Chapter 6: Chicago Research Centre

Mark was on a mission.

Ever since Andrew had found that corpse in his company he was a bit jumpy and time from time he would be taken over by negative thoughts and one of three nights he had a nightmare that woke him screaming. When Mark had finally coaxed what it was about from his lover it turned out that in the dream the body Andrew found was Mark's. All Mark could offer were reassurances he would be alright and that no one would hurt him.

The olive skinned man didn't like it, he needed to permanently cheer his boyfriend up and make him forget all about what had happened at least for one night. That was why he was on a mission.

On a mission to make this evening a romantic one where he will romance the pants of his boyfriend so Andrew would forget about what he saw. In Mark's opinion a passionate night of sex would do just that. Hopefully.

In the fashion assistant's check list there were quite a few things he needed to buy. He had asked Victoria to let him leave two hours earlier so he could buy everything and start preparing for their night together. Once he gave the reason of why he wanted to leave early the woman agreed only cooing on how cute they were.

If Mark had just started working with the designer he would have taken offence, but after all this time of knowing the woman he knew better. Victoria thought of Andrew and him of a cute and adorable couple full of precious things and there wasn't a damned thing that would stop her from calling them such. All he could do was learn to accept it.

Mark looked through the row of candles in front of him. For this evening he was going to put some aroma candles around their living room along with serving dinner, it should relax Andrew. Maybe put on a movie after that, during which he would make sure his boyfriend was fully in the right mindset (read as helplessly turned on by how awesome of a partner Mark was) and ready for their further night activities. The latino couldn't help but smirk at how much he wanted that.

Grabbing two candles that smelled decently he put them in his shopping basket, ready to go get the food for tonight's dinner, he was thinking roasted in oven salami with green salad and crispy potatoes.
He turned to the other aisle deep in thought when he bumped into someone so hard they both ended sitting on their butts, blinking owlishly at one another.

The person Mark bumped into was a woman in a business suit, she had an angular face and shoulder length red hair, she looked just as confused as he was. After a couple more confused blinks Mark chuckled and got up, offering a hand to the woman. "Are you alright? That was a hard fall there."

The woman nods accepting the hand, standing up and brushing off her pants, the bagel in the bag she was carrying laying on the ground where the bag slipped through her fingers after the fall. "My butt is hurting, but it's nothing serious, I'm sorry, I wasn't looking where I was going."

Mark waved her off. "No worries, I was no better, lost in my own mind."

The woman smiles at him politely and takes the bagel bag she dropped, under it lies a broken candle, Mark looks at it and at his now almost empty shopping basket. "Shit, I think that was the last of this smell." He curses while taking the candle from the woman.

"I'm so sorry," She says, "It must have flown out of the basket when we bumped into each other."
Mark sighs. "No biggie, I just have to choose a new one now and I really don't understand the candle smells."

The woman laughs. "I can help you choose one, if you like? Is it for occasion? Romantic dinner perhaps?" She teases.

The latino's eye widen and he feels his cheeks redden a little. "Yea, actually, it would be great if you would help, I'm no good at interior design."

The red head chuckles and nods. "Alright, it will be my payment for kind of being at fault this one broke, let's go to the candle isle then?"

Mark nods, turns around and trots back to the isle he just left. He stops in front the scented candles without jars and stares at them intensely.

The woman stands beside him, looking over the labels. "Maybe it would easier to choose if there was a specific scent they like?"

Mark scratches his slightly stubbly chin. "He doesn't have a specific preference, I just want some candles to burn while we're eating dinner." He says, not even noticing the 'he' slipping through.

The red head chuckles and Mark turns his head at her with a raised eyebrow. "Oh, it's much easier if your lover is a guy and doesn't have preference, men aren't as picky with their smells as women." She steps up to the shelves and sniffs a few candles, then peeks at Mark's shopping basket, nods and extends him a brown candle. "The one you already have would probably fit for the main meal, but this one smells very nicely, like chocolate and would fit the mood for desert or more romantic activities." She winks.

Mark takes the candle and takes a sniff of it, it definitely smelled like chocolate, very sweet chocolate, he nodded in approval. "He has a sweet tooth so this will be perfect. Thanks for your help."

