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Laffeetaffee

Artist | Professional | Varied
United States
I do oiled colored pencil and graphite art, and I do a little bit of graphic art. I do commissions for people over the internet for oil colored pencil and graphic drawings, but not yet for graphic art because I don't think I'm that good yet, especially to be paid for it.

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   Norman removed his glasses as he steered the car towards the large steel hanger. It loomed through the haze of rain, almost disappearing into the darkness. Through the mist, large steel machinery stood like a twisted network of trees. There was no one in sight. Norman felt an uncomfortable dread creep through him. This was the perfect place to hide a crime.
   He followed the road towards the front of the hanger, and braked. There were three vehicles parked haphazardly in front. A sedan, a motorcycle, and─ Norman felt his heart skip a beat. An old blue Chevrolet.
   He turned off the car and stepped out into the rain. One of the cars had to belong to Ethan Mars. And if the Chevrolet Malibu was here, then so was the killer. Panic spurred Norman forward. He couldn’t be too late…
   The front of the hanger had only one standard door. Norman slowed as he approached it. Part of him screamed at him to wait. He could negotiate with the police. Ashley might have gotten his message and she could be on her way. Perhaps the killer only left the Chevrolet there to avoid suspicion. Norman shook his head. It was useless to hesitate. He’d found the building, and it was all up to him now. He pressed his shoulder against the door as he rested his hand on the doorknob. Then with a deep breath, he quietly turned the knob, and stepped inside.
   The interior of the steel hanger was massive. Dark shapes of abandoned machinery lined the steel walls which were shelved in platforms. The space was broken by large bars of gray light which filtered through a massive break in the ceiling at the far end of the hanger. The floor looked like it had been cleared recently, leaving a patchwork of steel grates and holes. A heavy roaring filled the air as the rain beat down on the steel roof, echoing in the metallic chamber. And above the roar of the rain, Norman heard broken voices.
   A curtain of rain encircled the far end of the exposed hanger. In the middle of it were three dark figures.
   Norman quickly moved to the side, his heart racing. He crouched behind an unrecognizable machine and peered around at the figures. Two seemed to be hunched over the ground, speaking in quick, panicked voices. The third stood several feet away, unmoving. The roaring of the rain was too loud, and the figures too far away to identify. He needed to get closer.
   The space opened in several places along the wall, and Norman plotted a path. Carefully, he stepped out and moved along the machinery, his gaze locked on the three figures. As he approached, the voices became clearer.
   “─final sacrifice. Shit, what is it?”
   “There’s got to be something you missed. Was there anything in the origami figures? The phone?”
   “He said I already know it. Four letters…”
   Norman kneeled and looked over the machinery. The figures were now several yards away, and Norman felt his gut wrench as he recognized one was wearing his own leather jacket. Ethan Mars was bent over a steel grate in the floor, fumbling with something. The black haired woman crouched next to him, peering over his shoulder. And standing behind them silently watching was the Origami Killer.
   Several panicked thoughts raced through Norman’s mind. Ethan and the woman either seemed to ignore the killer, or they didn’t know he was there. It was too dark and hazy for Norman to tell if the killer was armed or not. Norman leaned out, and suddenly noticed a small hand rising through the grate.
   Ethan grasped the small hand. “I’m gonna get you out Shaun. I’m here. I got you.”
   “What about ‘love?’” The woman reached for the grate. “Did you try ‘love?’”
   “Love, fate, dead…” Ethan gripped his hair with one hand. “The final sacrifice…” There was a short pause, then Ethan leaned forward with visible energy. “The final sacrifice. Life.
   Norman watched as Ethan fumbled with the item, and then something snapped. Ethan and the woman both gripped the bars in unison, and the grate rose with a loud creak. The two groaned with effort, and then the grate arched back and crashed against the metal floor.
   Ethan dropped and immediately reached into the gap in the ground. There was splashing, and then he drew back, pulling with him a small shivering figure.
   “I got you.” Ethan wrapped his arms around the young boy who curled himself into a tight ball. “I got you, Shaun. It’s all over.”
   The woman crouched next to them, smoothing back the boy’s hair. Then Norman saw movement next to them. The killer was stepping forward.
   Norman fought the urge to bolt into the clearing. He gripped the edge of the machinery as Shelby stopped above them.
   “The ultimate sacrifice,” said Shelby. Ethan and the woman twisted on the spot, gazing up in shock. “A father willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice to save his son.”
   Ethan’s face tensed through the rain. For a moment, no one spoke. Then Shelby paced in front of them. “You almost made me lose hope, Ethan. I didn’t think there was a single father left in this world who’d be willing to lift a finger to save his own son. What with everything you’ve been through, why would this son matter? You’ve already lost one after all.”
   Shelby sighed, leaning his head back in the rain. “You’re the only one that has passed all the trials. The only one to actually save his son. Congratulations. You did what no other father could.” He looked down at Ethan who glared back at him. “Sacrificed yourself to save your son.”
   “What no other father could?” Ethan pulled Shaun closer into him. “What about all those men who died in the trials? They gave their lives trying to save their sons. Why weren’t they enough?”
   “Oh, they were the worst ones,” said Shelby. “You don’t understand. They chose to die rather than save their sons. You’re the only one who chose to live, so that you can willingly give that life up when the time came.”
   Shelby reached into his trenchcoat, and Norman’s body froze as the gun glinted in the dim light. The woman gripped Ethan’s shoulder and moved closer to him as they both gazed up at Shelby.
   “You’re a wonderful father, Ethan,” Shelby continued. “Far better than mine, who couldn’t be bothered to save my brother when he was slowly drowning. Your son will remember that for the rest of his life.”
   Norman shifted, panic flowing through him. The situation was getting out of control. He had to do something. Fast.
   Before he knew it, he was stepping out into the clearing. He moved slowly, avoiding the puddles and metal. He had no plan. No idea what he was doing. This was crazy. He was going to get everyone killed.
   Through the haze, Norman saw Ethan’s eyes flash in his direction. Norman raised his hands slowly. Then Ethan glared back at Shelby.
   “You’re going to kill me?” said Ethan. “In front of my own son?”
   The anticipation nearly crippled Norman as he continued to move forward. Ethan was stalling. Long enough for Norman to come up with a plan. He needed a weapon. Anything that could cause damage.
   Carefully, Norman bent and grasped a heavy steel pipe from the ground in both hands. He straightened, lifting the pipe high enough to show his intentions. Ethan’s eyes darted in his direction again, and Norman saw his jaw tense.
   “Don’t worry,” said Shelby. “I’ll take care of your son. I’ll make sure the police find him safe and sound. But you. Both of you.” Shelby panned the gun between Ethan and the woman. “You’ve earned my respect.”
   Norman was only a few meters away. His heart hammered in his chest as he prepared to swing.
   “All you’re doing is depriving a son of his father,” said the woman. She wrapped her arm around Ethan’s shoulders. “You’re not proving anything.”
   “I don’t have to prove anything to you,” said Shelby. He raised the gun to Ethan’s face. “Just Shaun.”
   Norman moved forward onto the platform. He was within swinging distance. He had to do it now.
   The platform creaked underneath him. Ethan glanced at him again, and then Shelby twisted.
   The pipe swung through the air, and Norman felt it hit something hard. Shelby cried out as the pistol flew through the curtain of rain, disappearing into the darkness. Norman straightened, but felt something huge crash into him. He stumbled backward, losing his balance and falling onto his back.
   Shelby stood above him, his face scrunched into the same focused expression that Norman had seen in Paco’s office. Before Norman could move, Shelby raised his boot above Norman’s face.
   There was a shout, and Norman covered his head with his arms as Shelby stumbled over him. Someone pulled at Norman’s arm, and he looked up. Ethan was crouched over him, glaring above him. Frantically, Norman scrambled onto his feet.
   Shelby backed away, his focused expression becoming more exasperated. A movement behind Norman told him that Ethan and the woman were standing behind him. Norman’s panic gave way to intense hope. The killer was disarmed. It was three against one.
   Shelby bolted. His dark form broke the curtain of rain, and there was only the sound of heavy splashing.
   There was no time to think. Norman sprinted after him, dropping the pipe to the ground and crashing through the waterfall of rain. Through the haze, Norman spotted the dark form moving up the metal stairs toward the platforms. Norman vaulted over a pile of mangled machinery and crashed into the stairwell, scrambling up the wet stairs two at a time. He had to stay on the killer’s tail. There was no way he was letting the killer get away now.
   Norman’s chest ached as he ran, the metal platform banging loudly under his footsteps. Shelby’s trenchcoat whipped, and then there was a heavy slam as Shelby disappeared behind a wooden door at the top of a steep set of stairs.
   Norman crashed against it, fighting with the doorknob. He slammed his shoulder against the door. It crunched, then broke open as Norman crashed into it a second time. He grasped the rail of another metal staircase, then darted up onto the roof of the hanger.
   The roaring of the rain was near deafening. Rusted machinery rose around him seeming to shift in the torrent of rain. Norman spun around as he searched for any sign of movement. The roof was clear. Shelby had disappeared.
   White lights suddenly flashed in his direction. Norman raised his hand as he gazed over the edge of the hanger. Far below him, blue and red lights dotted the surrounding area. He backed away from the edge. The police had arrived.
   Heavy footsteps captured his attention. He spun, and ducked as a heavy steel bar sailed over his head. Blind panic bolted through him as he stumbled away from the edge, narrowly avoiding another swing from the steel bar. Shelby’s large form appeared in front of him, angling as he swung the bar again.
   Norman backed over a steel catwalk which stretched over the sea of police vehicles. They had to see him. They had to know it was him. Why weren’t they doing something to stop this?
   Sparks flew as the steel bar collided with the rails of the catwalk. With a sharp breath, Norman shot forward, catching Shelby around the waist and knocking him a few steps backward. Pressure around Norman’s neck told him Shelby had wrapped his arm around his throat, and suddenly Norman found himself being lifted in the air.
   Belligerent terror streaked through Norman’s body. Frantically, he swung his arms and grasped the steel rail of the catwalk before he was thrown over the edge.
   He swung treacherously through the air by one hand, grasping with his other for the rail. The ground spun wildly below him, and Norman felt dizziness compact his panic. This couldn’t be a worse situation. He gazed up through the rain, and Shelby’s form appeared over him.
   Shelby lunged, and Norman rocked sideways as the steel bar cracked against the catwalk. The bar vanished, and then there was another crack. Norman shifted his weight, grasping the catwalk with both hands. How the hell was he going to get out of this?
   Another crack, and the steel bar appeared in front of him. Without thinking, he gripped it tightly and felt himself lifted enough for him to grip the second railing. Shelby’s furious face came into view, and Norman pushed the steel bar with all his might.
