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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.

Visit my other DeviantArt page specific to Fan Fiction
laffeetaffeeff.deviantart.com/
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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

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 by Laffeetaffee
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

Emoticons vol.04 
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   Norman’s head was beginning to pound as he removed the ARI glasses, leaning forward in the passenger seat and rubbing his forehead. The sky was growing dark, and the rain attacked the windows with a bit more force. They’d entered the brightly lit city, and Norman felt as if he’d left Pennsylvania altogether. Tall skyscrapers rose into the darkness, supporting the damp clouds like pillars. The streets were lined with strategically placed trees, and illuminated signs glowed in between them. Though the roads were busy with traffic, few people walked the sidewalks.
   Ashley had been quiet most of the drive besides the occasional inquiry for directions. Norman still hadn’t determined if she was worried about the withdrawal or his use of triptocaine, or perhaps a combination of both. Despite the obvious danger, he seemed to be managing the symptoms without the triptocaine. A migraine was much easier to deal with than passing out cold.
   The car turned into a wide parking lot in front of a tall building of mostly glass windows. Norman saw Ashley glance sideways at him as she slowed the car. “This is the place?”
   Norman slipped his glasses on, and the red marker appeared in the center of the lot. “This is it.” He pulled the glasses off, putting them in his coat pocket.
   “But…” Ashley leaned forward as she looked around. “Where is everyone?”
   The parking lot appeared to be completely empty. Norman leaned sideways to look up at the building. It didn’t surprise him that the ARI had led them there. It looked completely ordinary. But even an ordinary exterior had to have its secret exposed somewhere.
   “Drive around the back,” said Norman, pulling off his glove. He gazed at the building as the car moved around it. He didn’t doubt the ARI, but if he had been using a standard GPS, he’d be convinced that the building was empty.
   The area seemed to grow darker as they approached the back of the building. For a moment, Norman worried the ARI had a made a mistake for the first time. Then he spotted it. A dark entrance leading down into a parking lot underneath the building.
   “There,” he said. “Drive slow.”
   Ashley snorted next to him. “Who do you think I am?” Norman looked sideways at her, and she glared back at him, her lips pursed. The sky vanished above them as they dropped down into the dark garage.
   It was packed with luxury vehicles lined side by side and glinting in the low light. Norman couldn’t help scanning the vehicles for a Chevy Malibu even though it was pointless. The deeper they went, the more tense his nerves became. Occasional people walked by, arm in arm and seemingly unable to walk. Norman watched a group of people at a shiny car, one standing up straight over the hood and lowering a cylinder from his nose.
   A bright light signaled the end of the descent. As they pulled forward, a large set of double steel doors appeared, guarded by two heavy men dressed in black. Ashley steered the car in between two gleaming vehicles and looked sideways at Norman.
   “Are you sure about this?” she said as she turned the car off. Norman felt for his sidearm and failed to stop his sigh.
   “To be honest, I haven’t been sure of anything lately,” he said. Ashley’s eyebrows narrowed, and Norman twisted in his seat to face her. “What?”
   “I just…” She sighed and pressed her face into the steering wheel. Then she sat up straight and looked at him. “No cop vibes this time. I really don’t want to be shot at and I really don’t want you to be… melted.”
   Norman stared at her for a second. “Ashley, I’m not sure they’re just going to let two random people just walk into this place.”
   “And you think they’re going to let an FBI agent and a cop walk in?” Ashley arched her back and unbuckled her belt, pulling her gear from around her waist. Norman rubbed his forehead.
   “Look, going in unarmed is just asking to get us killed,” he said. “Think of where we’d be if we’d just walked into the scrapyard as civilians.”
   Ashley glared sideways at him, and Norman was reminded of the nervous determination he’d seen when she confronted him about the triptocaine. “I am,” she said.
   Norman fell back in his seat, frustration burning through him. It was not only suicide, it was just plain foolish. His suit was by now so tattered that he looked as if he’d jumped from a train. And Ashley wasn’t dressed at all for the occasion. They’d be laughed from the entrance if they weren’t simply shot on the spot.
   Then a numb resolution fell over him. Her plans hadn’t been a complete disaster as he expected. The stand-off with Nathaniel, the shotgun in Jack’s office, the disguise for Ethan Mars… luck seemed to be on her side. As clueless as she was, things seemed to work for her. And against his better judgement, Norman found himself silently agreeing with her.
   He ran his hands over his face, dread filling him. “I can’t believe we’re doing this,” he said under his breath as he removed his sidearm. He placed it in the glove compartment, then turned to look at Ashley. She returned his look with bright eyes, then opened the car door and stepped out.
   Deep, rhythmic vibrations shook the concrete as Norman exited the car. He followed Ashley to the double doors, his heart hammering in his chest. Everything about this place screamed danger, even though it seemed so innocent from the outside. The two guards glared at them as they approached, and one looked Norman up and down. Norman nervously folded his jacket closed as he stepped towards the guards.