The woman nods kindly and Marks feels like his faith in humanity has risen, it was nice to meet people who didn't make a big deal of non traditional relationships. "Don't be too disappointed if the candles don't actually emit the smells when burning, they do that sometimes. Oh, and I'm Carla by the way, I'm glad I was of help to you."

Mark extends his hand to her. "I'm Mark, I will take that into consideration." He smiles at her as she shakes his hand and takes out his list. "I need to go now, but it was nice chatting."

Carla nods. "Likewise."

They both turn away from each other and walk without glancing back to continue on with their errands.

Tod liked his new found friendship with Suzy's dad. It was... grounding have a normal relationship like that.

Tod had friends, of course he did, only that all of them were from military background, after more than ten years of working there it hardly could be different.

Some of his friends were still active and he hardly met with them and their friendship wasn't as close as before. He expected that when he left the Special Task Force, he couldn't move on with his life without losing some friends, it really couldn't have turned out differently.

In contrast he rekindled some friendships with leaving the military. He got closer to some guys who left military after first five years or those that never were in Task Force, but often worked close to it.

But even if he had people to go out drinking with or who he could visit on Sunday and eat barbecue half of their conversations were about military, reminiscing old days, old friends or remembering and sharing stories from their life in military, it got old after a while and Tod left the place in first place because of it becoming too boring.

So having a friend who had no history with military and wasn't going to speak about it was refreshing and fun. Tod hoped he would be able to keep this friendship with the man, right now it wasn't that strong and their relationship could fall apart as the man found a job and moved to a place where Suzy would be unable to come over to the shop he worked at...

The ex solider relaxed in his armchair and looked outside, he felt like going out for a jog...

Samuel looked around the side walk, the sun had already gone down a while back and the only light came from the well lit side walks and the street, but it didn't do much to help Samuel out where the bus stop was. He had just left the take out place he had seen earlier when he was going to see the last apartment. He was quite a bit of a journey away from the bus stop that he got here by.

There were not that many buses that went to Samuel's neighbourhood and zero metro, so he had to get by with public transport as he didn't own a car, that should probably be something he has to put on his to 'get around owning this' list (alongside a pet, it should be good for Suzy too to have a friend and someone to have responsibility over).

He walked closer to the street turning his head to one side, then another to see if there was bus stop nearby. He should probably take out his phone and use google maps. Samuel sighed and put his hand in the pocket to take out his phone when a shout got his attention.


He turned around to see Tod jogging towards him in sweatpants and a warm sweater, earphones hanging from his shoulder as he held his phone in his hand and was probably turning off the music or whatever that he was listening to, for all he knew the store clerk could be listening to an audio book, they were all the hype lately, personally he could understand the appeal, time was money these days and it was great way to save it.

He smiled at the man who just stopped in front of him; that's how he was so fit, he probably jogged every day, he presumably had a membership to a sport club too, or maybe he did his exercising at home and had some equipment there? "Hey Tod, didn't expect to see you."

"Oh, yea, I jog a lot so I run around all the closest blocks, what are you doing here?" He asks and glances at the bag in Samuel's hand.

The brown haired man blushes a little, he felt a little guilty in front of man who seemed to be all for healthy life style and proper diet, he probably thought Samuel was extremely lazy or something... "I just finished looking at the apartments, I think I found the one, I will show it to Suzy tomorrow, see what she thinks. I was exhausted after so I just bought dinner and was going to go home, but I'm unsure of where a closest bus stop is. I was just about to look it up when you saw me." He finishes with a small smile.

The bulky man nods in understanding. "I think I know where the closest one is, if you want I can show it to you?"

Samuel nods. "That would be great."

"So which apartment did you choose?" Tod inquires as they start walking.

The man with the take out bag smiles. "Actually none of which we picked, the real estate agent showed me an apartment they haven't put in the market yet when the one she was showing me around didn't interest me."

The bulky man nodded. "That's good that you found one you liked so soon. I remember it took me at least a couple of days, it was exhausting."

He nods. "So what have you been doing today?" The brown eyed man asks with interest; did he really spent his day bench pressing and doing squats or something?

