[AC] Mysteria #10

Jason Kenney jasonkenney at gmail.com
Mon Oct 25 14:35:56 PDT 2004

Artifice Comics - http://www.artificecomics.com

My apologies if this is a double post, Google Groups has been messing
up on me today.


Alfonse Saint Libatique stared at the body that lay in the pool of
blood in the foyer of Burke Manor. But he did not focus on the body,
the death.

All he could think of was how best to clean a blood stains out of the
floor and walls, the black fingerprint powder out of the tables and
chairs, the tracked in mud out of the carpet.

He had practically ignored the questioning he received by one of the
officers, rudimentary inqueries that he could not answer because he
was unconscious for the duration of the event, as Alfonse had come to
think of it.

Dehumanize it. 

Distance it. 

Try as he might to ignore what he was staring at, Alfonse could not
help but come back to the lingering doubt left in his mind from the
last question he was asked.

Do you know anyone who may have done this? 

One name came to mind, but Alfonse would never say it. 

Alfonse closed his eyes and wished the raging headache would go away,
wished for all of this to go away, this bad dream.

He opened his eyes and glanced up the stairs and saw a couple
approaching. He hoped they found nothing, that each of the rooms were
as he had left them, clean, tidy, unworthy of attention.

Alfonse looked to the front door of Burke Manor as a familiar man
entered and paused, standing in shock for a moment and then shaking
his head before looking over and seeing Alfonse.

If the new mayor and his policies wore on Commissioner Barry Jordan in
anyway, it did not show. The man was just as portly as ever, his hair
still a vibrant red, the color of his mustache seeming to blend with
his nose. The pained smirk on his face could have been born from
anything: the crime scene, an opinion of current affairs, a bad cup of

Jordan walked towards Alfonse and extended a hand which the butler
shook."How are you, Alfonse?"

"I can say that I've been better, Barry," said Alfonse as he tore his
eyes from Layla Burke's sheet covered body.

"I've always liked Burke Manor," said Jordan as he looked around,
"just wish this visit was under better circumstances. I believe the
last time I was here was--wow, was it two years ago now?"

"Formally, yes, for Mister Burke's wake," said Alfonse with a nod as
his eyes glanced down the hallway towards Henry Burke's old study. The
one with a grandfather clock covering a doorway. He snapped back to
Jordan's eyes. "But I do believe you were here a few months ago and
taking advantage of a very upset Miss Burke."

"Yes," said Jordan, hanging his head for a moment, realizing his faux
pax. "I'm terribly sorry about your loss, Alfonse." The Commissioner
patted Alfonse on the shoulder in consulation. "Does she know?"

Alfonse found himself at a loss for words. 

"I... do not believe so," said Alfonse finally. 

"Was she out all last night?" asked Jordan as he looked around again,
his eyes finally settling on the sheet covered body of the Burke

"I am not certain," said Alfonse. "She had and eight o'clock dinner
with Cindy Marignolls at The Palm."

"And after that?" 

Alfonse paused and thought for a moment. 

"Alfonse," said Jordan, lowering his voice as he leaned in close, "was
she out... well, you know, working the night shift?"

Alfonse narrowed his eyes slightly. 

"I am afraid I do not know what you are talking about." 

Leaning in closer, the Commissioner lowered his voice. "You know damn
well what I'm talking about, Alfonse." He paused to look around the
room to ensure they weren't being watched. "And I'm trying very hard
to help you and Victoria out here. If she was out all last night, if
she was doing her... thing... then she's covered. But, well, Alfonse,
you must admit, this does not look good for her."

"What do you mean?" asked Alfonse through tense teeth. He knew what
the Commissioner was implying, felt the need to react, to defend, but
resisted, knowing he could solve nothing right now.

"As long as your story checks out, Alfonse, which it seems to me it
does, well, then we've only got one suspect to go on."


Mysteria #10 
"A Death In The Family" 
By Robert Flynn and Jason S. Kenney 


Victoria Burke closed the sliding glass door behind her with a sigh,
leaning her head against the pane of glass, closing her eyes and
attempting to will away her body's request for sleep.

"Long night," came Jack Crowley's voice from behind her, causing her
to tense briefly, simply because she did not expect him to be there.