   Shelby jerked as the end of the steel bar knocked into his shoulder. He stumbled back a few feet, and Norman didn’t hesitate. He swung his legs up onto the catwalk, gripping either side with each hand.
   A split second allowed Norman to catch his breath. His body shook as he savored the support underneath him. Then pounding told him Shelby was coming for him again.
   Norman turned and bolted down the catwalk. The white lights followed him as he ran stumbling occasionally against the steel rails. He had to keep Shelby focused on him. It was the only control he had.
   The catwalk dipped down, and Norman darted onto the roof of another building. Small sheds and ducts lined the roof, breaking up any clear path. Norman darted over one of the ducts, crashing into the wall of one of the sheds. Without hesitating, he flung open the door and jumped inside, slamming it closed behind him.
   The patter of rain was muffled slightly. Gray light filtered into the shed through the glass windows. Norman spun around, his heart pounding in his chest. There wasn’t much inside the shed besides circuits and panels. Nothing he could effectively use as a weapon.
   The glass window exploded next to him, and Norman flattened himself against the door as a large fist swung towards him. Shelby leaned through the window, just inches from grasping Norman’s jacket. Norman cowered down, gripping the doorknob with one hand. He couldn’t escape through the door. And Shelby was gradually climbing further through the window.
   Norman mustered his energy, then leapt forward, pushing Shelby from the window just enough to spare himself space. Then Norman flung the door open, and bolted into the rain.
   He needed a weapon. There was no fight against Shelby without one. There was another shed on the roof, and Norman sprinted towards it. If he could just find something to fight with…
   Something tripped him from behind, and Norman stumbled over a duct, crashing onto the steel roof. He scrambled forward, struggling to climb to his feet. Then everything went white as the breath was knocked from him.
   Norman rolled onto his side, wrapping his arms around his waist. He had to get up. He had to keep moving.
   Something pushed his shoulder, and Norman looked up into the dark sky filled with rain. The water blurred his eyes, obscuring his vision. He raised a hand over his face. The god damn rain. If it could just stop raining…
   He felt himself lift by the collar as a dark form appeared above him. Shelby’s fierce eyes glared at him through the pouring rain. His hand was raised, and something shiny glinted in his clenched fist.
   Norman gripped Shelby’s wrist as he struggled to pull away from him. He couldn’t see what Shelby was holding, but he was sure it could do serious damage. He pushed against the steel ground, but his vision faded as Shelby shook him by the collar.
   Norman raised his arm in a feeble attempt to protect his face. Through the haze, he finally realized what Shelby was holding. It was a broken shard of glass, bloodied from Shelby’s grip.
   A powerful numbness flowed through Norman’s body. This was going to hurt. But he had to stay alive. He had to keep the killer occupied. At least long enough for the police to sweep the building. If they were even going to. What had he even accomplished? Delivering the police straight to Ethan Mars. Letting the killer get away. And giving the police another dead cop to deal with.
   Norman gazed into Shelby’s cold eyes. The man he’d been chasing for three days. Finally here. Exposed. And there was nothing Norman could do to stop him.
   Shelby raised the shard, the blood running down to the tip and mixing with the clear rainwater. Norman felt his breath freeze in his chest.
   The roar of the rain was suddenly pierced by loud pops. Shelby jerked and then froze, a look of astonishment in his eyes.
   Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Norman gazed over his arm as Shelby stared at him, water running in rivers over his face. The glass shard was still poised above him, ready to drop at any moment. Then Shelby coughed lightly, bringing a splatter of blood from his mouth.
   Shelby rocked backwards, falling against the metal duct. There was a clatter as the glass shard fell to the ground. For a moment, Norman simply stayed frozen to the spot. The coal gray clouds swirled above him, broken by the falling raindrops. It felt surreal. As if he were reaching the end of a nightmare. Norman pushed himself onto his elbows, struggling to accept the scene in front of him.
   Shelby leaned against the duct, steady streams of blood flowing from ripped holes in his chest. He gazed straight ahead, his eyes glazed over and empty. Over the rain, Norman could hear faint gurgling in the man’s throat. With each breath, the blood travelled further down Shelby’s chin, and the holes in his upper chest bubbled.
   A figure moved through the haze of the rain. Norman raised a hand to block the water as the figure approached, firearm raised. It took him a moment to recognize the leather jacket and the matted hair.
   Ethan Mars kneeled next to Shelby, resting the pistol on his knee. His mouth was clenched, and he narrowed his eyebrows as he gazed at him. Shelby coughed, then his eyes fluttered up to meet Ethan’s.
   The pounding rain filled the silence as Norman watched the two unmoving men. A dull shock pulsed through his veins. Somehow, he felt he was intruding on this moment. And at the same time, he knew he needed to be here for it. Ethan’s gaze was colder than Norman had ever seen it, and yet the look Shelby returned was almost peaceful. As if he were finally letting go.
   Shelby let out another small cough, and then his shoulders sank. His brown-eyed gaze lowered, and with a deep sigh, his chest fell still.
   Norman couldn’t explain the overwhelming emptiness that suddenly fell over them. Everything had changed in an instant. As if they were no longer standing on a rooftop in the middle of the pouring rain. He didn’t even attempt to process what had just happened. It seemed pointless. Unnecessary. And in some strange way, he felt he needed to stay in this moment for as long as possible.
   Ethan was frozen, his hand still clenched on the gun at his knee. It was impossible to read the expression on his face. His dark eyebrows were narrowed over his tense stare, not in anger or in shame. It was as though he were waiting for something. Shelby’s lifeless form lay slumped against the duct, his legs stretched in front of him and his hands resting on his thighs. If Norman didn’t know better, he would have thought Shelby was deep in thought.
   A distant chopping broke the steady patter of rainwater, finally pulling Norman to his senses. Through the haze in the sky, a bright white beam panned back and forth, highlighting a path through the clouds.
   Norman looked back at Ethan who still hadn’t moved. They couldn’t stay here. They had to leave.
   He raised himself off the floor, climbing to his feet. Ethan gave no indication that he was aware of Norman at all. But as the beam in the sky panned closer, Norman felt a sense of urgency take over.
   “We’ve got to go,” said Norman. He spoke quietly, as if he were interrupting something. Ethan’s fingers flexed on the pistol, but he stayed still, staring into Shelby’s blank eyes. Norman placed a hand on Ethan’s shoulder. “We’ve got to get off the roof.”
   A faded white spotlight travelled over the distant rooftops of the docks. Ethan shifted, and Norman heard him sigh heavily. Norman kneeled down next to him.
   “The police are coming,” said Norman. “We need to get you out of here.” He gripped Ethan’s arm gently as the spotlight moved closer to them, and he pulled upward. “Come on.”
   Slowly, Ethan rose, his eyes still locked on the body in front of him. The sounds of the helicopter roared in waves overhead, growing steadily louder. Norman took a step back towards the steel hanger, reaching for Ethan’s shoulder as he moved.
   Finally, Ethan moved sideways, his face scrunched in an almost regretful frown. Norman walked with him, the chopping of the helicopter filling him with nervous energy. As Norman picked up speed across the catwalk, Ethan jogged with him, their footsteps pounding the metallic walkway.
   They stepped onto the roof of the hanger, and Norman glanced back to be sure Ethan was still following him. The steel stairs appeared, and they both darted down the steps under the shelter of the hanger.
   Norman gazed over the rails as they moved along the platform. The circular curtain of rain poured steadily from the hole in the ceiling, creating a perfect ring around the opened steel grate in the floor. He scanned the warehouse floor as they neared the staircase.
   “Where’s Shaun?” asked Norman. He looked over his shoulder at Ethan whose face was still tense in blank shock.
   “Madison has him,” said Ethan. “I let them go.”
   They moved down the stairway towards the ground floor, and Norman felt his footsteps grow heavier and heavier. As he slowed, he saw Ethan slow with him. Finally, Norman stopped. He ran a hand over his face, wincing from the still aching bruise in his eye. His leg hurt from having tripped, and his shoulder was beginning to ache. A dull pain pulsed through his body. He felt as though he’d fallen down several flights of stairs.
   He sighed and ran a hand through his wet hair, noticing that Ethan was watching him. Ethan looked like Norman felt. His black hair was matted, and his bruised face was overgrown with a light beard. Underneath Norman’s leather jacket, Ethan’s clothes were ripped, bloodstained, and soaked. And despite the hell they’d both survived, it still wasn’t over.
   Norman felt his shoulders sink as he gazed at Ethan. “The police are waiting outside.”
   Ethan’s expression didn’t change. “Yeah,” he said.
   “Everyone thinks you’re the killer,” said Norman. He put his forehead in his hand. “They’ll shoot you on sight.”
   Ethan nodded slightly, his gaze falling to the floor. “I’m okay with that.”
   Norman sighed heavily again. Of course he was. The resolution in Ethan’s eyes was unmistakeable. And underneath Norman’s exhaustion, he almost agreed with him.
   Norman moved forward, catching Ethan’s attention again. “We’ll I’m not,” said Norman. He threw Ethan a glare as he stepped towards the door of the hanger. “I’m tired of watching people die. And you’re wearing my jacket.” He motioned to Ethan’s torso. “I don’t want holes in it.”
   Ethan gripped the jacket as if he’d just realized he was wearing it. He looked up at Norman, his eyes narrowed in scrutiny. But Norman could see a small spark of a smile in them.
   “I’ll walk out first,” said Norman, placing his hand on the doorknob. “Stay directly behind me. They’ll have to arrest me first if they want to get to you.”
   “How do you know they won’t just shoot you first?” Ethan stepped towards him, his shoulders tensing. Norman swallowed, trying and failing to bury his fear.
   “I don’t,” he said.
Heavy Rain: ARI Chapter 18: The Old Warehouse
Chapter 1: The Dog fav.me/da8aocw
Chapter 2: ARI fav.me/da8slgu
Chapter 3: Briefing fav.me/da98lj1
Chapter 4: She-Devil fav.me/da9qdbj
Chapter 5: Good Cop, Bad Cop fav.me/daairtc
Chapter 6: Separate Ways fav.me/dab5787
Chapter 7: The Well fav.me/dabu9vk
Chapter 8: Karma fav.me/dadczmz
Chapter 9: Fugitive fav.me/daebg1w
Chapter 10: Triptocaine fav.me/daf9cff
Chapter 11: Clue fav.me/dahv3ff
Chapter 12: Mad Jack fav.me/dain80c
Chapter 13: Ethan Mars fav.me/dak8h38
Chapter 14: Club Synn fav.me/dalhush
Chapter 15: Loss fav.me/damkfm5
Chapter 16: A Reason To Live fav.me/daqf8vx
Chapter 17: The Origami Killer fav.me/dasmlnh

SHAUN! SHAAAAAAUUUUUN!!! 