Tod shrugs. "I mostly relax, watched a movie and a couple of TV shows, on my free days I usually do my exercise routine, but today I was uncharacteristically lazy about it, so I skipped it." He chuckles.

So even he gets lazy about it? Samuel smiles. "It happens, when you know you need to do something, but you're just too lazy. What did you watch?"

"Oh," To waves his hand, "I keep up with the popular stuff, but mostly Netflix original shows, I like to know I will be bale to watch three episodes in one sitting and the next day watch the next three, I try not watch all season in one day, that's just one way street to running out of things to watch."

Both men laugh. "I watch Game of Thrones, but recently wasn't able to see any episodes so no spoilers, I also been going through Breaking Bad when I have the time." Samuel offers, glad to have found a theme to talk about, Tod was a good conversation partner.

"Oh, I've seen Breaking Bad already and I am up to date with Game of Thrones, so I won't talk about the latest episodes. Do you watch comedies? I recently found one I've been really enjoying."

"Yea, I do, not all, but there are some I quite enjoy, what is it?"

The two stopped at the bus stop, neither prepared to stop their conversation.

"It's called The Office, it's a great show-" Tod's words were interrupted by his companions laughter. The ex solider frowned. "What?"

"I love that show, it's a lot of cliches and over exaggeration of what my work is put together, of course I watched it."

"Oh, yea, okay, then I'm not offended, what bus are you waiting for?" He asks while squinting in the distance.

"Seventy first, it's the one I got here with, but I'm not even sure it goes on this street, I didn't look at the schedule." Samuel says while waving at the said object.

"Well, you're in luck, it seems that's the bus that's coming." Tod says turning bad at the brown haired man.

Samuel blinks. "Huh, what do you know, maybe I do get lucky sometimes." He looks at the man wearing jogging clothes. "Thanks for the help, I will definitely call you when we need help moving."

Tod laughs. "Only then? I'm okay with it though, bye."

The brown haired man nods to the bulky man and enters the bus.

The first thing Andrew said as he walked in the apartment wasn't 'Honey, I'm home!' or any other iconic phrase to say to your loved one when you walk into your shared house. What he did say was : "I invited David and Iris for a drink later tonight!"

His answer was a loud crash from the kitchen. Andrew's eyes widened as the dark haired man rushed to the room with one shoe off, one on, worry in his expression.

What he saw was Mark standing by the stove, a sauce of some sort stewing in the frying pan, the lid of it on the kitchen ground, his boyfriend looking down at it with a hurt and confused frown. All Andrew wanted to do was kiss the frown away and makes his lover feel better. He looked around the kitchen and saw a tin full of half boiled half baked potatoes - his favourites, and a closed pot with what possibly was some kind of meet. Two plates were on the kitchen table, with some vegetables nicely put in them while the other half was still on the cutting board.

In a few quick strides Andrew reached his boyfriend who was still standing by the stove, even if he did pick up the lid and put it on the counter. He kissed his lover's cheek. "Awww, you're making dinner for me? Should I cancel the drinking night then?"

Mark shrugs and turns back to the pan, the spatula in his hand going into the pan to stir it. "If you want to have a drinking night then let's have one." The latino's voice is a bit too emotionless for Andrew's liking, but before he can comment, Mark is looking at him and waving him off from the kitchen. "Go get undressed, you will get overheated."

Andrew looks at his coat and that one shoe he had on and nods. He walks back to the front door and quickly hangs his outside clothes, then he goes to the living room, ready to take off his jacket and throw it on the couch when he has to stop in the doorway.

The two couches they had were pushed away in the corners of the room, the dinner table and two chairs stood in the middle, the lamps were dimmed and a candle was lit on the table along with some red roses in a vase. This was totally supposed to be a romantic dinner. Andrew swore under his brief and quickly texted his friends cancelling their invitation over to their house. Then he quickly stepped into the kitchen, arms enveloping Mark's waist and nose buried in his boyfriend's neck. "I'm sorry, I cancelled the drinking night, you can continue to romancing my pants off."

Mark collapsed in his embrace, his still muscles relaxing and arms wrapping the brown haired man's body. "It's not your fault," he says while placing a kiss on Andrew's temple. "It can't be a surprise romantic dinner if you're anticipating it and know not to plan anything else."

