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The Society

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Her hand trembled, her finger tight on the trigger. The muzzle of the gun was pressed so hard to the side of her head that it seemed to indent her head. The flowers fell from his hands, dropping to the ground in a flurry of petals and wrapping.


"What are you doing?" He asked, his eyes searching for the punchline.


Mary gulped and tightened her grip on the gun, a metallic death device that Michael had never seen before. "This...this is my-" she cut herself off, stuttering. "This is the end, Michael."


"What are you doing?" he repeated, not seeming to comprehend the scene. She was dolled up like she was going out on the town, but her makeup was streaking down her face from the tears. Her red dress shone slightly in the candlelight as she quivered. "This is insane. Where did you-"


"There's not enough time to explain." she said. "I- I have to go. The Society...it's my time, Michael." she attempted to smile, but it didn't reach her eyes, leaving it more of a grimace. "I had hoped to explain this to you before now - but I'm already late." The candlelight reflected off her eyes wetly, as a new wave of tears made their way down her face.


"There's plenty of time-"


"No! I...I'm out of time. The Society calls..." she trailed off, her gaze distant. "I always knew that they would...but I had hoped..."


Her eyes focused, and her grip firmed up. Michael tensed up, preparing to run, but he already knew the result before he moved.


"Goodbye, love." she said, and then pulled the trigger.

Edited by Falcon2001

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The dark leather jacket had been a present from his father, years ago. He had worn it, or so it was said, through the last war and when he came back, hung it up for good. It was warm and well-made, a gift from the past that kept Michael warm even in the chilly Chicago spring. He trudged through unnaturally late snow, his head down and his gaze distant as he made his way to a cafe in a distant part of town.


The sky, like so much else of the city, was gray. Even the snow seemed to lose it's brightness as it descended towards the city, covering the world in a gray blanket that soaked up the normal city sounds, leaving Chicago strangely quiet, even for as late as it was. The bright lights of the cafe reflected dully on the outside world, a spot of light in an otherwise dead world. Michael brushed open the door and the light chatter of cafe seemed loud.


Ruth's Diner was a 24-hour dive in a fairly unfriendly part of town, but it attracted reasonably worthwhile customers. Mostly working-class men who were, while gruff and unfriendly, kept well enough to themselves and didn't bother you. Ruth's was a haven of sorts, a place to get some peace in the windy city.


The proprietor of the place, a dusty old woman with a permenant frown embedded on her weathered face, had run it for over 40 years, and still worked the night shift. This particular night, she tossed Michael a glance from over turtleshell glasses. "Welcome back, stranger. Haven't seen you 'round these parts for a few years."


Michael gave her a look that was half smile and half grimace. "Heya, Ruth. Haven't had much time for slummin' around as much as I used to."


"You calling my place a slum, boy? Oughta bop you one for that." Ruth replied cooly, waving a spatula. "Anyway, pie's still as good as ever. Want a piece?"


"Sure - apple, if you got any left."


"Always do, Michael." she said, turning around and disappearing into the kitchen.


Michael scanned the restaurant idly. There weren't many customers around, mostly tired people staring at cups of coffee. He walked over to a booth and sat down, staring out the window. The snow fell silently outside, as a few tired stragglers made their way home through the night.


The plate clattered loudly as it hit the table, startling Michael a little. "Price has gone up a bit, but for you it's on the house, hun." she said, her voice tight and raspy. "Heard about your wife, least I can do." Without waiting for a response, she tossed a fork down and walked back to the register. Michael took a bite of the pie and stared out the window thoughtfully.


Before he had time to take another bite, a woman sat down across from him, looking disinterested. Her hair was cropped short in a style mostly favored by the lesbians in gay pride parades. Her eyes were clear and bright as they darted over him, checking points off a list. She wore a dark blue jacket that was worn and roughed up by time.


"Hello, Jack." she said, leaning forward slightly.


"Hello, Rose." he replied.


His fingers darted across the keyboard in practiced patterns, spiderlike and light. The TOR network was a completely anonymous network that used a complicated method of transmitting data that was completely untraceable. This darknet was designed to aid in the distribution of network that needed to remain anonymous - strong encoding and encryption were implemented, and many users applied even strong encryption algorithms over the measures already in place.


Michael went by the name Jack, one in a series of throwaway names used to harvest information, little by little, about The Society. By the time he had reached Jack, he had amassed a fairly large amount of conflicting and potentially useless information, but he was determined to keep going.


A little message flashed at him. He paused, the rhythmic tapping of fingers on keys halting. He clicked the message, bringing up a cryptographically sealed conversation.

<Rose> Hello, Jack.

He paused. This was unexpected. Jack had not seen much use in the chatrooms of the TOR network, and as far as he knew hadn't attracted any attention. He considered not answering the message, rolling the idea around in his head.

<Rose> I have information you might be interested in, Jack. Information about The Society.

A cold sweat began to form on Michael's brow. He hadn't mentioned the Society directly yet. His inquiries had been covert and kept to a minimum per username. Regardless, he began to respond.