   “We’re here to see Paco,” he said in as confident a tone as he could manage. The guards were silent as they stared at him, and he squared his shoulders. “Paco Mendez.”
   “Why don’t you fuck off?” said one of the guards. Norman felt his face flush.
   “We’ve got business with him,” he said. He felt Ashley move next to him as one of the guards moved forward.
   “So what? Paco has lots of customers. Get the hell out of here.”
   “Look, I don’t mean to cause trouble─”
   “Did you hear what I said?” The guard reached behind him, and Norman recognized the gesture as a serious threat. He took a step back, his heart racing.
   Ashley bumped into him. He glanced at her and felt a jolt of anxiety. She’d loosened her hair from her hairband so that her hair fell in fluffy waves just grazing her shoulders, and her eyes were ablaze in determination. She stepped toward the guard, nearly a foot shorter than the burly man, and Norman felt his body grow cold as she ran a hand along the guard’s chest. The guard leaned into her, a slight smile playing in his eyes. Norman forced himself to stay rooted to the spot, though every fiber in his body was telling him to pull the two apart.
   The guard murmured something, and Ashley twisted her hand, revealing a blue tube. Norman ran a hand over his face as he burst into sweat. He couldn’t believe it. She’d taken a tube of triptocaine from him…
   Ashley turned toward him as the guard looked up at him. Her eyes were full of terrified focus, but the look the guard gave Norman made him feel even more nervous. The guard smiled and stepped back.
   “Paco Mendez will be happy to conduct his business with you, Mr. Jayden,” said the guard. “He’s on the top floor. Take the elevator at the end of the room.” The guard opened one of the double doors, and the vibrating dubstep roared from within the dark gap.
   His nerves still on fire, Norman marched forward, cupping Ashley under her arm and pulling her through the double doors. Bright lights flashed in front of them, revealing a long dark hallway which seemed to throb in tune with the loud music.
   He turned to her, pinching his eyes shut with his thumb and forefinger. “I can’t─ why didn’t─ how could you─” A hundred emotions battled in his mind. When he opened his eyes, Ashley had leaned into him.
   “Kill me later,” she called into his ear. “Let’s just get this over with and get out alive.” She moved back, her brown eyes flashing in the strobe lights.
   Norman breathed out heavily, his muscles finally starting to calm despite the claustrophobic atmosphere. He fumbled in his coat pocket, then moved forward. “Stay close to me, you hear?” he called. Ashley nodded, and Norman moved down the hallway into the club.
   The room was busy with moving bodies and pulsing lights. Sweat filled the air, and the atmosphere was thick with heat. It was impossible to tell figures apart, and everything seemed to congeal in one writhing mass. Hands floated in the air and wet bodies moved against eachother. Overhead, slender figures slithered along ropes and poles, taking different poses as the strobe broke up their movement.
   Norman kept his head down as he entered the crowd of black figures. Immediately he became disoriented, blocked in one direction and forced to take another. Skin pressed against him, and soon the chill of nervousness was replaced by hot sweat. He glanced back to make sure Ashley was following him, and her wide eyes reflected his own nervous anxiety. He found an opening along the edge and pulled her towards it, met with groups of people deep in business. It was difficult for him to look away though what he saw wrenched his gut. Some figures were draped in blank stupor, others wrapped around themselves in motion much different than the dance that surrounded them.
   The further they moved through the crowd, the louder the music seemed to grow. It filled Norman’s head so that his temples pounded, and the tingling started in his hands. He tried to press his hands to his eyes, but found he couldn’t lift his arms. There were too many people. It was too loud. Too tight. The darkness took over everything. Something touched his neck, and as he turned to find Ashley again, he was met with a different face breathing hot air against his mouth before drifting away into the moving crowd.
Norman spun, his heart racing. He moved through the crowd, stretching his arm out as if he were swimming between bodies. It was impossible to see between the darkness and the light. Everything was in motion. It was all the same temperature. The same texture. The heavy music threatened to pound him into floor. He gazed up to steady himself, and felt his heart nearly stop as he stared at a ceiling of squirming blue dots.
   Norman felt his mouth drop open, and suddenly he was pulled to the side. Figures slithered past him as he moved, finally able to find a clear footing. The strobes blinded him as if fighting his way forward, and he held his hand up against it. The bodies disappeared, the air cooled, and Norman raised his head.
   Ashley stood in front of him, her back against the wall. She pressed one hand against her face while the other gripped Norman’s wrist. A shallow relief swept over him as he moved towards her.
   “You okay?” he said. She nodded, standing up straight. Her face was beaded with sweat and her normally wide eyes were weary. They’d only been separated for a moment, but she looked about as traumatized as he felt.