"Still, I should have asked you first if you wanted a drinking night first, that was insensitive of me."
The latino pulls away from the embrace and puts a small kiss on his other half's lips. "It's okay, go take off your jacket and sit at the table, the food is ready and all I need is to serve it." he says as he's pushing Andrew towards the doorway to the living room.

The white male sighs resigning himself and does as he's ordered, he smiles at himself as he sits at the table; this was going to be a fantastic night.

November 12th, Thursday, early morning

Millennium Park, one of the most visited places in Chicago for the famous art piece everyone wants to take picture with – Cloud Gate, affectionately named The Bean by many.

It was early morning, not even six am, the sky was still dark even though the city lights that never go down were lighting up the horizon. The sun wasn't even showing it's first beams of sunshine, but everyone could say that the darkest time of the night has long since passed.

The place was mostly empty. The chilly air and the early hour wasn't something that would tempt humans out of their warm beds, but there were still figures hurrying through the park, hunched inside their coats and jackets hands in gloves or thrust into the pockets, noses buried in scarves or collars, looking for warmth in such unwelcoming weather.

It was a day like any other and it would have continued to be like that if it wasn't for that one loud scream that echoed through the square. Some people jumped, some suddenly stopped in their tracks, eyes wide, trying to decipher if it was fake or if truly was somebody in trouble.

"Can somebody call 911?!"

Suddenly came a shout from a bit deeper from Millennium Park, some people ran towards the sound to see if they could help.

A woman in light blue autumn jacket also runs to the spot, stops in place as soon as she sees the scene gasps and puts a hand over her mouth. Another woman is lying on her back, her mouth open as it's frozen in the scream they all have heard just a moment ago. Her throat is slit open, blood rushing out of it, a couple of people are kneeling by her, trying to press up the wound so it would stop bleeding.

"Had somebody called the ambulance?!" Someone shouts.

No one answers in confirmation, so the woman takes out her phone and quickly calls the emergency number. She quickly says the address and the problem and gets a quick response of the ambulance coming.

She puts away her phone, looking down at the dying woman, doubting if she will survive, the blood was already pooling beneath her and even though the two people who had pressed down the wound stopped it from spreading further the wound seemed quite deep and it was possible her trachea was cut too and that the main reason of her death would be irreversible.

But how did this happen? There were plenty people around even if it was very early in the morning, it was unthinkable. Should they be worried of walking even in the middle of the day? Was no time safe from these murders?

Loud sirens of ambulance and police reached her ears. The woman in the blue jacket closed her eyes, her breath quickening, what the next victim will be?

Chicago Research Centre

The second corpus of the Chicago Research Centre housed the labs, some were simply cool temperature rooms with microscopes, fridges and freezers with a lot of tables, cabinets and other research equipment needed for passive observation.

Some labs were for more active research where rats and other acceptable animals were kept and cupboards full of small pieces of technical devices and random instruments people not working at the centre were better of not knowing of.

And bellow the ground there were more labs that were most definitely not what the law allowed. In those labs a couple of researchers were talking.

An older woman in a while lab coat and a long flowery skirt underneath frowned at the older man in a costume, the man was quite older than her, or well, at least seemed to be that way with his snow white hair and tired, full of wrinkles face.

"This has to stop, we most definitely can't stop this ourselves, we have to inform some sort of authorities! I know everything has been financed privately, but we can't stop this ourselves! And this is partly our fault, we can't keep this a secret! How many people will have to die for you to understand! This can't continue."

The man puts a hand on the woman's shoulder, but she only clutched her self-binder tighter, eyes wrinkling in anger. "Calm, down, we're working on a solution."

"Working on it?!" She hisses at him. "Don't bullshit me, the only way you can catch them is when they're in the middle of the murder! You have no way to catch them in between them, it would be impossible, so tell me, how are you going to do this exactly without the help of my team?"

The man waves her off. "You know you're not the only ones who have knowledge about them and they work much quicker than you too."