"You're still up?" Victoria asked as she turned to Jack and pulled the
domino mask off her face.

"I napped," he replied with a shrug as he walked towards her,
cigarette dangling from his fingers. "You all right?"

"How's Didi?" Victoria ignored Jack's question. 

"Out like a light," said Jack as he stopped in front of Victoria,
reaching up and gently touching her cheek. She closed her eyes and
leaned into his hand. "Are you all right?" he asked again.

"Nothing a little rest won't fix," she said as she kissed the palm of
his hand before pulling away. "Not that I'm getting it anytime soon."

Victoria started towards the bathroom, and Jack just took another drag
off his cigarette.

"How'd the meeting with the mayor go?" asked Jack, his words bringing
Victoria to a halt. He noted the tensing of her body at the question.

"Fine," she said with a deep breath and without looking to Jack,
relaxing slightly, hoping Jack didn't notice her hesitation.

"Was he any help?" 

Victoria sighed again. 


She started walking again and into the bathroom, closing the door
behind her, leaving Jack standing there, smoking, thinking.


It was late. Dawn had already crept across the city, and none of the
files she could find from Lansing Technologies had anything even
remotely like the Siege Engine she had seen tonight. She sighed and
closed her eyes, rubbing the sleep from them with a stifled yawn.
Victoria had decided to go home and nap when she heard the quiet ding
of an elevator just outside her office door. With a sigh and a groan,
she got to her feet and stepped out of her office.

Neil Ashwood yawned as he stepped from the elevator with a cup of
coffee in one hand, his free one making a feeble effort to cover his
mouth. The joy of fatherhood lasted only so long as the child slept,
he thought as he started towards his desk.

"Good morning, Neil," Victoria stated too stiffly to be a greeting. 

Neil jumped slightly, his coffee threatening to leap from his cup and
onto his shirt.

"Ms. Burke? I'm sorry; you frightened me." 

"You find the idea of my coming to work frightening?" she asked her
eyebrow arched.

"No, no, I just... I'm sorry it's so early," he said, fighting another
yawn. It had been a more restless night than usual at the Ashwood
residence with the baby suffering through his first ear infection...

"I have a lot of work to do," she said, pulling him away from his
thoughts. "Bring me some coffee, Neil."

"Yes ma'am," he said as he set his coffee on his desk and started
towards the counter with the coffee maker.

"And I want you to find out who might have access to Lansing
Technology designs. I want the names of any and everyone who can get
to them."

"That could be anyone in the company," he said slowly and pointedly,
hoping that she would understand just how impossible that was. "Any
past employee of Lansing, anyone in the local or national

"Just do it," she snapped, turning sharply on her heels and clicking
back towards her office.

Neil shook his head and started a pot of coffee for his boss,
returning to his desk with yet another yawn and reaching for the phone
while the coffee brewed. His fingers danced over the keypad and dialed
into Victoria Burke's voicemail as he stared at his computer screen
and started to zone out.

He blinked and shook his head, quickly clearing it as he felt his eyes
start to go heavy once more.

He hoped Victoria's sudden desire to be in the office was temporary so
he might get a nap at lunch.

Neil wrote the messages down as he listened, not really absorbing
their contents--years of doing such actions made them automatic.

The last one gave him pause. 

He pressed 2 to rewind the message and then put it on hold, paging
into Victoria's office.

"Miss Burke," he said hesitantly. 

"Yes," she said, her voice an echo as he heard it over the phone and
from inside her office.

"I was just checking your messages, and, well, you may want to hear
this last one yourself."

"Put it through." 

"Yes, ma'am, just press 1 when I hit release." 

He transferred the call and waited. 

A few moments later, Victoria stepped out of her office with a
confused look on her face.

"Just let me know when he arrives," she said to Neil who nodded. 

She turned to go back into her office and stopped, turning back to

"Oh and congratulations on the child, Neil," Victoria said. 

"Thank you," said Neil after a moment. 

And Victoria shut her door. 