   He did his best to shake off his anxiety and moved along the wall. The tension on his arm assured him Ashley still had a hold of him. They passed several figures, and then Norman felt his heart leap. A small square light illuminated an arrow on the wall. He quickly stepped toward it and slammed his fist against it. The doors opened immediately, and Norman pulled Ashley into the brightly lit elevator. He hit the fourth floor button and stepped back, savoring the space.
   The music was muffled as the doors closed. Norman hunched forward, his hands on his knees, and Ashley leaned back against the wall. For a moment, the only sound was their heavy breathing.
   “I feel like I just survived the roughest sex in my life,” said Ashley. Norman breathed an exhausted laugh, glancing up at her.
   “Are you trying to tell me something about yourself?” he said.
   Ashley tilted her head sideways at him, throwing him a glare. “Fuck you, Norman,” she said. She coughed lightly, then a smile spread across her face as she tilted her head back.
   The doors slid open, and Norman straightened. A low lit corridor stretched in front of them, ending in a set of black doors. A guard stood halfway down the hall and turned to look in their direction. Norman’s senses told him he was entering a far more dangerous area than the one he’d just left, but somehow it felt easier to breathe now that he was out of the club.
   He put a hand under Ashley’s arm as they left the elevator which closed behind them. Hallways branched off from the main corridor, but Norman was confident about the direction. As they stepped near the black doors, the guard moved in front of them, holding his hand up to stop them.
   “Sorry, this area is off limits,” said the guard. Norman paused, thinking quickly of a comeback when the coarse static echoed from the guard’s walkie-talkie.
   “It’s fine, Pedro. Let him in.”
   The guard threw them both a confused glare, then stood square with Norman. “Hold out your arms.”
   Norman raised his hands, and the guard patted him down around his midsection and down his legs. The guard moved to the side, and checked Ashley’s sides and legs, albeit with more smoothness to his touch. Then the guard stepped aside, waving them in with a flick of his hand.
   Norman moved past the guard glancing behind him to make sure Ashley was following him. As they approached the doors, he felt his face flush. He couldn’t be quite sure of the muffled noises leaking beyond the doors… no. He was very sure. Norman paused, running a hand over his face. So far, Paco was living up to every inch of his ARI summary. It still hadn’t prepared Norman for witnessing it first-hand. He felt a rush of air as Ashley stepped past him, and before he could stop her, she opened one of the black doors.
   The exhausted moaning rang down the corridor, and from the hallway, Norman could see Ashley’s face turn white. “Eh, señorita come in!” A thick Spanish voice was barely audible over the moans. “Oi! Let’s cut it there! Got some business here.”
   Somehow it seemed easier now that Ashley had taken the brunt of it. Norman moved forward, reaching over her shoulder and pushing the door open further. Still, he wasn’t ready for the scene in front of him. He rubbed his forehead as he stepped inside the room, trying as hard as he could to pretend he wasn’t aware of the two women sliding off eachother. The walls were bathed in rippled blue light that was cast from a massive fishtank which took up one side of the room. A bar made up the other side, showcasing a grand assortment of bottles and glasses. The room was bordered with shelves displaying high dollar collectibles such as guitars, glass ornaments, and swords.
   Norman stepped towards a large mahogany desk which faced a set of white couches, and forced himself to glance towards them. A man in a zebra-patterned jacket stood over a tripod, adjusting a camera which was pointed at the two women. “Ah, that’s it! Keep yourselves wet. This won’t take long.” The man turned, gazing at Norman through green tinted glasses. “You must be señor Jayden. I’m Paco Mendez.” He held out a hand, but before Norman could shake it, Paco pulled it back again, switching to his other hand. Paco chuckled. “The ladies keep me busy today. Let’s make this quick, eh?”
   Norman shook his hand, and Paco moved around the desk. As Norman shifted towards him, he spotted Ashley at one end of the desk. Her eyebrows were narrowed over her bright eyes, and her mouth slightly open in disgust as she watched the two women on the couch. It seemed to take ages before she noticed that Norman was watching her, and she raised her eyes up to the ceiling, blowing a bit of hair out of her face.
   “You’re the guy with the powder, right?” Paco filled a shotglass and drank it, his eyes falling on Ashley. “Mmm.” Paco lowered the glass. “If your product is as lovely as your women, you’re gonna be a rich man. Buy yourself a new suit first. You look like shit.” He laughed as he poured himself another glass.
   Norman stepped forward, resting his hands on the desk. “I’m just here to make a trade, if you’re willing to negotiate.”
   Paco motioned toward him with the glass. “Straight to the point, eh? Let’s see what you got.”
   Norman glanced at Ashley who wrapped her arms around herself and gave him an encouraging nod. Struggling to beat down his shame, he reached into his coat pocket and grasped one of the vials. He set it down on the desk on its cap so that it stood upright, glinting sapphire in the low light.