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   A heavy slamming caused Norman to jolt awake in a panic.
   “Rise and shine, sweetheart! Looks like someone slept in this morning.”
   Pale light filled the room through the small window of the office. Norman pushed himself straight, his head aching where he’d rested it on the hard surface of the desk. It took him a moment to notice Blake was standing next to him, one hand on the office chair that Ashley had brought in the night before.
   “You like being under arrest or something?” Blake clenched his hand on the back of the chair. “Touch my stuff again and beat your ass into the ground.”
   The events of the previous night worked their way back into Norman’s memory. He rubbed his face as the office came into clearer view. The ARI lay upside-down on the corner of the desk with the killer’s pistol a few inches away from it. The familiar tension of the case weighed him down almost immediately, followed by the dull dread of the memory of Ashley with him in the office. A thousand frustrating thoughts rushed through his mind. He needed to find Ashley. He had to set things right with her. But he still had to find the name of the Origami Killer. The ARI was in front of him. He could start searching again right away. Was there even enough time?
   Norman twisted as Blake rolled the chair towards the office door. “What time is it?” said Norman before he could stop himself.
   Blake glanced up at him, his dark eyes scrunched into a bewildered glare. “It’s time for you to get the fuck out of Philadelphia, you prick,” said Blake. The office door clicked open as Blake opened the door.
Norman stood up, wobbly from lack of sleep. “The Origami Killer is a cop.”
Blake stood frozen for a moment. The room fell eerily silent, and a steady nervousness crept in Norman’s chest. He didn’t know why he’d said that; his mind was still fuzzy from waking up so abruptly. But was Blake actually going to listen to him?
   Blake’s hand clenched on the door handle, and he leaned forward slightly. Then his cold laughter echoed through the room. He stood up straight, and Norman felt his heart sink at the expression on Blake’s face.
   “What?” Blake shook his head as he looked at Norman. “What did you say?” Blake rested both hands on the back of the chair and leaned. “Are you officially bat-shit insane?”
   Norman fell back into his chair, resting his forehead in his hand. He was really out of his mind if he was attempting to convince Blake. Norman pulled the pistol towards him on the desk, staring blankly as he reorganized his thoughts. He had to think clearly and fast. This was the third day, and if he’d already wasted most of it with sleep, he’d need to act quickly to find the name of the killer.
   The pistol was suddenly pulled away in front of him, and Norman sat up straight as Blake put the pistol in his jacket. Norman immediately prepared for a battle, but stopped cold at the look on Blake’s face. It was accusatory.
   “What are you doing?” said Norman. Blake took a step back from him.
   “What the hell are you doing with this?” Blake motioned toward the pistol in his jacket.
   The suspicion lined in Blake’s face left Norman at a loss for words. For a moment, he fought the urge to launch into detail about the battle with the Origami Killer at Paco’s office. There was something Norman hadn’t considered. And it forced him instead to be cautious.
   Norman leaned back in his chair, beating down his apprehension. “Well, let’s say someone tried to kill me with it.”
   Blake snorted in laughter. “Shit, you’re pulling people out of retirement?” He laughed as he moved toward the door. “And I thought I was the only cop that wanted to kill you.”
   A fiery energy burned through Norman’s body as Blake opened the door. “Do you know who owns that firearm?”
   Blake turned toward him, his eyes narrowed. “Wait, let me guess.” He motioned toward the pistol again. “You think he’s the Origami Killer?” Norman nearly shook with anxiety as Blake laughed again. “Nah, I think I’ll spare an old friend from getting his house caught on fire.”
   “You won’t tell me who he is,” said Norman, standing up, “even if it meant finding Ethan Mars?”
   The humor vanished from Blake’s eyes. His dark brows narrowed, and he took a step forward. “What are you talking about?” Norman’s heart hammered as Blake’s fists clenched. “You know where Ethan Mars is? This whole time?”
   Norman swallowed, feeling as though he were burying himself in a deeper and deeper hole. “Call it a trade. You tell me who owns that gun, and I’ll tell you where Ethan Mars is.”
   “We’re not calling it anything.” Blake strode forward, stopping only inches from Norman’s face. “You’re gonna tell me where Mars is right now or I’ll fucking beat your skull open. You think you can hide information from me? You haven’t even seen police brutality yet, you stuck up bitch!”
   Norman clenched his jaw and returned Blake’s furrowed gaze. He could almost see the frustration burning behind Blake’s dark eyes. But a powerful anger forced Norman to hold his ground. After all he’d been through─ Nathaniel, Roman, Mad Jack, Club Synn… all to find the identity of the killer. He’d nearly killed himself trying to find it. And the one person who could tell him was the last person who would ever help him.
   He drew in a deep breath, fighting to keep his voice steady. “The Origami Killer is yours, Blake. All I need is a name.”
   Something flashed in Blake’s eyes, and Norman felt a rush of hope. The only thing Blake ever cared about… it had to be worth it. If he could set aside his urge to beat Norman into the ground if only it meant catching Ethan Mars, the fake Origami Killer.
   Blake let out a small breath of air, and his beard tweaked. “Okay, fine,” he said, crossing his arms. “His name’s Shelby.”
   Norman nearly tumbled over the newspapers as he spun and snatched his glasses from the desk. He raised his hands, forming a rough square. “Shelby. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.” The interface lit up in front of him, and he reached around him as he pulled the information together.
   “You got the name,” said Blake. “Now where’s Mars?”
   Norman’s heart pounded in his chest as the list of names scrolled automatically in front of him. Then it highlighted a single name: Scott Shelby. The bar expanded, and Norman was looking at a rough older man with short gray hair, tense brown eyes, and a sour expression. Norman felt the blood drain from his face. It was the same man from Paco’s office.
   “Hey asshole.” Blake moved forward as Norman scrolled through the list of information. “Where the fuck is Mars?”
   The information sped past as Norman glazed it over. Born February 1, 1967, six foot five inches, retired Marine and police lieutenant… He pressed his hand to the list. “Residence,” he said. The information scrolled down to a list of owned properties. Shelby owned an apartment in northern Philadelphia. Even as Norman memorized the address, he felt frustrated anxiety burn through him. Shaun Mars had only hours to live, and it was next to impossible that he would be at the killer’s residence. Norman ran his fingers through his hair. There had to be a clue somewhere…
   He drew up another square in front of him. “Geoanalysis history.” The square filled with a list of addresses, including the search for Club Synn, the scrapyard, and the broken address from Roman’s phone. Norman pressed a finger to the broken address, and dragged it to Shelby’s summary. The list scrolled again, and paused on a highlighted address. Norman nearly shook with anticipation as he analyzed it. This had to be it.
   “You hear what I─” Blake moved back as Norman stood up. The room grew brighter as Norman removed the glasses.
   “852 Theodore Roosevelt Road,” said Norman.
   For a moment, they were both silent. Blake opened his mouth to speak, but Norman moved past him, his heart pounding in his throat. He moved automatically through the door, slamming it behind him as he entered the lobby.
   He made a path between the office desks, his eyes set on the sliding glass doors. Several officers looked up curiously as he marched quickly. There was no point in reasoning. No point in preparing. If he was right, Shaun Mars was close to death, and the killer would be there to cover up the whole thing. But it was utterly perilous. Norman had lost his gun and his badge at Club Synn, and there wasn’t an officer in the precinct that would be willing to offer backup─
   Norman stopped dead in his tracks at the glass doors, the familiar twinge rising in his chest.
   Slowly he reached into his pocket and brought out his cell phone. He scrolled through the list of numbers, pausing on the missed call two days prior. He couldn’t leave her in the dark on this. Not when he’d finally found everything.
   He redialed, feeling the uncomfortable dread wash over his anticipation. The dial buzzed, and he felt his heart skip a beat as he heard Ashley’s voice.
   “You’ve reached Sergeant Ashley Gibbons. Please leave a message.”
   Norman ran a hand over his face as he took a deep breath. “Ashley, I found him. The Origami Killer’s name is Scott Shelby. He owns a warehouse on Theodore Roosevelt Road near the docks, and I’m positive that’s where he’s keeping Shaun Mars. I’m heading there now. I just─” Norman bit his lip. “I thought you should know. I hope you get this soon.” He paused a moment, searching for something else to say. Then he lowered the phone and ended the call.
   Norman gazed at the floor, clenching the phone in his fist. He was unarmed, alone, and the police were right behind him after the wrong man again. It was suicide, but somehow suicide seemed less intense when Ashley was with him.
   He moved forward and the doors slid open in front of him, exposing the rush of rain. The air was almost icy, and the cloudy sky was almost permanent black as it had been when he first arrived. Norman gripped his arms, conserving his warmth. Then he stepped through the curtain of water into the heavy rain.
Heavy Rain: ARI Chapter 17: The Origami Killer
Chapter 1: The Dog fav.me/da8aocw
Chapter 2: ARI fav.me/da8slgu
Chapter 3: Briefing fav.me/da98lj1
Chapter 4: She-Devil fav.me/da9qdbj
Chapter 5: Good Cop, Bad Cop fav.me/daairtc
Chapter 6: Separate Ways fav.me/dab5787
Chapter 7: The Well fav.me/dabu9vk
Chapter 8: Karma fav.me/dadczmz
Chapter 9: Fugitive fav.me/daebg1w
Chapter 10: Triptocaine fav.me/daf9cff
Chapter 11: Clue fav.me/dahv3ff
Chapter 12: Mad Jack fav.me/dain80c
Chapter 13: Ethan Mars fav.me/dak8h38
Chapter 14: Club Synn fav.me/dalhush
Chapter 15: Loss fav.me/damkfm5
Chapter 16: A Reason To Live fav.me/daqf8vx
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Chapter 18: The Old Warehouse fav.me/datkn68

Omigod it's almost Christmastime and I couldn't figure out which way this chapter was gonna go. Just realized how easy Blake is to manipulate. Anyone got someone they really hate? Call Blake and say "dood, this guy knows about the Origami Killer. Can you come get him and take him in for 'questioning?'" EVIL Laughter! 
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   Norman pressed his clenched hands to either side of his head, closing his eyes as the sounds of the ocean drifted around him. The monster groaned behind him, and the water churned as the creatures shifted through the murky gloom. He had no idea how long he’d been sitting there at the desk he never thought he’d sit at again. Couldn’t be longer than the time he’d spent in the interrogation room being harassed with pointless questions.
   Even Perry had arrived to shout at him some more. Norman couldn’t explain how he’d managed to be witness to the deaths of six people in two days, and place countless others in danger. He couldn’t explain why he couldn’t just drop the case and go back to Washington. And despite his attempts to speak over them, he couldn’t prove that the man who attacked them at Club Synn was in fact the Origami Killer.
