealers, rapists and criminals that had hidden out in the underside of that now poisoned land flooded like rats off of a sinking ship through Newark's neighborhoods. Looting, riots, absolute pandemonium claimed the lives of hundreds in the days following the bomb. Many people simply uprooted and left the city, most of them never returned.

Turning right onto garden street, Agent Sawyer's car now has a full panoramic view of the Jersey City skyline on the horizon, the city now slowly being repopulated since it has been deemed safe for habitation . It's not Jersey City's industrial skyline that Veronica's focused on, however, but rather the street signs, watching carefully for the next turn coming up along this resential street of abandoned and foreclosed houses.

Another right takes her on to Jefferson street, close now to her destination. The quaint little houses here would have been white-picket-fence perfect were it not for what happened in 2006 to this city. Passing by the former residence of the Campbell family, Veronica can see the sign she's been looking for coming down the road. Dusted in snow and decked with icicles, the sign that so clearly reads Samson Gray, Taxidermist seems almost haunting in its currently condition. Spraypaint has been applied to the animals on the sign, giving them menacing teeth and bright red wounds all over their bodies, and in three years of absence and weather beating, much of the paint on the sign is beginning to peel off and away from the wood.

The house itself is a foreboding structure, a two floor colonial style residence with a gabeled roof and a large front porch hanging with nearly two foot long icicles, some of which meet the porch railing and have become columns of ice. The windows on the house aren't boarded up, though some are smashed, and from the looks of the drifting snow covering the front walkway and stairs, no one has been here since the last storm.

The agent gets out of her car, walking slowly, head tilted to listen for anything strange — she knows from experience that places that look abandoned are not necessarily empty; a rookie mistake is to assume that a place that looks like nothing more than a nest for pigeons and rats, and then get assaulted by some squatter. She walks up the steps, careful of her footing lest she slip on ice or have a foot go through rotting boards, alert eyes looking here and there for the best place of entry.

She heads to the front door, trying it and finding it locked. A gun shot to the lock would probably do it, but there are windows that are large enough for her small form to slip through. She moves to one of these, glancing inside to be sure the room she'll be hopping into is clear, of course. Her casted hand tucks inside her coat to knock out the little bit of glass that remains, then Veronica hops up on the sill and slips into the room beyond, gun drawing immediately as she peers about.

Veronica finds that the home isn't abandoned only after she's crawled in thorugh the window, boots crunching on the broken glass on the hardwood floor on the other side of the sill. The scowling countenance of a badger the size of a dog glowers at her from the wall, half its torso missing, taxidermied corpse mounted on a wooden plaque, claws out and lips drawn back into a snarl. It's a horrifyingly macabre greeting, and in this narrow hall, Veronica can see her breath when she exhales. Thankfully for her the badger does not reciprocate.

Not far from where she emerged into the house is a spacious living room, looking largely untouched but still in a state of abandonment and disarray. Newspapers are stacked up by one window, old magazine littering the floor in another. A haunting collection of stuffed animal heads; from the glassy-eyed stare of a decapitated deer, to a stuffed raven perched on the mantle with its talons around a writhing snake, to the arched back and wide eyes of a housecat. It's unsettling in decour.

Photographs line that mantle above the fireplace and the newspapers laid out on the old coffee table in front of the sofa look to have been clipped and cut, articles removed and pasted into a scrapbook.

The Company agent expected the animals, of course — after all, it's a Taxidermy shop — what else would there be? But that doesn't keep an eery shiver from running through her spine as the dead, glassy eyes stare at her from every corner, sharp fangs bared and rampant claws reaching out for her from the stuffed creatures. Disturbing.

She moves slowly to the mantle to look at the photographs first, to see if there's any particular subject of interest, before moving to the scrapbook, picking it up gently, expecting spiders or earwigs to come scurrying out of it — this place is seriously creepy! — and flipping slowly through the pages. Article after article about the bomb and Sylar's killing spree. Is it the loving scrapbook of a proud father? She shakes her head. It's strange behavior — reading the articles, saving the articles is one thing. Taking the time to paste them into a book is different. Possibly pathological.

Beside a snowglobe containing the Taj Mahal on the coffee table, a small picture frame has been opened and an 8 x 10 photograph removed. There's nothing laying around that matches it's size. After sifting through the scrap book, another photograph on a small table near the sofa catches Agent Sawyer's attention, a tall portrait depicting a grizzled looking old man with a thick white beard and shoulder-length curly hair holding a double barrel shotgun over one arm. At his side stands a young teenager with messy brown hair and strong brows holding a much smaller caliber rifle, both wear bright orange vests, and the field they're standing in is surrounded by autumn colors in the foliage. There's no mistaking the boy in the picture as anyone other than Luke Campbell.

The home is hauntingly silent, save for the breeze whistling through the open windows and the sound of Veronica's own breathing. No one's lived here for several years, from the looks of things, but the presence here of Samson Gray's life is still a strong one. Were this any other city, any other place, maybe this would be the perfect time for an ambush, for a growling whisper of someone who'd been following Veronica all this time on their emergence.

Fortunately for her, and perhaps somberly so, all she is given the company of is the hushed whisper of that freezing wind that permeates the house.

The picture seems to tell the story of a strange fellowship between an unhappy boy and an unhappy old man. She sets the frame on top of the scrapbook, leaving them on the coffee table for the time being but planning on taking them with her when she leaves the house. Veronica moves to explore the rest of the house, looking for any other clues that would tell her just what this young man or what Gabriel Gray means to Samson. Drawers get opened and closed, any calendars and notepads read — anything that might point her to a new location for the owner of the house, or better yet, a phone number or address that might lead her to Gabriel or Luke.