She stood in her office and stared at the new window behind her desk.
She had asked for it to be replaced soon, and it was--good as new.
Victoria walked behind her desk and briefly took in the new chair, a
marked improvement over the old, broken-glass-covered one

Victoria barely sat down when her phone buzzed with Neil on the other

"Miss Burke," he said, "Mister Daggon is here to see you." 

"Send him in, Neil," Victoria said with a sigh as she stood back up. 

Her office door opened as Richard Daggon walked in, the lights of the
office reflecting off his slicked back black hair, his face pulling as
he smiled, the dry, tan skin attempting to resist any change in his

"Victoria," he said as he marched into her office while she stepped
from behind her desk. He quickly embraced her before she could resist
and then stepped back. "I'm so glad you're all right. I speak for the
entire board when I say that we are so glad that you weren't hurt."

"Thank you, Richard" said Victoria. "You can tell the board that it's
going to take a lot more than some nut crashing through my window to
get rid of me."

Victoria smiled wide at her joke and Daggon laughed, loud and fake. 

"I can assure you that security has been stepped up, Victoria." 

Daggon was a throwback to the days when Henry Burke ran Burke
Industries. Starting as a programming director of KGPC, Daggon worked
his way up through the ranks, eventually becoming a member of the
board and personally overseeing the acquisition of Lansing

Victoria was not sure why he was here, but she had wanted to see him

"I'm glad you're here, Richard," said Victoria as she walked back
around and sat behind her desk. "I've come across some information on
LanTech that has me very concerned."

"Concerned?" asked Daggon as he sat across from Victoria. 

She nodded. "Specifically, information on the Siege Engine
specifications and that they may have been shared."

Daggon closed his eyes and lowered his head, nodding slowly into his
chest for a moment.

"Actually," he said with a sigh as he looked back up and reached to
his inside coat pocket, "that's what I'm here to speak to you about."

Daggon removed folded sheets of paper from his pocket and stood,
handing them to Victoria before sitting back down.

"I have just been made aware of a particularly bad case of industrial
espionage," Daggon said as Victoria unfolded and started reviewing the
papers. "It seems Thomas Stevenson has been obtaining information on
the Siege Engine, though, for what purpose, we aren't certain yet."

"How long have you known about this?" asked Victoria as she looked up
from the papers, wide eyed.

"It was brought to my attention yesterday afternoon." 

"Do we know who he's been selling this information to?" 

"Well, we're not exactly sure he's been selling the information. Just
that he's been accessing information he is not supposed to have."

"How much information has he accessed?" 

"It seems he's referenced design specs for the Engine, copied data
concerning its construction and function, and has possibly gotten a
copy of the source code for the Engine's AI."

"So he's gotten everything?" 

"He's gotten enough." 

"Shit." Victoria snatched a pen off her desk as she tossed the papers
on it, leaning back and starting to click the pen as she stared off,
her eyes penetrating the far wall of her office. "So what are we doing
about it?" Her question was punctuated with the click of the pen.

"Nothing has been done yet," said Daggon, hoping he was not visibly
cringing at the pen clicking, "and the board is currently unaware of
Mister Stevenson's actions."

Victoria sat and clicked her pen. And clicked her pen. And clicked her
pen. And...Daggon resisted the urge to snatch the pen from Victoria's
hand, resisted the urge to use the pen on her in ways that would not
be pleasant for any involved.

Victoria stopped clicking, leaned forward, and set the pen down. 

"What do you suggest, Richard?" 

"Well, he's got us at a disadvantage because he has the information,
and we're not certain if he's shared it yet."

"He has." 

"With whom?" 

Victoria shrugged and leaned back. 

"I don't know," she said, "but I've received word that a machine
utilizing the Siege Engine technology has been located by the Mayor's

Daggon nodded. 

"Then I believe the best course of action is to confront him
directly," said Daggon. "Tell him that we know what he's done, find
out what he's done with the information, and then throw him out on his

"What are our legal recourses?" 

"You'd have to talk with legal on that, but I think any actions will
have to be taken against whoever he has shared the information with
and simply include Stevenson."

Victoria nodded as her phone buzzed. 

"Miss Burke," said Neil over the speaker, "Commissioner Jordan is here
to see you."

Victoria stood as Daggon did as well. 