   So he’d humored their questions, trying not to explode over such accusations as killing Thomas Roman himself, or somehow planning the escape of Ethan Mars. Blake seemed to pull every resource at his disposal to get a rise out of him, and Norman wanted badly to give in and simply club him across the face. But the real fight was to be completely truthful. There was no point in bringing Norman in other than to give Blake someone to battle with in place of a suspect.
   The water reverberated as the dark shape groaned, and Norman clenched his hands in front of his face. After everything that happened at Club Synn, after dealing with Paco and nearly getting Ashley killed, he’d walked away with nothing. No name, no evidence, no killer. And not only did he accomplish nothing, he’d managed to lose his entire stash of triptocaine.
   The only thing he could focus on was the killer himself. Norman tried as hard as he could to find him in the ARI. He took note of every detail he’d seen in the seconds the killer stood in the light of the hallway. The killer was tall, around six foot. He was strong and heavy, probably weighing over two hundred pounds, and was at the top of the age group in the killer’s profile. He had short gray hair and wore a brown trenchcoat. His eyes… Norman pressed his knuckles against his mouth. What color were his eyes? It happened too fast. Most of the events in the past few hours were a complete blur. He’d barely been aware of what he was fighting in the darkness of Paco’s office.
   Norman should have been well passed out in his hotel room by now, but he couldn’t go back knowing there was so much that needed to be done. So much that he couldn’t do because he didn’t have the clues. He took meager comfort in the abyss of the fake ocean that surrounded him. Norman breathed against his clenched hands in frustration. He could blanket the world around him, but he could never escape from it entirely.
   There was a creak as the office door opened. Norman turned his head in the direction of the door, and sighed heavily. This was getting old very fast.
   “Look, I think I speak for everyone when─” His heart froze in his chest as he removed his glasses.
   Ashley gazed at him from the doorway, swaying lightly on the spot as she supported herself against the wall. A small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. “Hey.”
   For a moment, Norman felt he was paralyzed. Then he pushed up from his desk, marching toward her so fast he nearly barreled into her.
   “Jesus, Ashley…” He put a hand on her shoulder, his breath caught in his chest. “Are you okay?”
   Ashley tilted her head, her hair falling across her face. “It feels like I’ve done about a thousand sit ups in about three minutes. I mean, not that I’ve done a thousand sit ups before but…” She rolled her eyes, and Norman noticed the weariness still lingered in them. “But what about you? Blake actually arrested you?”
   Norman nodded, a jet of frustration burning through him. “I’m sorry I didn’t come with you. Blake’s just looking to take out his anger on anything at this point.” Norman ran a hand over his face, and then motioned to Ashley’s torso. “What did they do at the hospital? They let you out this soon?”
   Ashley’s face tensed and her eyes widened. She shifted on the spot. “I umm…”
   “Oh god.” Norman put a hand to his forehead. “You bailed?”
   “Look, we’ve got less than twenty-four hours to save Shaun,” said Ashley quickly. “You were gone, no one was looking, I just─” She sighed, shifting her weight slowly to one hip. “I didn’t want to lay around in a hospital all night.”
   “Ashley, you were stabbed. Through your stomach.” Norman returned Ashley’s fierce gaze. He sighed and moved toward the door, cupping a hand under her arm.
   “What are you doing?” said Ashley.
   “Taking you back to the hospital,” said Norman. He felt Ashley jerk her arm out of his grip.
   “I’m not going anywhere!” Ashley stepped backward as Norman turned toward her. “I don’t have time to be locked up.”
   “Ashley─” Norman stopped as Ashley raised her finger toward him in mimic of his own gesture hours before.
   “No, Norman,” she growled. “You think I’m just going to lay in a hospital while Shaun drowns, Ethan Mars is killed or worse, and the Origami Killer disappears again? Jesus, don’t you know me at all?” She swallowed heavily as she rocked on the spot, and again Norman was reminded of a child standing up to an adult.
   He sighed and ran a hand over his face. As much as he was worried for her, and as much as he knew she was only putting more stress on her body by leaving the hospital, he couldn’t ignore his immense relief that she was here with him again. There was so much fighting against him─ time, red tape, Blake, every criminal in Philadelphia… it seemed even luck was trying to murder him every chance it got. There was nothing she could do to help him, but that strange twinge shot through his chest and he knew he couldn’t make her leave.
   Norman rested his hand on the doorknob and looked sideways at her. “How bad is it?” he said.
   Ashley shifted slightly, lowering her gaze to the floor. “Not that bad, obviously. I mean, the doctor said an inch higher would have cost me a kidney. And I have to be careful of what I eat for the next week.” She glanced up at him and ran her thumb over her bottom lip. “So I’m staying?”
   Norman clenched his hand on the cold metal of the doorknob, then pulled the door closed. “I’m not going to force you to go back to the hospital,” he said.
   Ashley nodded, folding her arms across her chest and wincing in pain. “Good. Because I’d have fought you off.”
   Norman couldn’t help his snort of laughter as he moved around her towards his desk. “I’m sure you would have.” He caught a glance of her defiant brown-eyed glare and felt his residual frustration leak away. At least she had confidence even if it was unrealistic.
   He picked up the glasses from the desk as he sat down, pausing a moment to rest his forehead against his palm. Ashley leaned back against the desk and clutched the edge in both hands. “Did you find him?” she asked, twisting her body slightly so she looked at him over her shoulder.
   Norman shook his head, rubbing his eyes. “No DNA, no fingerprints, no nothing.” He unfolded the ARI and slipped the glasses over his nose, plunging into the deep black sea. “All I’ve got is a physical description that I have to match to about half a million people. I think I’m about─ “ He flicked his wrist and brought up the endless list of the population in Philadelphia. “─a hundred people in.” The monster moaned in the darkness as it passed in front of him, swirling the bioluminescent dots.
   “There’s… come on. There has to be something.” The desk shifted and Ashley’s voice echoed strangely. Norman looked in her direction, disturbed by the fact that he couldn’t see her. With an almost treacherous shame in his chest, he closed his hands together and spread them apart, drawing out the bubbles of different environments. Casting one last look to Nessie, Norman pressed his gloved hand to the desk and pulled up a revolving bubble. The murky sea melted away, revealing the dusty walls, lopsided filing cabinet and stacks of newspaper. Ashley appeared on the far end of the office, walking in slow circles as she rubbed the back of her neck.
   Norman watched her for a moment, his escape from the black sea making him feel as though he were spying on her. Ashley smoothed her hand over her stomach and paused, her brown hair falling over her face.
   “Security cameras,” she said, and Norman looked away quickly as she turned toward him. “Entry permits… what about the sword?”
   Norman shook his head. “There’s no surveillance in that part of the building, and everything burned in that fire.” He ran a hand over his face and turned back to the list, scrolling through each and every citizen.
   “You can’t just describe what he looks like to the ARI?” said Ashley. “I thought it could do pretty much everything.”
   “It’s no different than a computer,” said Norman, flicking through the different profiles. “I need something tangible to work with.”
   Ashley sighed and leaned against the wall, and Norman fought the urge to glance at her again. “How could a man burst into an office, kill three people, nearly kill us, set the room on fire, and just walk away with no evidence that he was even there?” she said.
   A breath of frustration escaped Norman’s throat. “The same way he’s been able to kidnap and kill for three years.” He glared at the photos that flicked by. “He’s… a genius.”
   The room fell silent under the distant patter of rainwater. Norman rested his chin on his fist as he flicked his finger through the list. He was barely paying attention now, and it wouldn’t have surprised him if the killer’s face panned right past him without him noticing. Not that he could remember exactly what the killer looked like anyway. The more he focused on the details, the more they seemed to leak away from his memory. Each face that passed by obscured the description further. Was the killer really that old? His hair could have been more brown than he remembered. And he was almost certain that the killer’s eyes were anywhere from pure black to cold blue.
   There was a shuffle next to him, and Norman looked sideways as Ashley kneeled next to a stack of newspapers by his desk. She grunted in pain, pushing a smaller stack next to it.
   “What are you doing?” asked Norman.
   “What’s it look like?” said Ashley as if it were plainly obvious. “I’m making a chair.”
   Norman smacked a hand to his forehead. “Why─ there’s chairs─” He sighed heavily as he gazed down at her. “Here.” He stood up and moved next to her, taking her under the arm. She wobbled slightly as she rose to her feet, looking at him as though he were interrupting her. Norman shook his head, that twinge in his chest becoming a nuisance at this point. “I swear, I’m never going to figure you out,” he said.
   Ashley’s mouth tensed into a smile as she moved into the chair. “Have you even tried yet?” She leaned forward, crossing her arms on the surface of the desk and laying her head on them. Norman laughed lightly as he panned the list in front of him again.
   “Believe me, I’ve tried,” he said as he sat on the edge of the desk, continuing his search. He swept his hand across, passing up five of the profiles at once. He half-wished he could pull Ashley into the ARI with him, but then he would have to deal with the guilt of making her search pointlessly as he was now.
   “It’s too bad he didn’t just shoot me,” said Ashley. “We’d at least have a bullet.”
   “Don’t say that.” The painful anxiety of seeing her impaled nipped at Norman’s chest. He glanced down at her as she brushed her hair back from her face, her eyes seemingly locked on the fabric of his pants. “Finding the killer isn’t worth your life.”
   Her eyes glinted as she looked up at him. “We’re cops. We’re basically hired to die.”
   He dropped his hand, a smile breaking across his face but his voice was stopped in his throat as he suddenly froze. A bullet from the killer’s gun… Norman’s memory tugged at him, forcing him to remember. He shifted against the desk, bringing his hand up to his chest and fumbling inside his jacket. Ashley lifted her head up, and he pulled the pistol from his jacket. Not his Baretta, but a different 45 caliber pistol. He stared at it in silence for a few moments as it sank in. The killer’s weapon. Norman had completely forgotten he’d taken it with him.
   He let out a small laugh. “Huh,” he muttered as he turned the gun over in his hand. He held his gloved palm over the gun and released a beam of light. The gun was illuminated, and a list of details panned in front of him. He stared at them, a new excitement electrifying his body.
   “What is it?” Ashley sat up straight as she looked at him. Norman flicked through the analysis.
   “This gun. I took it from Paco’s office. It belongs─” He paused as he raised the gun, gazing at the barrel. “─to no one apparently. Impounded five years ago after an arrest.” He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his legs as he stared down at the pistol. “How the hell did the Origami Killer get a hold of this?”
   Ashley leaned over his shoulder, gazing at the weapon. “Someone took it from a police station?” she said.
   “Someone.” Norman tilted his head to look sideways at her. He ran a hand over his face, cold realization flowing through him. The kidnappings in broad daylight, access to random vehicles and phones, the mind-blowing intelligence and apparent genius behind the lack of evidence… Norman stood up from the desk, running his hand through his hair. He turned slowly on the spot, feeling more grounded than he’d ever been since the start of the investigation. “The Origami Killer is a Philadelphia police officer.”