   Paco leaned forward, staring at the vial. “This is─ whoa!” He picked up the vial and held it up into the light. “Tripto? Man, you gotta have serious connections to get this stuff!” Paco clicked open the cap, tipping some of the blue powder onto his hand before bowing his head and inhaling it. He sniffed a few times, and nodded. “Clean! Real clean! Man, it’s about time I got some classy product coming through my store.”
   Paco sprinkled a small pile onto his finger, and moved towards Ashley. “So tripto and women, huh? What’s your price?” Norman fought the urge to rush forward as Paco stepped next to her and held his hand to her face. Ashley glared at Paco menacingly, which on her face was somewhat comical. She turned her head away. “No?” said Paco. Ashley mumbled something and Paco leaned into her. “Qué?
   “M allergic,” said Ashley. Paco burst into laughter, scattering the triptocaine into the air. Norman sighed heavily as Paco hunched over the desk, gasping between laughs. At least Paco had a sense of humor.
   “Hey, I don’t care as long as she’s not allergic to dicks,” said Paco, moving back toward his chair. Norman fought to keep himself from balling his fists.
   “She’s not for sale,” he said. The seriousness in his tone surprised even him, and the room seemed to fall silent. Paco froze in the middle of pouring another drink, and the slick sounds behind him faded.
   Paco glanced up, his eyes narrowed. For a moment, Norman worried that he might have cost them their only chance at negotiation. Then Paco chuckled and resumed pouring. “Alright, alright. But let me tell you.” He supported the shotglass with his thumb and middle finger as he pointed at Norman. “You’re missing a valuable opportunity to make a lot of money.”
   “I’ll deal with it,” said Norman. Again, deep anger leaked into his tone. He breathed in slowly to settle his nerves. “Let’s just talk trade. I’ll give you the triptocaine. All I want is the name of the man who drives the 1983 Chevrolet Malibu that you bought three years ago from the scrapyard.”
   Paco looked at him over the rim of the shotglass. It was difficult to read his face, but Norman thought he saw a flash of worry in Paco’s eyes. Paco lowered the glass and pursed his lips. “That’s a really specific trade. What does a guy like you need with that information?”
   Norman racked his brain quickly for a solid answer. He had no way of knowing if Paco was friends with the man, or if he was simply protecting himself. Norman flexed his hands on the desk. “Let’s just say he killed someone I know. And maybe I want to kill him.”
   Out of the corner of his eye, Norman saw Ashley clench her hands on her arms. Paco shook his head, a smile forming on his lips. “You crazy. You think you’re gonna kill him?” Paco leaned forward, the lights glinting on his glasses. “You got any idea who he is?”
   It was difficult for Norman to hide his excitement. They were so close to an answer, he could almost taste it. “I just want his name.”
   There was a tap as Paco set the glass on the desk. “That’s an expensive trade, señor Jayden. I don’t think triptocaine is gonna cut it.” Paco stared at him as if daring him for a counter. Norman struggled to think of something else. If triptocaine wasn’t going to get the name of the Origami Killer, what else could he do to pry the information out of him?
   Paco looked past Norman, and a sly smile spread across his face. “I tell you what.” Paco stepped toward Ashley who drew up her shoulders and wrapped her arms tighter around herself. “I’m making a video here. Your woman stars in it, and we call it a deal?”
   This time, Norman felt his face flush as he stood up straight. “I told you she’s not for sale.”
   “Everything is for sale,” Paco’s voice became a growl and he pointed at Norman, “that I say is for sale. You walked into my club. I own everyone in here. You don’t make the deals.” Paco glared at Norman, and Norman fiercely stared back at him. Ashley trembled as she looked back and forth between them.
   Norman plunged his hand into his pocket. “This is twenty grand’s worth.” He dropped the handful of blue vials onto the desk. “It’s everything I’ve got.” He didn’t need to wear the ARI to see Paco’s eyes light up at the sight of the triptocaine now rolling across the desk. But as soon as Norman saw it, Paco’s eyes shot back to him again.
   “You had all that, and you were just gonna trade me a few grams of triptocaine?” Paco moved back in front of the desk, and Norman’s heart nearly stopped as Paco drew a pistol from his zebra skin coat. “You trying to slight me, señor Jayden?”
   Norman could hear Ashley’s frightened breaths. He forced himself to keep his composure. “All I want is a name,” he said.
   “And all I want is everything you got,” said Paco. Norman felt sweat bead his forehead as he glanced at the pistol in Paco’s hand. There had to be something else. Something he was missing. Paco was only interested in two things: drugs and sex. Drugs apparently weren’t enough. But there was no way Norman was stooping that low.