<Jack> I don't know what you're talking about.
<Rose> This conversation is secure.
<Jack> Nothing is secure.
<Rose> You would be surprised.
<Rose> I have information for you. I wish to meet in person.
<Jack> Why should I trust you?
<Rose> Because I'm the only one that can give you what you seek.
<Rose> I have detailed information on The Society, that I have compiled over the last five years.
<Rose> My husband...left to the society five years ago. If the same has happened to you, you might be able to use this.
<Jack> Where do you want to meet?
<Rose> I'm sending a file with the location. The keyword is 'communism'. Open the file on a secured PC.
*User Rose has send you file 'C:\TOR\Downloads\p1asd45250.000'*
<Rose> Don't be late.
*User Rose has signed offline.*


"So, you mentioned information?" he said, looking at her with a hint of suspicion. She glanced around casually then handed him a keychain. It was acrylic with a picture of the chicago skyline. He looked up at her quizzically as he pocketed it. "This is the key." she responded, then smiled slightly.


She sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose. She could have been an attractive woman fifteen years ago or so, but time had taken it's toll on her harshly. She looked like she bore a far heavier weight than Michael could see.


"All of my work, I entrust to you. I believe that I have found the answer, but I can't..." she trailed off. "I can't afford to be wrong."


"I don't think any of us can, now." he said, noncommittally. She almost grinned, but then turned away. "I must be going. I have a lot of work to get done."


He shrugged and took another bite of pie. "Be careful."


She stopped for a second, adjusting her coat. "Yeah, you too."

Edited by Falcon2001

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Very suspenseful, I cannot wait to see what happens next. So far it seems like an intresting idea, that drew me right in, and it was very well written. Good work


The only thing I would say, is that the part in the middle, when we find out just how he met Rose, thier computer messages, it is a little confusing at first, that that is a flashback more or less, and it took me a while to figure out what was going on with that. Perhaps you could make that part a little more clear.


But other then that, it was really good.

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Like Silver Wind and Patrick, I really like the beginning of this story Falcon. :-) The tone and interactions have a real film noir detective kind of feel to them, and opening the story with Mary's suicide was a great way to grab the reader's attention from the get-go. The TOR text messaging conversation between Michael and Rose was also a nice touch, and I like the friendly relationship that Michael seems to have with Ruth. I also agree with Patrick that there were some nice descriptive passages, with the clever line about Rose's hair style standing out to me in particular. I faintly echo Silver Wind's suggestion that the transition into flashback mode might be smoothened out a bit, but I'm mainly commenting here since I'm interested in seeing what will happen next. Here's hoping you'll find the time to continue this here! :-) Thanks for sharing it.

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Michael tapped his foot softly, a rhythm that matched the periodic noise of the ceiling fan overhead. He heard the thump of a newspaper on his door, knowing it was just piling up with the others - two weeks of newspaper made a testament to his research, a mountain of paper in response to his mountain of work. His neighbors had left notes, but he hadn't bothered to read them.


Instead, he spent his time staring at years of gathered information from Rose. Scanned newspaper clippings, news stories, and interviews all useless on their own. But like a stained glass window, the pieces painted a picture, and Michael took into the picture with an interest born of loss. Scratching at a beard he had never let grow out, he absentmindedly flipped through pages he had read time and time before.


Man found dead in home, Police stymied by suicide note read one headline, with a short blurb but nothing on the suicide note. However, Rose had gotten her hands on a scan of the note, presumably from a police informer. Michael reflexively brought up the note, scanning the short page almost out of habit more than a need for understanding.


My time is up. Please let my daughters know that I love them.

I am going to join a great society.

Please don't miss me.

I am sorry.


The keyword 'society', with the suicide, was the tie-in, and it wasn't the only one. An autopsy report provided the final link - a gunshot wound to the head, self-inflicted. The autopsy report was otherwise un-eventful, and Michael went to close it before suddenly stopping, staring at a part of the report.


Wound displays normal tearing associated with self-inflicted gunshot wound, with flecks of foreign substance from ammunition. See attached forensics report for note on unusual ammunition.


He had otherwise overlooked this part before, but it felt out of place. Flicking through files, he brought up the forensics report.


Suicide by gunshot wound to head - unusual ammunition note: bullet appears to be cast from silver. Unusual construction, but no way of tracing manufacturer due to destruction of ammunition. Possibly self-produced by victim.


Michael stared at the page. An idea flicked into his head, and he quickly began to cross-reference different cases, sorting by cause of death. The list came together quickly, and he quickly found that all cases involved with the Society were self-inflicted headwounds. Many of the cases with forensics reports supported unique weaponry used in the cases, although only two stated the material used. In both cases, silver weapons were utilized - the bullet from the case he was reviewing, and an antique knife used in another case.


Michael's heart began to thud wildly in his chest, but at the same time, dread clutched him with a cold grip. He was one step closer to finding out who was behind it, but he had a cold nagging worry in the back of his head - how far could this go?


He rubbed his eyes gently, creaking back in his chair. Nothing to be done now, he reasoned, and took a long draught of his coffee. Have to see it through.

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