   Ashley’s eyes widened. “A cop…”
   Norman moved forward, kneeling in front of the desk as he brought up the list of the population. He pressed his hand against it.    “Philadelphia police department.” A vast majority of the list shrank away, leaving a list of over a thousand names. Norman quickly scanned through each profile, a new energy motivating him through the massive list. His temples buzzed, and through the interface, he saw Ashley watching him.
   “If he’s a cop…” She shook her head slowly. “That’s still gotta be over a thousand people.”
   “Four thousand,” he said as he flicked through the list. “Still better than half a million.”
   The desk shook as Ashley leaned forward, her hands running through her loose hair. “It’s still not enough. There’s gotta be more we can do to narrow it down.”
   “I can do this.” Norman tapped the air, his neck beginning to ache as he looked back and forth between the list and the images. He’d already filtered the list to the killer’s description, and added the killer’s profile for good measure. It not only seemed possible. It was within his reach as long as he stayed focused.
   There was a scrape as Ashley stood up from the chair. She moved past him as Norman gazed at the list. “Where are you going?” he asked.
   “I’m getting you a chair,” she said. “You’re gonna need it since I stole yours.” The door opened and closed behind him. Norman tried to ignore the pounding that was creeping up in his temples. The faces flew past him, almost in a blur. He was pushing it, and that was dangerous. But he had to search. The killer’s face was here somewhere. All he had to do was find it.
   The door opened again and there was a slight crunching as something rolled into the office. Ashley appeared in the corner of Norman’s vision, pushing a computer chair next to him. “I’m pretty sure Blake would be perfectly happy to give up his chair for you, especially since─” There was a pause, and she moved in front of the desk and leaned forward towards him. Through the flicking faces, Norman saw her eyes narrow in worry. “Norman,” she said. “You’ve got a nosebleed.”
   He almost put a hand to his lip to check, but forced himself to keep scanning. The faces panned faster as flicked his wrist. “It’s nothing to worry about.” He stood up slightly and backed into the computer chair, pulling the list with him as he moved back toward the desk.
   It was getting more difficult to ignore the concerned look on Ashley’s face. She sat next to him in the broken chair, her hands folded in front of her face as she rubbed her bottom lip with both her thumbs. He wished she would simply say something rather than stare at him. This was the only way to find the killer, and worrying about his health wasn’t helping any.
   “It’s going to be fine, Ashley,” he said. Even as he said it, his head began to pound. The list just wasn’t going by fast enough. He’d be up for hours scrolling through it. If he could just push it…
   “What about withdrawal?” Ashley’s voice was slurred as she spoke through her fingers. “You lost─ I mean, there’s no more triptocaine.”
   “I don’t need triptocaine.” Norman tapped each of his fingers down the lines, developing a quick method as if he were pressing the keys of a keyboard. He heard Ashley let out a sharp breath.
   “Well, that’s news to me.”
   Norman paused for a moment, a jet of anger shooting through him. He looked at Ashley who stared at her clenched hands on the desk, her eyes narrowed in a mix of worry and frustration. Part of him wanted to snap back at her, but he returned to searching. There was no point in starting a fight. Not over that anyway.
   The images flashed in front of him, nearly blinding him as he glanced at each one. There were so many people in this damn city. He hadn’t given much thought to how many police officers a busy city actually needed. And they all looked alike. All older men between the ages of thirty and forty five, and all had the exact same sour expression. For lack of a better description, they all looked like various forms of Blake.
   The room around Norman seemed to fade out of existence as he focused on the list. It didn’t seem to be scrolling fast enough. Ashley was right. There was no way he was going to find the killer in all these names. But he had to try. Even if it was hopeless, he had to keep fighting.
   His upper lip was starting to itch, and a metallic taste lingered in his mouth. He didn’t need to look at Ashley to know she was probably staring at him again. The search was becoming more fluid, as if he could control the ARI off of suggestion. The quicker he went through the list, the more natural it felt. He was barely aware of the pounding in his head.
   Something touched his cheek, and Norman jerked slightly, losing his momentum. “Christ,” said Ashley. “Is that blood…”
   He was over two hundred officers in. And it was getting easier. He could do this. He just had to keep going.
   “Norman, take off the ARI,” said Ashley. Norman glanced at her, though her form seemed to be broken up in the haze of the interface.
   “Just let me do this,” he said, struggling to hide his frustration.
   “It’s─ Norman you’re bleeding.”
   “I can handle it.” He tapped through several more names. Three hundred down. At this rate, he could have every one of them scanned in roughly an hour. The withdrawal would be massive, but Ashley was with him. As long as he got the name, it didn’t matter what happened to him afterward.
   “This is crazy.” Ashley’s voice was garbled as if passing through water. “It’s going to kill you.”
   That was strange. He hadn’t opened an environment. His hands were on autopilot, going through each name as if his arms weren’t attached. He didn’t even need to focus anymore. The ARI was doing it for him.
   “Turn it off. Norman, stop!”
   Her voice was really beginning to irritate him. She probably shouldn’t have stayed after all. If she would just let him be, this could all be done in no time. He wasn’t in any pain. In fact, this was the easiest search he’d ever done. It was just a simple case of identifying someone. If he let go, he could probably just upload his own memory to the ARI and find the killer instantly. Was that part of the programming? If not, he could always test it.
   Someone was speaking to him. It was far away now. And he didn’t have time to stay in the real world. There was so much data here. So much he had to go through. All the answers were right here if he could just dig deeper─
   A sickening jolt brought him back into the dingy office, and Norman fell forward onto the desk, clawing at its surface. Something horrible had happened. He felt as if he’d just lost a portion of his brain. As he struggled to regain control of his muscles, Ashley came into his fuzzy vision. She was sitting up, leaning away from him. And in her hands clenched against her chest was the ARI.
   Norman lunged for her, barely able to guide his hands which flung through empty air as Ashley stumbled away from him. The room spun as he tumbled onto the ground, and he fought to make his legs work. He needed the ARI. She couldn’t just rip it away from him like that… what the hell was she thinking? He couldn’t move. He couldn’t breathe…
   A groan escaped him as he slowly crawled arm over arm across the floor. His hands shook as if electrified, and the room morphed around him. He’d never found it so difficult to control his own body. A roaring buzz filled the room, and it took him a while to recognize Ashley’s voice.
   “─this, Norman. I’m not going to just let you kill yourself.” She echoed strangely above him.
   Norman raised himself slightly, searching for her through the blurry shapes. “You’re… you’re killing me.” He fell onto his side, drawing his knees up as his skin burned into sensation again. He needed the ARI. He needed triptocaine. Anything to get rid of this raw exposure.
   A hand gripped his arm. “I’m right here with you. I’m not going anywhere.”
   He jerked his arm away from her. “You should’ve… stayed at the hospital.” His muscles shook as he slowly raised himself off the floor into a sitting position. The room morphed oddly, and he pressed his hand to his forehead in attempt to stabilize himself. “You don’t know what you’re doing.”
   A strange waterfall noise was rushing in his ears. Despite the overwhelming sensation, this felt different than his usual withdrawal. Whether it was a good or bad thing, he couldn’t be sure. He couldn’t be sure of anything anymore. He’d never felt so dislocated. Was he even angry? Were these his thoughts or someone else’s?
   Norman grasped the edge of the desk as he stood up, pausing over the dusty surface as he regained his balance. Logic seemed to be at war with theory in his head, as if he were slowly waking up from a vivid dream. He couldn’t tell which was real and which was imaginary. And that forced his anger to give way to miserable frustration.
   He ran a hand over his face and closed his eyes. He didn’t care which way he went, as long as he didn’t have to make a decision. It was so difficult to simply think. Couldn’t he just stop thinking? Norman gripped the desk and stared at the wall in an attempt to root himself in reality. He needed an anchor. Something he could force himself to believe in.
   Norman twisted slightly. “Are you still there?”
   Something moved in his peripheral vision. “I’m here.”
   The sound of Ashley’s voice seemed to snap him back to his senses. He sighed heavily and rubbed his eyes with one hand. Everything was beginning to fall back into place. “I’m sorry… I didn’t mean…”
   “Don’t.” She gripped his shoulder, and Norman felt as though his feet had just hit the floor. He straightened, savoring the rational sensation. He’d really fallen far this time, but it had taken him in a strange direction. The ARI was getting out of his control. But he needed it. Or he just needed triptocaine─
   Norman sighed heavily and pushed past Ashley, pressing his hands to his forehead as he walked in a slow circle. He didn’t need anything. He could handle the ARI. It was simply a matter of knowing his limits. And if he couldn’t, he could always string the office up like…
   “Purgatory,” he said.
   “What?” said Ashley. Norman dropped his hands and paused in the middle of the room.
   “When your life is spent trying to tell the difference between reality and fantasy.” Norman looked at her. She stood against the desk, both hands still gripping the ARI against her chest. Her body was tense as if she were contemplating running from him. Norman shook his head slowly. “You forget to ask where you fit in all this,” he said.
   Ashley’s eyes narrowed in confusion. “Look, Norman…” She put her hands behind her and set the ARI on the desk. “I don’t know what this thing is doing to you, but you can’t use it like this. It’s killing you.”
   The sincerity in her voice seemed to hit a wall in his mind. He gazed past her at the desk, a miserable weight hanging from his shoulders. “I think I stopped caring about that a long time ago,” he said.
   Ashley shook her head slowly. “What are you talking about?”
   Norman slumped against the wall, staring off into space. “You’re wrong about me Ashley,” he said. “I am just a god damn junkie.”
   The silence was broken only by the patter of rainwater. Somehow saying it out loud seemed to solidify it in Norman’s mind. He glared at the floor as he clenched one hand on his arm. The triptocaine, the withdrawal… was he really trying to save some innocent child and capture a serial killer, or was he simply looking for a reason to withdraw from reality?
   There was a sharp breath as Ashley shifted in front of him. “Don’t punish yourself like this. You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met.”
   A sad laugh escaped Norman’s throat. He gazed up at her. “You met me two days ago,” he said, his voice strangely stoic. “You don’t know who I am.”
   The energy left Ashley’s brown eyes as her face tensed. A creeping shame burned in Norman’s chest, and he pressed his clenched hands to his eyes again. Here he was, breaking down walls once again. Anything that got between him and the ARI was fair game. He hadn’t realized how much he let it control him. But it was true. He was a junkie. And it was clear what his priorities were when it came to the ARI or making rational decisions.