   He looked at Ashley who looked back at him, her eyebrows narrowed in tense worry. Her plan had gotten them this far, but it looked like they had finally hit a dead end. Norman dropped his head and flexed his shoulders. He still had one last card to play, and it wouldn’t get them any closer to the killer’s name.
   Norman looked up at Paco. “I’m changing the deal,” he said. “I give you all my triptocaine, and you let us leave.”
   Paco’s eyes narrowed in surprise. Norman struggled to control his guilt. It was the only thing he had left to negotiate. The only ounce of control he had left in this situation.
   Ashley stepped forward. “Norman…”
   The softness in her voice caused Norman to bolt upright. He turned to her and raised a finger, fury burning through him. “No.
   Ashley froze as he stared into her brown eyes. A dozen emotions seemed to dart across her face, defiance being the strongest. But Norman’s determination kept him focused. This was one line he wasn’t going to cross, whether or not she wanted to make her own decision. They’d followed her plan, and it was over now. The most important thing was getting out alive.
   Norman turned back to Paco, still aware of Ashley’s eyes on him. “Twenty grand in triptocaine,” said Norman. “Just to let us leave.” He gazed over the barrel of the pistol and watched as Paco’s eyes twitched in contemplation. If Norman had read the ARI summary right, Paco would accept the deal. If not, Norman might as well pull the trigger himself.
   Paco’s crooked smile appeared. He cocked the gun sideways, and fitted it back into his jacket. “Now that’s a deal we can both agree on.”
   Norman barely stopped a heavy sigh of relief. He stood up straighter as Paco rolled a vial across the desk so that it clicked against the others. “I mean, how can I say no when someone walks into my office and drops a bunch of triptocaine on my desk, eh?” said Paco, his voice breaking in laughter. He waved his hand and sat in his chair. “Go on, get outta here.”
   Norman’s body was practically on fire from adrenaline. Without hesitation, he stepped sideways, gripping Ashley under the arm. She pulled as she walked with him towards the door.
   “Norman─” Her voice seemed to fail as Norman threw a glare at her. He wasn’t going to argue here. Not when he’d just bargained for their lives. He could deal with her disappointment later. Right now, all that mattered was getting out of the office.
   He opened the door and turned away from her. Then he stopped dead in his tracks.
   A loud pop echoed through the hallway. It registered in Norman’s mind before he made sense of what he was seeing. The guard in the hall jolted backwards, his head hitting the wall against the explosion of blood. His lifeless body crumpled to the floor at the feet of the man still pointing the pistol where the guard’s head had been.
   The man turned and looked at Norman, and Norman’s blood ran cold at the stoical expression on the man’s face. This man had an agenda. And now he and Ashley were on it.
   Then the man twisted his body, and turned the pistol towards him.
Heavy Rain: ARI Chapter 14: Club Synn
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 15: Loss fav.me/damkfm5
Chapter 16: A Reason To Live fav.me/daqf8vx

Cliff hanger hype! I feel like the Blue Lagoon just doesn't cut it. I mean if we're gonna go dangerous, let's go all the way. Just imagine Nahman in the middle of all these naked sweaty bodies with roaring dubstep... Smells Like Teen Spirit 
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   When Norman stepped through the sliding glass doors, he thought he’d entered a huge party. Police officers stood in groups around the lobby, laughing over cups of hot coffee. The conference room was open and several workers were setting up chairs and cameras in front of the podium. It seemed every officer in the precinct was there. Even Captain Perry had left his usual spot and was standing in the conference room, fumbling with his tie.
   Norman automatically moved through the crowd towards the interrogation room at the end of the lobby. He didn’t doubt Blake was already at work on Ethan Mars, and if it was anything like Nathaniel, Ethan was most likely already unconscious. As Norman passed the entrance to the conference room, he turned and cast a look at Ashley. She sighed heavily as she veered towards the large entrance.
   “Good luck,” she said. Norman couldn’t help the despair that fell over him.
   “You too,” he muttered. She had about as much chance getting Perry to listen as Norman had of stopping Blake.
   Norman strode quickly down the hall and grasped the doorknob to the interrogation room. It was locked. A thick anger coursed through him as he pushed his shoulder into the door and pounded his fist against it. Blake had the nerve to lock the interrogation room, once again, against policy. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. Norman turned and moved down the hall, stepping into the observation room which was conveniently left unlocked.
   Two police officers looked up as Norman entered the room. A large two-way mirror took up most of one wall, giving him a view into the interrogation room. Norman stepped to the window with frantic energy, ignoring the officers next to him. There, handcuffed and slumped over the table was the miserable form of Ethan Mars.
   Besides looking ragged and unkempt, he seemed to be okay. Ethan stared down at his clenched fists on the table as if he wasn’t aware of the situation around him. As Norman stepped back from the window, he spotted Blake resting his shoulder against one wall in the interrogation room. Norman felt his anger boil. Blake was alone with him.