"I'm sorry to cut this short," said Victoria as she walked around her
desk and started to lead Daggon out.

"That's okay, Victoria," said Daggon. "Shall I have Stevenson taken
care of?"

"I want his desk cleared by the end of the day," said Victoria as she
opened her office door. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention,

"You're the boss," Daggon replied with a smile. "And, again, I'm glad
to see you're doing well."

"Thank you, Richard," Victoria said as she followed him out, turning
her attention to the well-fed man that stood near Neil's desk.
"Commissioner Jordan, good to see you..."

Daggon noted the Commissioner's posture and the dour look on his face
but did not dwell, instead walking towards the elevator. As soon as
the doors closed, he pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and dialed
a number he knew by heart.

The voice on the other end was brief and gruff with its greeting. 

"We're on," Daggon said, then hung up. 


"Can I get you some water or coffee, Commissioner?" asked Victoria as
she gestured for Commissioner Barry Jordan to have a seat. He sat
across from her as she situated herself behind her desk.

"Ah, no, Miss Burke.Thank you, though," Commissioner Jordan said as he
dabbed a handkerchief at his damp, red forehead.

"Hold my calls, Neil," Victoria said as she nodded at her assistant by
her door.

Neil nodded back and closed the door behind him as he left. 

"I'm sorry to bother you at work, Miss Burke, so I'll try to be
brief," said Jordan as he tugged at his collar slightly. "I was just
wondering if I could ask you a few questions about last night."

"What exactly about last night, Commissioner?" asked Victoria as she
grabbed the pen off her desk and leaned back, clicking it twice out of

"Well, where you were, who you may have been with and the like." 

"Commissioner," said Victoria as she arched an eyebrow, "is something
wrong? Am I suspected of a crime?"

"Not exactly, Miss Burke. It's just that, well, we need to cover our

"Concerning what?" 

"Well, Miss Burke," said Commissioner Jordan, clearing his throat,
taking a deep breath, and staring straight into her eyes, "I'm afraid
your mother is dead."

Victoria pressed the end of the pen, the click resounding through the
pause that hung in the conversation.

But the look on her face did not change. 

"I'm afraid I don't know what to say, Commissioner," said Victoria as
she set her pen down and looked at her desk, straightening up papers
as she spoke. "My mother has been missing for years, voluntarily, so I
would not think finding her to be a police matter. So how is it," she
looked back to the Commissioner, "that you can say she's dead?"

"We found her this morning," said Jordan, still studying Victoria's
face, "in your home."

He couldn't tell what the shift in her face meant: her look being one
of pain, concern, or simple confusion.

"I'm sorry," said Victoria, cocking her head slightly. "In MY home?" 

"When is the last time you went home, Miss Burke?" 

"I left home around seven yesterday evening and had dinner at The Palm
with Cindy Marignolls."

"All evening?" 

"Only until about eleven or so," said Victoria as she leaned back and
folded her hands in her lap. "I stayed at my apartment in town for the
night and came into the office this morning."

"Miss Burke," said Jordan as he shifted slightly in his seat and
leaned forward, "did you go straight to your apartment after dinner
with Miss Marignolls?"

Victoria had a feeling she knew what he was hinting at but hesitated
to answer.

"What do you mean, Commissioner?" 

Jordan cleared his throat andlooked down for a moment, then back to

"What I mean is, well, after you left Miss Marignolls, did you
interact with anyone who can vouch for your whereabouts last evening?"

"Commissioner," said Victoria as she narrowed my eyes, "are you saying
I'm a suspect in my mother's death?"

"Miss Burke," said Jordan, "I'm sorry if you feel I'm confronting you,
but I'm simply trying to find out if anyone may have been at the Burke
Estate around the time that the murder occurred."

"Have you spoken with my butler?" Victoria asked. "He should have been

"Unfortunately, Alfonse claims to have been incapacitated during the

Jordan noted the tensing of Victoria's face, the tensing in her

"Is he okay?" asked Burke with a low voice. 

"He'll be fine," said Jordan, and he noticed her loosen as she
breathed in deeply and then out, almost a hidden sigh.

"Was there anybody else staying at Burke Manor last night?" asked

Victoria hesitated yet again, wondering if he knew of her long term
guest or not.