   A velvety warmth brushed his cheek, and Norman jerked in surprise, dropping his fists. His frustrations were dashed in an instant as Ashley lowered her hand quickly. She was close to him, barely a foot away, her wide eyes set in a nervous determination. Norman gazed at her, the strange twinge creeping in his chest again. Wasn’t she ever going to learn that he would keep attacking her like this? She was so damn persistent. So stubborn. So…
   She took a step closer to him, her brown eyes firmly locked on his. His chest ached, and it took him a moment to realize his heart was hammering. He found himself transfixed on her face, as if nothing else existed. The twinge was pulling everything away. It all seemed so pointless. Insignificant. If she didn’t know who he was…
   A numb wave fell over him, drawing the heat from his body as she moved into him. Her breath against his cheek seemed to ignite his senses, and the room grew dark as he gave way to them. The warmth shifted as she tilted her head up, and in a rush of paralyzing energy, Norman felt her lips close against his.
   He was momentarily stunned as she paused against him. Everything was falling away in a slow cascade, leaving only the numbing realization of how close she was to him. He breathed against her skin, nearly drowning in her light touch. He needed it again. He needed her again. Without a second thought, he leaned into her and pressed his mouth against hers.
   The cascade returned, washing over him in an overwhelming rush. He couldn’t take in enough of her. His senses were bent on memorizing every detail. The velvet smoothness of her skin, her pollen-like fragrance, the mint taste of her mouth… all of the things that had been so near to him and yet he’d never known.
   He felt her hands slide up along his chest, brushing against his neck as he continued to close his mouth against hers. A fiery energy burned through him, and he pulled her body into him. Her slender body stretched, and he felt her fingers slide through his hair as she locked her arms around his shoulders. He’d never wanted anyone so close. Never wanted to be so exposed. And yet he needed more. Every movement she made threatened to take any ounce of control he had left.
   Norman gripped her sides and pushed her in a circle, pressing her against the wall. The momentary break between them brought back a glimpse of her face, her brown eyes gleaming in the dim light and her mouth open as she breathed heavily against him. He brought up his hand and slid it over her neck, running his thumb over her jawline. How had he resisted her for so long? He’d doubted her, judged her, and pushed her away. But all those things which had caused him so much confusion and frustration were sending him over the edge. And they couldn’t do it fast enough.
   He pressed into her, closing his mouth over hers as his hands found their way back to her waist. She was breathing heavier now, her chest rising and falling and her breath sharp against his lips. He wanted more than anything for her to be as undone as he was for her now. If everything else in the world fell apart, he could find solace by simply falling into her.
   Her shirt wrinkled as Norman slid his hands down her waist. His fingers brushed against the thick creases of her jeans, and he worked his thumbs underneath the edges of her shirt. The ache in his chest was giving way to a powerful desire that slowly filled him with energy. He tilted into her, letting her sharp breaths and the closing of her mouth on his feed this new energy. Her body arched against him and her fingers flexed in his hair, igniting the muscles in his body. With a pulse of blind desire, he slid his hands up along the bare skin of her waist, bringing her shirt with them.
   A sudden shove sent reality crashing down on him. The touch of Ashley’s lips and the debilitating closeness vanished, and Norman found himself taking a step backward. It took him a moment to realize Ashley’s hand was stretched in front of him, her palm stretched out near his shoulder. As his senses reorganized themselves, he felt a deep dread fill him in a solemn understanding. She’d pushed him away.
   One hand covered her mouth and her eyes were clenched tightly shut. She held the other in front of her, blocking Norman from moving closer to her. A blind panic raced through him as he stared at her. He didn’t want to stop. He needed her. What had he done?
   She breathed in sharply and her brown eyes opened. They were glassy, staring off into space. Norman’s heart raced as he struggled to think of what to do. He’d pushed it too far. Too fast. But he could have sworn she wanted him. Her eyes had been so full of the same desire, a far cry from what they were now. Painful, ashamed, and distant.
   An icy realization fell over him. He felt his face go numb. She was thinking of something. And he didn’t need to use his profiling skills to know what.
   He put his hand forward. “I’m sorry─”
   Even as he said it, he knew it was useless. Frantic thoughts chased eachother in his mind. He didn’t want to lose this. He’d never felt so complete as he had with her, and it was crumbling away so fast he couldn’t keep it together. Each second that went by seemed to solidify a wall between them. He simply wanted to touch her again. To feel the closeness that had nearly swallowed him whole. It was agonizing, and at the same time, he knew there was nothing he could do.
   Ashley’s eyes closed again, and she ran her hands over her face. Her mouth was tensed, and her hands trembled as she clenched them against her lips. Norman waited for her to speak. To do anything that he could negotiate so he could make this right again. But as the seconds went by, Ashley’s face seemed to grow more resolute. Her brown eyes opened again, and Norman felt his heart plummet at the fierce determination set in them.
   Slowly she moved forward, passing by him. The space between them was ice cold, and the last frantic thoughts seemed to beat his mind. He had to stop her. Say something. Do anything.
   She silently passed from his vision, her soft footsteps echoing through the dingy room. Then the door opened and closed with a heavy click.
   Norman stared at the wall, the powerful numbness quickly replaced by a wave of despair. He ran a hand over his face, rubbing free flakes of dried blood which slowly fell to the floor. Everything felt so empty. The space around him was like a vacuum. Cold, void, and dark. He put a hand to his mouth in a desperate attempt to draw back the overwhelming sensation that Ashley had given him. A painful dread weighed down his shoulders. He’d driven her away again.
   Norman turned slowly on the spot, stepping backward so he rested his back against the wall. All of the logic and reason that had escaped him came rushing back. That feeling of numbness, the halting of time, the desire for more… he’d felt it before although not as strong, and he’d never completely surrendered to it. And he’d never experienced it outside of ARI and triptocaine.
   He slid down against the wall, coming to a rest on the floor with his knees bent in front of him. A heavy sigh escaped him as he leaned forward, bracing his elbows against his knees as he put his forehead in his hands. He’d never had a chance to suspect what he was feeling for Ashley. Everything was happening so quickly. The race against the clock and the battle with the police department never gave him the time he needed to simply think. If things had been different, if only a few more days to spare, he could have rationalized the situation and not simply acted on impulse.
   Yet even as he proceeded to blame everything else around him, a nagging worry tugged at him. ARI, triptocaine… it was so easy to pin his faults on addictive substances. He needed something else to be in control. To take the blame for him. And if he had to name it, perhaps he was simply addicted to being addicted.
Heavy Rain: ARI Chapter 16: A Reason To Live
Chapter 1: The Dog fav.me/da8aocw
Chapter 2: ARI fav.me/da8slgu
Chapter 3: Briefing fav.me/da98lj1
Chapter 4: She-Devil fav.me/da9qdbj
Chapter 5: Good Cop, Bad Cop fav.me/daairtc
Chapter 6: Separate Ways fav.me/dab5787
Chapter 7: The Well fav.me/dabu9vk
Chapter 8: Karma fav.me/dadczmz
Chapter 9: Fugitive fav.me/daebg1w
Chapter 10: Triptocaine fav.me/daf9cff
Chapter 11: Clue fav.me/dahv3ff
Chapter 12: Mad Jack fav.me/dain80c
Chapter 13: Ethan Mars fav.me/dak8h38
Chapter 14: Club Synn fav.me/dalhush
Chapter 15: Loss fav.me/damkfm5
-
Chapter 17: The Origami Killer fav.me/dasmlnh
Chapter 18: The Old Warehouse fav.me/datkn68

Sorry for the long ass wait. Been drawing like crazy. I hope this novel of a chapter makes up for it. I just realized I'm getting close to the end of the story and I think I'm procrastinating because I don't want it to be over. 
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The More It Rains... Heavy Rain: Norman Jayden
Here's some more Nahman for ya. Think I'm getting better at this I am a dummy!  I'll have to show a step-by-step sometime. It's kinda like painting a very blurry picture and then slowly sharpening it up.
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   Norman slammed the door shut as a series of holes punched through the door. He pulled Ashley to the side as the air whipped by him. Paco was yelling and the women screamed at one end of the room.
   There was no time to talk. Norman swung his arm against the wall, flicking the lightswitch and plunging the room into darkness punctured only by the swirling blue lights of the aquarium. Panic darted through him as he yanked Ashley towards the couches. There was nowhere to go. They were trapped.
   The door burst open just as Norman rolled behind the couch, Ashley tumbling with him. The room erupted in gunfire. Norman pressed his back against the couch as Ashley curled into him, her legs scrambling in an attempt to pull herself into a tight ball. Instinctively, Norman wrapped his arms around her as he heard Paco holler over the gunshots. Then Paco’s voice went quiet, and there was only the screaming of the two women. Norman’s terror threatened to overwhelm him as the women shrieked in unison. There was a pop, and then there was only one woman screaming in between her sobs. Another pop, and the room fell silent.
   Ashley was shaking so hard that Norman thought she would tremble right out of his grip. He straightened as footsteps made their way across the room. Glass tinkled, and something rolled across the floor. Then there was a slight knocking of wood. Norman closed his eyes. The killer was looking for them.
   Norman pushed Ashley up so that she was sitting straighter, and he put his hand against her face to be sure she was looking at him. He gazed at her with intense focus, willing her to understand what they had to do. Her brown eyes were barely visible in the darkness, but he felt her nod. She was no doubt completely terrified, but he needed her to be focused. For once, she had to be in control of the situation.
   The footsteps drew closer. Norman pulled his legs up so he was in somewhat of a crouched position, and stared at the wavy blue shadows next to him. Every muscle in his body was shaking, and it took everything in him to keep still. He had to be ready. For what, he wasn’t sure. But whatever happened, he would at least give Ashley a fighting chance.
   He glared into the darkness, each second filling him with more fight instinct. He hadn’t survived Mad Jack and Paco Mendez to be shot like a helpless victim. The adrenaline built up in him like a spring. There was a crunching next to him, and Norman’s body went numb as the shadow of a man drifted over the couch.
   Norman shot upwards, barreling into the man and stumbling with him into the desk. There was a pop, but Norman had a hold of the man’s arm. He put all his weight into the man’s arm so that it almost bent backwards over the desk, and the man jerked as the gun clattered to the floor.
   A surge of energy powered Norman into a frantic series of punches. The killer was unarmed. They were on equal ground now.
   The man swung his arms and Norman’s blows went sideways. A sharp pain erupted in the back of Norman’s neck as the man swung his fist into him, and Norman fell forward against the desk. He twisted quickly, and was shocked when the man backed away from him, flinging his arms behind him. It took a moment for Norman to realize Ashley had jumped on the man’s back and had her arm around his throat.
   The man groaned as he catapulted himself backwards, and Norman launched himself after him. They had him pinned. If they could just subdue him…
   He heard Ashley yelp as the man slammed against the wall, knocking items off the shelves. Ashley dropped to the floor, and Norman felt fire burn through him as the killer turned toward her. He couldn’t let him touch Ashley. No matter what, the killer had to stay focused on him.