   Norman turned to the officers. “Has he confessed?” They both gave him blank looks.
   “That you, Norman?” Blake’s voice rang through the speaker, and Norman balled his fists at the fake friendliness in Blake’s tone. “Glad you made it. I was worried you were gonna miss all the fun.”
   “Why’s the door locked, Blake?” said Norman. “And why are you alone with a suspect?”
   “Hey, I’m not alone.” Blake turned to the window and Norman saw that he had removed his necktie, rolling it over his hands. “You can see me from there, can’t you?”
   Norman looked around him in disbelief. The officers seemed completely undisturbed by what was happening. He turned to the camera which was set up in front of the window. The recording light was off, and the screen was dark. Norman ran a hand over his face. “You psychopathic bastard…”
   “Looks like Mars is ready for another round, boys.” Blake moved to the table and leaned against it. “What do you say, Ethan? Ready to tell us where Shaun is?”
   Norman’s heart hammered as he watched Ethan. The man continued to stare at his clenched hands. He made no indications towards Blake, and Norman felt a swell of admiration for him.
   Blake moved off the desk. “Alright. I got all day, you know.” He curled the tie around both hands. Then he swung his arms over Ethan’s head, wrapping the tie tightly over the man’s neck.
   Norman bolted forward, pounding his fists against the window. “Blake!” he screamed. “Blake stop!” Panic shot through him as he watched Ethan bare his teeth and close his eyes, his face quickly turning red. Norman lunged at one of the officers next to him, grabbing him by the collar. “You’re just letting this happen?” The officer shoved him away, and Norman felt hot sweat bead his forehead. Without a second thought, he darted through the door and ran down the hallway towards the interrogation room.
   He threw his shoulder against the door, gripping the knob tightly in an effort to break it open. It was no use without a key. He pushed back from the door, then raced forward again, bashing his shoulder into it. The door crunched. With frantic energy, Norman leaned back and slammed into the door one more time. It broke open, and Norman swung his arms to regain his balance as he stumbled into the room.
   He didn’t hesitate. Before Blake could move, Norman barreled into him, slamming him into the opposite wall. The force nearly cracked the concrete. As Norman recovered, he felt a fist slam into his gut and everything went white.
   “Nice job, asshole,” said Blake, and Norman was pulled straight as Blake grabbed him by the collar. “I been waiting for a reason to bash your head through a wall.”
   The room went sideways as Blake flung him into the table. Norman struggled to straighten himself, bringing one leg out and kicking outward as Blake marched toward him. Blake staggered, and with a jolt of panic, Norman twisted his body sideways as Blake slammed his fist toward him, hitting the table instead. Norman pushed off him, launching himself back against the mirror.
   “You gonna fight me or not, Norman?” Blake picked up one of the metal chairs, angling his body as he prepared to swing. “Or are you just a fucking pussy!” He threw the chair, and Norman ducked as there was a loud crash above him. He covered his head with his hands under a shower of broken glass.
   Footsteps marched toward him, and Norman launched himself from the wall, catching Blake around the waist and pinning him against the table. Panic mixed with his fury as he swung his fist, cracking Blake in the jaw and sending waves of agony through his knuckles. Blake twisted sideways from the blow and came back with a balled fist which knocked Norman backwards, his cheek numb with pain. Agony erupted in his ribs, and before he could recover, Blake had gripped him by his jacket and flung him into the wall.
   A fist clamped tightly around his throat. Norman gripped Blake’s arm as Blake held him steady. He barely noticed that Blake was punching him over and over again at every inch of his body. Norman coughed as he struggled to breath. Blake was going to kill him.
   Suddenly the blows stopped, and the pain settled. Norman sucked in air, opening his eyes just enough to make sense of the scene.
   Blake’s eyes were alight in fury, his fist balled near his shoulder as he was poised to punch again. A metal glint captured Norman’s attention, and his heart nearly stopped as he saw Ashley standing rigid behind Blake, her face tense in panic and both hands clasped around the gun at Blake’s head.
   It seemed almost an eternity that the three of them were frozen, the silence only broken by their heavy breathing. Norman’s hands shook from the effort of holding onto Blake’s arm, and he swallowed heavily as he looked into Blake’s furious eyes.
   “Get the hell out of here, Blake,” said Ashley, barely above a whisper. Norman’s heart hammered in his chest. If Blake put one finger on her…
   Blake’s hand loosened on Norman’s neck, his eyes still firmly locked on Norman’s. Air filled Norman’s lungs and his vision cleared. He watched as Blake slowly backed away, the corner of Blake’s mouth rising.
   “I always knew you were a god damn pussy, Norman,” said Blake. He cast his eyes sideways at Ashley who still held the gun firmly pointed at him. “You want Ethan Mars so bad? You can share a fucking cell with him.” Blake turned, his boots crunching against the broken glass on the floor as he moved out of the room and disappeared.