"Not that I'm aware of," she said, and Jordan seemed pleased with the

Jordan nodded and looked down, tugging on the sleeves of his shirt. 

"Is this on record?" asked Victoria as she glared at Jordan from her

"No, Miss Burke," said Jordan defensively, looking back up quickly,
"this was simply a courtesy call. But I'm sure you'd understand if I
asked you to please stay where we can reach you for the next couple of

"Of course," said Victoria with a nod. 

"And I would also like to speak with Miss Marignolls if she's

"Commissioner, I don't believe that will be necessary until you
actually question me on record," stated Victoria as she pushed herself
to her feet. "Because until you have a reason to do so, I would prefer
that you not bother my associates."

"I am trying to help you out here," said Jordan as he got to his feet.
"If there is anyone who can say where you were last night, what you
were doing, you know..." Victoria gave Jordan a questioning glance
that made the Commissioner sigh. "If anyone can say that they knew you
were doing what you do at night, please, Victoria, let me know."

"I appreciate your concern, Commissioner," said Victoria flatly. 

"Do you know of anyone who may have had a grudge with your mother?" 

"Commissioner, I barely remember her face, let alone anyone who may
have wanted to kill her."

Jordan nodded and took a deep breath. 

"Thank you for your time," said Jordan with a nod as he headed towards
the door, pausing with his hand on the knob and turning back to
Victoria who had returned to straightening up her desk.

"I'm sorry about your mother, Victoria," said Commissioner Jordan. 

"Commissioner," said Victoria without looking up, "my mother's been
dead to me for twenty years."

Commissioner Jordan left without another word, gently closing the door
behind him.


Thomas Stevenson tried to speak but found his words escaping through
bubbles of blood that leapt from the cut in his throat.

"Daggon says it's too bad you fucked it up, Tommy-Boy," said another
man as he gently wiped the blood off his knife and slid it back into
its sheath. "But we're back on track."

Stevenson reached out but the man stepped back, leaving the former
Burke Industries board member groping for air. He fell face first onto
the carpet, blood gurgling out of his throat.


Neil Ashwood looked up as Victoria Burke came storming out of her
office and past his desk, heading straight for the elevators.

"I'm gone for the rest of the day," she stated without looking at him.
"Have them have my car ready downstairs."

"Yes, Miss Burke," said Neil as he reached for his phone while
watching her get on an elevator and turn to press the floor button.

Neil couldn't be sure, but, as the doors to the elevator closed, he
thought Victoria Burke looked like she was crying.


Richard Daggon leaned back in his chair as he listened to the phone
ring. He smiled as he let it shout again and again for him to pick up,
making the party on the other end wait. He could wait. All of the
others could wait.

Time was on their side. 

Daggon picked up the phone. 


"Daggon!" barked an old voice on the other end. "What the hell is
going on?"

"Everything's going swimmingly," said Daggon as he rocked in his

"Bullshit. Have you heard about what happened at Burke Manor last

"Of course I've heard about it. It's all over the news," said Daggon.
"Have you heard about Stevenson?"

There was a pause and Daggon's smile got wider. 

"What about Stevenson?" asked the voice. 


Victoria Burke shouted and slammed her fist into her steering wheel as
she wailed down the street much faster than speed limit. She ran
another stop sign and ignored the blaring car horns behind her.

She barely tapped her break as she turned right and sped down the

Victoria had no idea why she was speeding or what she was hoping to
achieve. Her mother was already dead, the body probably already gone.
Alfonse had probably already cleaned up any sign of the death in the

Victoria was just returning home like she would any other day. 

She cut into the driveway to Burke Manor and slammed on her breaks,
leaping out of the car and practically running past the few police
cars and up the steps, throwing open the front door.

She wasn't sure what it was exactly that hit her: whether it was the
blood still all over the floor and walls, the sight of the police
technicians still picking up pieces of possible evidence, the look on
Alfonse's face when he looked over to see her standing in the doorway,
the bruises under his eyes, the sorrow in his eyes.

Whatever hit her did it with much more impact than she ever would have

And with a cry of anguish, Victoria Burke disappeared.

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