"Mark my words," She says, one foot clad in a high heel steps closer to the white haired man and she leans closer to him, eyes squinted. "More people will die and you will be unable to stop it. It doesn't matter that me and my people can't talk about it, I will help anyone who comes around asking about it, I will point them to the right direction and your actions will be unveiled."

An unimpressed face looks at her, then the man steps around her, patting her shoulder as he walks by her. "Like anyone is ever going to come here asking about it, this and the murders have nothing in common, so don't worry your smart head about it."

The woman with the slightly greying hair squeezes her fists in anger, grinds her teeth and enters the lab she met the man leaving from, she had a feeling he had went through her research notes from the computers, that lying liar...

She threw the self binder on the desk by the computer and a couple of files slid out of it. Bold letters of the first file on the very top drew her eyes to it and she sighed while reading it under her breath. "The Consequences of Experiment S-3 Running Away."

Laura Gabriela Martinez was a strong willed woman that got to where she was by fighting with her nails and teeth, tearing up her way up to the evolutionary biology science field when the field was filled with men who didn't think it was a place for a woman.

She didn't listen what those self-centred men and their trophy wives talked about her, Laura ignored what her mother and aunts told her about her not being able to find a proper husband and ending up as a spinster. She ignored how they all assumed it was because her older brother was very much into science and had quite a knack for it too. She knew all about the conversations between her parents that Laura tried to be just like her brother too much.

But they didn't understand her. Laura knew she had talent for science and understanding it just like her brother, and it wasn't about being just like him and more of proving she was her own person and that science wasn't just for men.

Luckily for Laura her parents were quite wealthy so she could let herself study for six years until she got a good enough degree to be of use and even then she had struggled to find a job according to her master's degree. So instead of sulking of getting a secretary job at a lab instead of an assistant she started working on her doctor's degree.

And while her parents weren't quite happy in which direction she chose to lead her life in and every family gathering was a pain of relatives dropping hints on 'settling down' and 'having a bunch of munch-kins running around'. Of course, Laura ignored them all, smiled, laughed at their words like it was a joke and told them she hasn't yet travelled around the globe to have 'settle down' thoughts.

To be entirely truthful she did have a small stir in her heart sometimes when she watched her cousins or nieces and nephews, but she would stomp that feeling every time and remember her wonderful pet cat – Pearl.

She didn't lie to herself about why exactly she had the cat and what image it created of her to others, but she didn't mind much. If she listened to what other people thought or believed of her she would have never entered college and gotten so far in science field.

After finishing her doctor's degree the science community had reluctantly accepted her into their fold. Laura had slowly started to get the recognition she deserved as a scientist. Of course, not to be flower eyed, the whispers behind her back hadn't stopped, some only had increased, especially those that talked about her staying without a husband and a few new ones about how maybe she will meet a man she will like amongst the scientists she now worked with, deep at heart Laura wouldn't have minded that.

But evolutionary biology wasn't a popular science field many young people got doctors degree at, so it was mostly populated with older or very old men. And none of them had charmed her in a way she would want a future with them.

Laura sometimes wondered if she was too strict with her judgement of the men she met in her life, but in the end she'd rather be alone than in a marriage filled with dissatisfaction. The woman had witnessed one too many of these and knew that would have just bought her more unhappiness than those lonely evenings when she came back to her home wet and cold and wishing with all her heart for someone just to take care of her for a while, only to be met with cold and dark home, where only her cat meowed when she walked in.

But Laura didn't let such thoughts control her or get into the craze of wanting a baby, she had controlled her urges, showed the same stoic face to everyone and tried to satisfy herself with science.

By the age of forty she knew it was never going to be enough. Science was rewarding and gave her a purpose, but it didn't give her warmth, didn't make her a cup of tea in the morning when she felt particularly lazy, didn't rub her back or kiss her cheek as she left home. After a while all Laura really wanted was a partner, no children needed. She didn't let that realization break her, Laura had nurtured herself to be a strong woman not to break down in a mid-life crisis. So she pushed forward, done her research, earned respect and intimidated the ones that tried to use her or discredit her work.

Martinez worked hard, had earned her recognition and that was why she was hired to work in Chicago Research Centre under a guise while a private benefactor funded a rather inhumane experiment...