   Norman fell forward, throwing his arm around Ashley’s shoulders as he struggled to stand. There was no time to recover. No time to think.
   “Ethan…” Norman looked up to see Ethan slumped forward on the table, his head in his arms.
   “He’s breathing,” said Ashley, helping Norman forward to lean against the table. He felt her hand against his face as she gazed at him.
   Norman wrapped his hand around hers, looking into her eyes. “Cuff me.”
   Her eyes went wide. “What are you─”
   “Just do it.” He could hear the commotion in the lobby. They were out of time. Norman kneeled and slammed his hands onto the table. Ashley was silent as she stared at him, her wide eyes pleading. But Norman returned it with a fierce glare. Finally she moved forward, pulling a set of cuffs from her belt and snapping them onto his wrists.
   Police officers burst into the room just as she’d finished, their guns drawn. They moved towards Norman but slowed as he looked up at them. Captain Perry walked in after them, adjusting his tie. Perry looked at the broken mirror, then gazed down at Norman, shaking his head.
   “Well, this is an absolute mess,” said Perry. “I don’t know why I expected anything different.” Norman clenched his hands as Perry walked toward him. Perry motioned towards Ashley. “Good job, Gibbons. You can remove the handcuffs. I don’t think Agent Jayden is going anywhere. Ah─” Perry raised a hand as Ashley moved forward. “Jayden’s handcuffs. Not Mars’.”
   Norman felt burning disgust deep in his gut at Perry’s cynical tone. He glared up at him as Ashley leaned forward to remove his handcuffs. She threw Norman a terrified glance as she moved away, rubbing her arm with one hand.
   “Why don’t you take Mr. Mars to one of the cells, seeing as the interrogation room is out of service,” said Perry. “Agent Jayden, come with me.”
   Norman stood up slowly, his nerves practically on fire from anxiety. He avoided Ashley’s gaze as he followed Perry out of the room, though a faint relief lingered in his chest. They’d been just quick enough for Ashley to have avoided suspicion. But that was where his plan ended. Now Norman was at the mercy of the law without boundaries.
   As they moved out of the hallway, Blake appeared, folding his arms over his chest. Norman fought to ignore the smug look on his face as they moved toward Perry’s office. Footsteps behind him told him Blake was following them. Figures, Blake wouldn’t want to miss a second of this.
   Perry held the door open as Norman and Blake entered the office. Norman stood next to the desk, willing his heart to stop pounding. Though he was terrified of what was about to happen, he was glad Ashley was with Ethan Mars. At least there was one cop in the station who cared whether Ethan lived or died.
   “I don’t know what your issue is, Jayden,” said Perry as he moved around the desk to his chair. “And frankly, I don’t care.” He sat down at his chair, folding one leg over the other. “You refuse to help us at every turn, make wild accusations, and now you’re attacking our officers. Can you see my problem here, Jayden?”
   Norman stared at a spot on the wall and didn’t answer. Nothing he could say would help the situation. Perry leaned forward, clasping his hands on the desk in front of him. “You wanted to make a difference here, Jayden. But just because you didn’t catch the Origami Killer doesn’t mean you can destroy the god damn station. Had I known your ego was that big, I’d have sent you back to Washington yesterday.”
   Norman couldn’t stop his breath of laughter. He closed his eyes and pressed a hand to his face, shaking his head slowly. Their stupidity had no bounds. It was almost better for them to believe that he wanted credit for the capture of the killer, rather than an actual solution to the case. At least they could hate him for something that didn’t exist.
   He ran a finger over his eye, and looked at Perry who stared at him in disbelief. Blake didn’t even bother to hide his smile.
   “You think this is a game, Jayden?” Perry’s eyes narrowed at him. “The only reason you’re not under arrest is because I’m giving you the option to leave right now.”
   Norman could see Blake’s face turn white out of the corner of his eye. Blake stepped forward, dropping his arms to his side.
   “Leave? You’re gonna let this asshole just leave?” Blake rested his hands on the desk and leaned forward. “After everything he’s done? Christ, he just now tried to kill me!”
   Another snort of laughter shook Norman. “Don’t worry, Blake. I’m pretty sure a bruise isn’t fatal.”
   Blake moved toward Norman, his fist raised.
   “That’s enough!” Perry stood up, and Blake froze in his tracks, his eyes still murderous. Perry pointed at Norman. “Agent Jayden, get out of my precinct. Pack whatever you have, and just get out.” He sat at his desk and folded his hands. “I wouldn’t be in too much of a rush to get back to Washington though. You might not have a job left when you get there.”
   Norman glanced at Blake who still glared at him. Then he turned and moved toward the door. No one spoke or even breathed it seemed as he stepped out of the office and into the lobby.