Nothing so clearly laid out leaps out here at Veronica, only the sad and lonely life of a man who lived by himself. The downstairs hasn't been looted, which gives a time frame for the vacancy, including the newspapers that the agent has sorted through, the most recent being a July 2009 copy of the New York Times. Samson Gray hasn't been gone from home for long, though while the downstairs seems to be devoid of anything more than the tired life of a lonely man and the upstairs a representation of his solitary and insular life, it's the locked basement door that seems to tantalize Veronica.

She had almost missed it on the searchof the house, cold now bitterly tingling her nose and biting at her cheeks. But on the way back out, the narrow and old wooden door just through the kitchen bears a Masterlock on a latch. There's only two reasons anyone puts a lock on a door — to keep someone out, or keep something in. The answer to that question is what taunts Agent Sawyer from the other side.

Veronica frowns at the door, then heads into the kitchen in search of the junk drawer every house seems to have — her grandparents' house had just such a basement they kept locked when she stayed over, but she knew exactly where the key was. In the junk drawer. After rummaging through the various drawers, she finds one without silverware or towels, but instead bills and stamps and rubber bands and, painfully, a letter opener that slides under her fingernail. In the corner, beneath the bills and other rubbage, she finds a small brass key that looks just the type to fit in the lock on the door.

She unlocks the door, slowly, so as to try to avoid making undue noise, then slips the key in her pocket to pull out her fire arm. Her left hand pulls out a miniature Maglight she brought along in case the electricity was out. The hand holding the light opens the door slowly, and she peers down, listening before turning the light on to illuminate what lights beneath.

The switch flicks with nothing , just a click and no illumination. There's no telling how long it's been since Samson paid his electricity bill, but apparently energy isn't free. Given only the small circle of light from her mini Maglight, agent Sawyer presses down the creaking old stairs into the darkened basement. The floor here is unevenly poured concrete riddles with cracks, and the crumbling brick walls of the basement show just how old this place truly is. Snow covers up the basement windows, suffocating the dank, musty place in darkness. As her boots scuff over the floor, Veronica is given way to grisly sights; animal bones in boxes and bins, large strips of artificial fur, jars of glass eyes staring in a myriad of directions; it's a taxidermy lab.

The smell of formaldehyde stings at the back of the agent's nose as she moves in further, and somehow below the house every single creak and groan of the old wood seems emphasized and echoing. A wooden shelf to Veronica's right glows orange when she shines her light through the glass jars stacked up on it, amber-brown fluid containing red-black lumps are caked with dust.

A wooden table nearby is fitted with restraints, old leather straps with rusted buckles and a metal stool adjacent. A dusty tray of surgical tools rests next to the table, old scalpels and pliers and scissors for performing only God knows what down in this place. A doorway beyond where the wooden table lies is covered with a blue plastic tarp.

The fact that he was a taxidermist had not been lost on Veronica, but now that she sees the tools of his trade, the grisly details of the "copycat" become more and more pointed. No pun intended. Medical instruments were used in the recent killings and attempted killings — again, it seems it was not Gabriel, no matter what Martin Crowley seems to believe, but someone who needed a weapon — a scalpel. And here there are plenty. Was Samson Gray inspired by this serial killer son? A block off the old chip, as it were? The scrapbook suggests the sort of sick fascination that copycat killers seem to be infected with before they begin their own killing sprees.

She frowns at the table — why would a taxidermist need restraints? Awkwardly, she pulls out her PDA to snap a shot of the table — it's a little awkward to hold gun, phone and light, but she needs the two latter, and she's not willing to put down the first.

Finally she moves toward the doorway, pushing the tarp slowly, gun held and prepared to shoot at whatever ghosts or bogeymen might jump out at her, the light and camera held in her other hand.

The tarp crinkles and rustles as Veronica pulls it aside, and the doorway proves not to lead to another room, but a closet that no longer has a door. There's a flash of a reflection, light shining off of glass, and then the railing holding the tarp in place comes loose from the door jam, crashing down on the ground with a clatter of aluminum and a noisy crinkling of the blue plastic. The sound echoes through the basement, and as Veronica's flashlight sweeps back towards that doorway, what she had caught light of before now shines clearly in view.

An enormous glass jar rests on a high shelf in the closet, filled with a murky brownish fluid. A piece of scotch tape has been applied to the front of the glass, and black sharpie marker has written across it, reading "Nadine Henderson, Sedating Sounds." Focusing past the reflection on the glass, agent Sawyer can make out a large, dark shape floating in the glass of the jar, and the way her light catches the inside, she can make out the creases and wrinkles typically found in a human brain; this one floating in murky preservatives.

Behind the jar, scrawled in black marker all over the concrete wall behind the brain are the words "Take away my pain" over and over and over again in different sizes, but always the same handwriting.

Veronica jumps instinctively as the railing tumbles down, her arms coming up to cover her head, hands flailing a bit to push away the tarp that rustles over her like a colony of bats winging through her hair. It's a wonder she manages not to shoot the ceiling. As it is, she drops the Maglight.

"God," she breathes out in a husky laugh at herself, bending to pick up the light and then bringing it up to shine on the room, able finally to see what it is that shone through the darkness in that instant before.

God. She doesn't repeat it but her eyes are wide, her mouth partially opened as she reads the words and takes in their meaning. She lifts her phone and light again, hand shaking a touch before she steadies it by leaning it against the door frame, snapping the picture. There's no way she's taking that thing with her, would-be neurosurgeon or not. A Company clean up crew can be called in.

She backs up, then hurries up the steps, the phone's buttons being pushed as she makes her way to ground level.

"Crowley. Gabriel Gray isn't our man. It's his father."

The horrified silence on the other end of the line is deafening.

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