   Norman crashed into the man, crumpling against the wall. Before he could recover, Norman felt clenched fists on his shoulders, and he was suddenly flying towards the desk. Norman stumbled against it, panic racking his body. He rolled onto his back and kicked out, feeling his foot connect with the man’s torso. The man staggered backwards, and then jerked to the side as a chair knocked into him.
   Norman rushed forward as Ashley dropped the chair. She raised a hand to him, and then they both cried out as the killer tumbled into both of them. The man was ungodly strong. A surge of frustration bolted through Norman as he fell to the floor. He heard a crash, and then Ashley fell on the floor next to him.
   Something clanged next to him, sending up sparks in the darkness. Without thinking, Norman rolled to the side as there was another chop. Norman scrambled backwards onto his feet, a sharp swishing noise following close in front of him. He felt his gut wrench as he made sense of the figure chasing him. The man had grabbed one of the swords that had fallen from the wall.
   Norman frantically grabbed for anything. A guitar clanged to the ground in between them, and Norman flung a lamp towards him. The killer barreled forward, deflecting the lamp easily. Norman darted for the desk, throwing his shoulders back as the sword arched through the air in front of him. He was losing space quickly. There was no way he could fight against a sword.
   He fell back against the desk and twisted his body as the sword swung down. It clunked into the wood beside him. Norman straightened, but the sword was already swinging at him again. He flattened himself against the desk, a flash of metal flying above his eyes. Desperation tore at him. He was trapped. Any second, the sword would make contact.
   The killer swung the sword down, and Norman rolled off the desk onto the ground, staring up at the figure above him. The man stepped towards him, raising the sword.
   A loud pop shook the room. Followed by two more gunshots. Bits of wood exploded off the desk as the bullets hit. Norman froze, and realized the killer had stopped in his tracks. Against the blue of the fishtank, Ashley’s form was poised, pistol held in both hands in front of her.
   For a while, there was only heavy breathing. Norman gazed at the killer. It took him a second to realize that Ashley had shot the desk to get the killer’s attention, and it had worked. There was no fight now. They had him.
   “Drop the… the…” Ashley’s voice shook as she spoke. “...the samurai sword. And put your hands on your head.”
   The killer didn’t move. Norman swallowed, his heart hammering in his chest. If the killer knew what was good for him, he would surrender. He had to, or Ashley would have to shoot him. And after everything they’d been through in the past two days, Norman would be damned if he’d let that happen.
   The killer slowly lowered his arms and stepped away from him as Norman raised himself slightly onto his elbows. This was it. They finally had him.
   There was a swish as the figure spun in front of him, and there was the clang of metal against metal. Ashley disappeared, and then Norman heard her scream in pain.
   Norman launched himself upward against the desk as they came back into view. Time seemed to stop as he saw the killer back away. Ashley had her back against the wall, the sword buried to the hilt in her abdomen.
   Norman bolted forward, all sense leaving him. This couldn’t be real. Not now. Not like this.
   The killer moved to the doorway as Norman reached Ashley. She gripped the handle in both hands, and Norman put his hand on her shoulder, unable to even think of where to begin. She’d been nailed to the wall.
   “Get him,” she stammered. There was a metallic flick, and Norman had just enough time to see the man toss a small flame onto the ground before the man disappeared through the door, slamming it behind him.
   Norman’s mind racked with panic, confusion, and a host of other emotions he didn’t have time to think about. Ashley groaned as she pulled at the sword, her form suddenly growing clearer in the yellow light of the flames. Norman gave his head a shake, forcing the panic out of his system. He had to think. Ashley was impaled, the room was on fire, and the killer was getting away. How the hell was he supposed to think?
   Norman pressed his hand under her jaw, cupping her head up to him as he gazed into her eyes. “I need you to bear with me, okay?” he said.
   Ashley shook her head, her brown eyes growing glassy. “Just get out of here.”
   Norman put one hand on her shoulder and gripped the hilt of the sword in the other. Ashley braced against it, her chest heaving. He struggled to control the pounding of his heart. “Are you ready?”
   Ashley glared at him through her painful expression. “No.”
   Norman tilted his head. There wasn’t much of an option. With a deep breath, he pulled hard. The sword slid easier than he expected, and fell with a clatter onto the floor.
   Ashley fell into him, and Norman immediately caught her as she curled forward onto herself. The hard part was over. Now they just had to escape. He lifted her arm over his shoulder and pulled her to the doorway, grasping the doorknob firmly.
   It was locked. Norman scrambled to find the lock, and felt only the scrapes of a keyhole. He kicked at the door in despair. The door had a two-way lock.
   Norman spun, struggling to support Ashley as she clutched onto him. He wasn’t giving up yet. A metallic glint caught his attention, and he kneeled carefully, grasping the killer’s pistol in his hand. Without hesitation, he raised the pistol to the doorknob and fired.
   The metal warped, and Norman kicked at the door again, bashing it open.
   Smoke drifted around them as they staggered down the corridor. Ashley’s weight was growing heavier, and Norman’s sight was nearly blinded by adrenaline. He had to get her far enough away from the fire to set her down.
   They turned a corner, and Norman spotted a dark window and a glass door up ahead. It was as good a place as any. He pulled Ashley closer into him, and kicked open the door, dragging her out onto a spacious concrete balcony bordered by a walls of rain.
   Norman backed up against the wall, and slowly lowered Ashley into a sitting position. She drew her legs up, pressing her arms into her lower abdomen.
   Residual energy forced Norman to stay focused. He slipped the pistol into his jacket and dug into his pocket, pulling out his phone. He barely needed to look at the numbers to dial the police station. “This is Agent Norman Jayden. I need an emergency air evacuation and the fire department at Club Synn in downtown Philadelphia. I’ve got an officer down.”
   “I didn’t shoot him…” Ashley’s voice was barely above a whisper. “Why the hell didn’t I just shoot him…” She rolled sideways as Norman put the phone away. He gripped her shoulder, forcing her to sit upright. She was going into shock.
   “Ashley, I need you to stay focused.” He kneeled in front of her, struggling to see through the darkness at her wound. A jagged red cut bled just above the level of her jeans. He felt an almost synthetic relief. “It’s low. It’s not as bad as it seems.”
   “Norman.” Ashley tilted her head towards him, her eyebrows narrowed. “I’ve just been stabbed. With a sword.” She clenched her eyes shut and her head dropped back against the wall.
   “Hey,” said Norman, his heart beginning to pound again. “Hey. I need you to stay with me. Stay awake.” He put a hand against her cheek to keep her head up as she blinked. “Talk to me. Just talk about anything.”
   A small smile played at her mouth. “You talk to me. Tell me a something crazy.” Her eyes seemed to fall in and out of focus as she gazed at him.
   Norman sat back slightly, a shallow warmth filling him despite the panic. “Me tell you something crazy?” He shook his head. “You know I almost got melted in a vat of acid today?”
   Ashley closed her eyes as she smiled, her expression turning again to pain as her eyebrows narrowed. “Oh my god…” She shook as she laughed lightly. “You almost got melted…”
   Norman held onto her arm to steady her. Though it was killing him to be so helpless, watching as blood slowly spread across her clothes, he couldn’t help but feel a need to stay in this moment. This was more important than their conversation in the car, their resolution at the burned apartment, or their talks at the station. He realized he knew hardly anything about her despite their ordeal together. And she knew almost nothing about him. It wasn’t right. He didn’t want to lose her like this.
   She sighed heavily as her muscles relaxed, and Norman felt a dash of terror as he shook her again. “Ashley… Ashley don’t you pass out on me.”
   She straightened, lifting her head towards him again. “I’m okay, I’m just… tired.”
   “You’re not tired, you’re body is going into shock,” said Norman. “Keep talking to me.”
   “The fish.” Ashley swayed as she looked at him. “The fish are going to die, aren’t they?”
   Norman stared at her. He could hardly believe it. Even in the midst of a fire, four murders, and nearly getting chopped in half, Ashley never missed the opportunity for an awkward silence.
   He ran a hand over his face, the confusion clashing with his anxiety in a way that he thought would make his head explode. “What fish?”
   She shifted against the wall. “The fish in the aquarium. I mean, can fish burn if they’re in a fishtank?”
   Again, Norman had no idea if it was the shock altering Ashley’s mental state, or if it was just plain her speaking. He shook his head, unable to stop his smile. “Are you fan of sushi?”
   Ashley’s eyes widened. “Oh god…” She hunched forward and muttered something.
   Norman leaned towards her, the motion igniting his nerves. “What? What is it?”
   She raised her head slightly, her eyebrows narrowed. “I said fuck you, Norman.” She paused, her head rocking sideways so that her hair fell across her face. Norman recognized the weariness in her eyes and he shook her again.
   “Stay awake,” he said. “You stay with me.”
   She gazed at him, her dark hair falling sideways as she leaned. “Slap me or something. Or… tell me you’re actually a woman or you have five grandfathers. Just… give me a reason to live.” Her head fell back against the wall as she stared up at the stormy sky and swallowed.
   Norman laughed despite himself. He squeezed her shoulder as he looked at her, a deep twinge rising in his chest. She really was something odd. Something he could never be able to explain to anyone. Here she was, bleeding out on the concrete and still able to completely throw him off guard. He was hardly aware of the fact that he was slowly losing her.
   The twinge in his chest grew stronger, and he felt his smile disappear as a strange anxiety overtook him. He’d changed so much in the two days he’d been here. Not entirely of his choice, and usually at the cost of everything he valued most in his life. The battles with Blake and his growing friendship with Ashley… it was something he never would have predicted when he left Washington. And in all honesty, he wanted everything to keep changing. Everything except this.
   Norman reached forward, sliding his hand against Ashley’s neck so that his thumb ran along her cheek. She looked back at him, her brown eyes slightly widened at his touch. This time he didn’t hide it as he gazed at her face, now framed by waves of brown hair that fell across her narrow brows and grazed her shoulders. Her round, clueless eyes were completely locked on his, a subtle look of surprise playing in them as she seemed to come to a realization. Norman wasn’t losing her now. Not after how much she’d changed him.
   He leaned into her, pulling her slightly forward. He could almost hear the pounding of her heart as she tilted her head up to him, and he was nervously aware of how unavoidably close he was to her now. Her eyes fell closed as his nose grazed hers, and he felt her mouth open as her breath warmed his lips.
   He pulled back suddenly, the closeness severed. As he settled back again, her eyes opened and she straightened. Confusion seemed to be battling with dissapointed shock in her eyes as she gazed at him, her mouth still open as if dumbstruck. Norman struggled to slow his own beating heart as he waited. She made a noise, then her face softened in understanding. The corner of her mouth rose, and she leaned forward as she laughed.
   “You… you son of a bitch,” she gasped.