   He stood still, his hands pressed to his face. He felt numb. Somewhat empty. The busy office sounds echoed around him, and several of the officers turned to look at him curiously. Behind him, he could hear the muffled voices as Blake and Perry argued in the office.
   Somehow it felt worse simply to be dismissed from the case. He half wished he’d just been arrested. It would have been easier. Yesterday morning he would have given anything to finally be let go, but now… he felt lost. Abandoned. How could he simply go back to Washington knowing that he was leaving all this behind?
   He staggered to the water dispenser, putting a cup under the fountain and pressing the tab. It bubbled and he slammed his fist on the tank, releasing a clear stream of water. Two days. He’d only been here two days and it had grown on him this much. He raised the cup to his mouth and swallowed the water, groaning in pain as his jaw ached. When he lowered the cup again, red swirled in the leftover water. He dropped the cup into the nearby trashcan, rubbing his eyes with his thumb and index finger.
   There was nothing for him to pack. At least the closet office they gave him had nothing in it worth keeping. Norman moved through the cubicles, barely noticing the officers around him as he headed for the sliding doors. A slight pang hit him, and he turned to look behind him.
   Something touched his shoulder. He twisted back again, and felt an overwhelming rush of several emotions at once. Ashley stood in front of him, her brown eyes soft and a small smile playing at the corner of her mouth. She ran a thumb over her bottom lip.
   “They didn’t arrest you?” she said. Norman guessed it was supposed to be a casual question, but he could hear the immense relief in her voice.
   “They fired me.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Well, they didn’t fire me. I mean I’m going to be fired.” He sighed and looked at her. This was yet another thing he hadn’t expected since yesterday morning. Having only just rekindled his friendship, he was losing her again.
   Norman grasped Ashley’s shoulders and looked at her. “Whatever happens, do everything you can to keep Ethan Mars safe. The Origami Killer will kill again, and then Ethan Mars will be proven innocent. I don’t have much time, but I can leave you with all the evidence I’ve gathered. You can find the Origami Killer, Ashley,” he said, pressing his palm against her cheek and catching her gaze. “I know you can find him.”
   Ashley stared at him for a moment, her wide brown eyes the most clueless Norman had ever seen them. Then she tilted her head to the side to look out the glass doors. “I don’t know about catching the Origami Killer,” she said. “But you’re not going to have to worry about Ethan Mars.”
   Norman followed her gaze. For a moment, he was at a loss as to what she was looking at. Then two figures caught his attention, moving away from the precinct. One was wearing a particular leather coat and cap. As Norman watched, one of the figures looked back, and Norman recognized the short dark hair and the sad brown eyes of the woman he’d seen earlier that day with Ethan. She leaned into the man next to her, wrapping her arm around his waist as they disappeared into the rain.
   Norman ran a hand over his mouth, dumbstruck. He looked at Ashley, a wave of relief flowing through him. Ashley smiled and shrugged her shoulders. “I hope the jacket wasn’t a family heirloom or something. I guess I’ll owe you a new one.”
   For a moment, Norman could only stare at her. Then he breathed a laugh. “How did you…”
   Ashley’s eyes widened. She motioned to the door. “Well I─ you mean─ that wasn’t part of your plan?” Her thumb grazed her lip. “I took him to the cell, gave him the coat and hat and I just…” She made a walking motion with her fingers. “... walked him out of here. It was actually kind of incredible. Perry and Blake weren’t there so I guess that made it easier.”
   Norman gazed through the glass windows at the falling rain. It took a while for it all to sink in. Ethan was gone. Perry and Blake were out of a scapegoat. And Ashley was right. Norman was with them the whole time, which meant he couldn’t be blamed for Ethan’s escape. Norman smiled and shook his head. He didn’t want to be there when Blake and Perry discovered Ethan’s disappearance.
   He felt Ashley move next to him, and the sliding glass door opened. As she stepped out into the rain, she paused and looked back at him. “Well?”
   Norman stared at her. “Well what?” Ashley sighed and dropped her shoulders.
   “Well… are we going to find the Origami Killer or not?” She folded her arms across her chest. “You’re not just going to high-tail it back to Washington, are you?”
   Norman scratched the back of his head and closed his eyes. This had been the longest day of his life. He’d nearly been melted in a vat of acid, almost shot, beaten by Blake, and removed from the case. And now he was going to interview a possible lead on the Origami Killer which was bound to be a life or death situation. He felt a sad bubble of humor. At least the ARI withdrawal had been at a minimum.
   He moved forward into the rain next to her, and tossed her the keys. “You owe me a new coat.”
Heavy Rain: ARI Chapter 13: Ethan Mars
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 14: Club Synn fav.me/dalhush
Chapter 15: Loss fav.me/damkfm5
Chapter 16: A Reason To Live fav.me/daqf8vx

FIGHT ME BLAKE! I kinda feel like he's got an inner coward somewhere Love 
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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