   Norman couldn’t help the laughter that shook him. Part of him felt betrayed as he laughed with her, but it was a small price to pay to keep her completely awake. She yelped as she held onto her abdomen, and her laughter broke slightly, though a painful smile still played on her mouth.
   The chopping of a helicopter arrived almost on cue in the distance, its white lights panning back and forth through the sky. Norman gazed up at it through the haze of rain. The relief that filled him was dampened by the disappointment of losing this moment. He mentally kicked himself for even having that reaction. They had to get out of there before the building burned down.
   Norman threw a glance at Ashley to be sure she was still alert, then stood up, stepping out into the rain and waving his hands. He was instantly soaked, and his breath fogged in front of him. The spotlight panned back and forth, then finally settled on the balcony, practically blinding him. As Norman stepped back, the sounds of the chopper blades roared above him, and there was a scramble against the light.
   He darted back to Ashley who was pushing herself up into a better sitting posture. She raised a hand to him as he approached, and he took it against his chest as he kneeled next to her. The strange twinge fluttered through his chest again as he felt her smooth her thumb over his knuckles, and she looked up at him with a weak but sincere smile.
   Footsteps clattered on the concrete, and voices rose above the splashing of the rain.
   “You the one who called for an air evac?” A paramedic rushed to them as two others hooked up a medical airlift stretcher. “Are you both injured?”
   Norman moved back as the paramedic crouched next to them. “Just her,” Norman called. “She was stabbed by a sword through the stomach.” He held Ashley’s hand while the paramedic examined her abdomen, and Ashley clenched her teeth as she straightened.
   “Okay.” The paramedic shifted onto his knees and looked up at Norman. “We can move her. Carefully.”
   There was a scrape as the other paramedics pulled the stretcher toward them. Norman gripped Ashley’s arm as she raised herself up onto the stretcher, her legs bent in tension. As they fitted the straps over her, Norman found himself clutching her hand in both of his. Despite the urgency of the situation and the clear danger, he couldn’t let her go.
   “Is the perpetrator still in the area?” The paramedic snapped the buckles closed as he looked at Norman.
   Norman shook his head. “No, but there’s a fire in the building.” He watched Ashley’s face as she rested back against the stretcher, her throat working as she swallowed.
   He felt a tug on his arm, and realized one of the paramedics was pulling him aside. “We got her now. You can let go.”
   A flush of frustration shot through him, but Norman forced himself to release his grip on her hand. The paramedic moved forward, finishing the straps and made a motion upwards. As Norman gazed at Ashley’s face, the ropes snapped tight, and the stretcher lifted into the air towards the bright light of the helicopter. Norman held his hand up against the light as he watched the rectangular silhouette grow smaller and smaller, until the white light overtook it completely.
   His built-up anxiety seemed to come back again with a vengeance. Norman ran a hand through his hair and turned towards the nearest paramedic. “How bad is she?” he said, knowing well that the question was pointless.
   The paramedic shrugged as he reached up to grab a lowering rope. “I can’t say right now. We’re not going to know the full extent of the damage until─” The paramedic suddenly twisted, raising a hand to his ear. “What?”
   Norman watched in nervous interest as the paramedic stood frozen. There was snapping as the other paramedics strapped themselves into harnesses.
   “Is he─ are you serious? We have a medical emergency here!” The paramedic looked over the balcony, and Norman followed his gaze, spotting a line of red and blue flashing lights down below. “Alright, but this is bullshit,” said the paramedic. Norman looked at the paramedic as he straightened. “We’ve got orders to airlift you to the ground. We’re going to get you into a harness.”
   Norman felt the blood leave his face. “To the ground? But─” He looked around him as the paramedics fitted a harness around his arms and legs. “No. No, I’m not leaving my partner.”
   “I’m sorry, it’s a direct order.” The paramedic snapped a line to Norman’s harness. “From the police department.” The line clicked as the paramedic attached himself to the same line. He gripped Norman’s shoulder. “Hang onto the line with both hands. We’re going down.”
   Norman’s feet left the ground as he was pulled upwards. His senses left him as he looked around him. This was wrong. He needed to be with Ashley. He couldn’t just abandon her. Why would the evac team go directly against emergency protocol? The police department. It was bullshit. Since when did the police department have the authority to─
   A burning disbelief filled him. He clenched the rope as the windows of the building sailed past him. Who else had the authority over almost everything in this city? The red and blue lights came into focus as the ground rose beneath him, and Norman stared at the crowd of policemen. He didn’t have time for this. Whatever was waiting for him down below wasn’t going to be good at all.
   His feet hit the pavement, and the paramedic worked to unstrap him from the harness. Norman gazed up at the light of the helicopter, now merely a bright white dot against the torrent of rainfall.
   “Well, look who just can’t seem to keep his nose out of trouble.”
   Norman’s blood ran cold. He closed his eyes and turned, opening them to face the last person he wanted to see.
   Blake’s usual smug smile tweaked his dark beard sideways as he stepped towards Norman, folding his arms across his chest. “So, did you find the Origami Killer, Norman?”
   It took everything in Norman to keep from punching him on the spot. “What do you want, Blake?”
   Blake tilted his head. “I just want to keep this city safe. Looks like you’re still trying to do everything you can to set it on fire.” Blake looked up at the building, his eyes flashing in the light of the helicopter. “So I hear you nearly got a cop killed, and judging by the fire, I’m guessing there’s gonna be a few more dead bystanders?”
   Norman breathed heavily. This was a waste of time. Blake had ordered him from the evac to simply gloat in front of him? He wasn’t going to take it. Norman moved past him, his eyes nearly red from rage.
   A hand clenched his arm. “Where do you think you’re going?” Blake’s voice suddenly turned serious. “I’m talking to you.”
   “I don’t have anything to say to you,” said Norman. The nervous energy in his muscles urged him to keep moving, but Blake’s grip held him firmly in place.
   “But I haven’t talked to you in hours.” The fake concern in Blake’s voice nearly sent Norman into a furious frenzy. He balled his fists as Blake squeezed Norman’s arm. “I was worried you might have driven your car off a bridge, what with losing your job and all.”
   Norman felt something snap in his brain. “I’m beyond done with your shit, Blake!” Norman yelled. “I really don’t care anymore. You want to hear that you’re right, I’m wrong, you’re the better cop and I’m the loser? Fine! Soak it in!” He yanked his arm away. “Philadelphia would be nothing without a cop like you, Blake. In fact, you’re what’s singlehandedly holding this whole city together. Feel free to beat the shit out of anyone you want, because you own this town, don’t you?” White hot fury fizzled through Norman’s body as he glared at Blake.
   Blake was silent for a moment. Then the smug look returned. “Well, that’s a surprise. You gonna suck my dick too?” Norman shook as Blake stepped toward him. “Anyways, I got a party to head back to. So why don’t we just make this quick.” There was a clink of metal as Blake pulled out a pair of handcuffs. “Put your hands behind your back.”
   Norman’s rage was cut by his shock. He stepped backward, staring at the glinting cuffs. “What are you doing?”
   “What’s it look like I’m doing, moron?” Blake twirled the handcuffs. “You’re under arrest.”
   A breath of disbelief escaped Norman’s lungs. “For what?”
   “Well, causing a fire for one.” Blake glanced up at the building. “Being the last witness to an apparent suicide yesterday, pushing a man into a tub of acid, oh.” Blake snapped his fingers. “And I’d also like to ask you a few questions on how the criminal of the century was able to just vanish from the station.”
   Norman shook his head as he took another step back. “Are you fucking insane?”
   “I’d ask you the same thing,” said Blake. He tsked. “But frankly… I’m just fucking pissed off.” He stretched the handcuffs between his hands. “Now are you gonna come quiet, or do you want to make my day?”
   Norman looked around at the surrounding policemen. There had to be something he could do. This was illegal. It was pointless. There were so many things he had to do. So many places he had to be. He didn’t have time for this.
   A few officers stepped towards him, and Norman felt helpless reality sink in. He threw Blake one last glare, then slowly turned on the spot, raising his hands behind his head. Footsteps approached, and his hands were yanked down behind his back. There was a snap, and Norman felt the familiar metallic sting of the handcuffs around his wrists.
   “That’s too bad,” Blake’s voice growled in his ear. “I was kinda hoping for another opportunity to pound your face in.”
Heavy Rain: ARI Chapter 15: Loss
Chapter 1: The Dog fav.me/da8aocw
Chapter 2: ARI fav.me/da8slgu
Chapter 3: Briefing fav.me/da98lj1
Chapter 4: She-Devil fav.me/da9qdbj
Chapter 5: Good Cop, Bad Cop fav.me/daairtc
Chapter 6: Separate Ways fav.me/dab5787
Chapter 7: The Well fav.me/dabu9vk
Chapter 8: Karma fav.me/dadczmz
Chapter 9: Fugitive fav.me/daebg1w
Chapter 10: Triptocaine fav.me/daf9cff
Chapter 11: Clue fav.me/dahv3ff
Chapter 12: Mad Jack fav.me/dain80c
Chapter 13: Ethan Mars fav.me/dak8h38
Chapter 14: Club Synn fav.me/dalhush
-
Chapter 16: A Reason To Live fav.me/daqf8vx
Chapter 17: The Origami Killer fav.me/dasmlnh
Chapter 18: The Old Warehouse fav.me/datkn68

Emoticons vol.04 
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Because I got flagged by Deviantart for trying to send thank yous to all 200 or so far who've favorited and given me llamas LOL  Here's a big thank you to you guys! You're all awesome!

Warfstache Thank You by Laffeetaffee

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:iconcookiesophie:
cookiesophie Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Happy birthday ,baby . Hope you had a great day. :heart:
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:iconsophoreal:
SoPhoReal Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
OMG!! I absolutely love your Markiplier drawings! They are so life like!
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:iconlaffeetaffee:
Laffeetaffee Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2016  Professional General Artist
Lol thanks I like drawing him the best =D The glasses and the big chin
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:iconloxythefoxy:
LoxyTheFoxy Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2016  Student Digital Artist
OMG your art is beyond fantabulous!
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Renegad3Spectre Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
your art is so fabulous!
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:iconlaffeetaffee:
Laffeetaffee Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2015  Professional General Artist
Lol thanks I try hard
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ChaoKitty Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you so much for watching !!Heart 3D
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Rosedge Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
AWESOME!
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:iconlacrimosaart:
LacrimosaART Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2015  Student General Artist
I discovered it's best to take a picture of your art on a fresh sunny day! :happybounce: Sun's light is the best! CURSE YOU! 
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:iconlaffeetaffee:
Laffeetaffee Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2015  Professional General Artist
Definitely! As much ambient light as you can get, and sunlight is best. I would kill for a sunroof in my studio :eager: by darkmoon3636 All I got is a dingy little window
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