Harmon Avenue




The distant thunder of jet engines echoed through the evening skies above the Mojave Desert. The sun was low, several buildings had switched on their blinding neon signs and so marked the beginning of the debaucherous Las Vegas nightlife. The pillar of light generated from The Strip served as a beacon for the city of sins. People are putting on their glad rags and makeup and their unnecessarily extravagant jewelries, looking for their street fixes. Among them, is one man who had given up in seeking the virtue of a covetous society. Among them, is a man who had abdicated in upholding the law in an irredeemable city. Among them, is a simple man who tried to survive in the only world he had cried upon.

Nathan Keller had just finished up his work for the day, now flying home in the airborne bus the Authority had chartered. He was looking forward to fall headfirst on his hollow bed, inside his penniless apartment. However, he had one last destination to visit, the one that may bring him headaches in the coming days. He was just tasked to investigate a possible murder on one of the personnel that was housed just near his apartment complex. It was just north of the McCarran Airport, in the Harmon Crossings Apartments, just off the E. Harmon Avenue, overlooking a gigantic empty lot and a contrasted Hard Rock Hotel just beside it.

”To hell with it.” He thought. The scene was just an arm’s reach from his apartment lobby. He might also get a quick drink at the ground floor bar when it was all over.

Deafening screech of the giant rubber tires rubbing against the cold asphalt of the runway oscillated through the fuselage, followed by a thunderous rumble of the braking system. Nathan had no baggage with him, so it was a straight journey to the parking lot. He was wearing his go-to light gray suit jacket paired with a pair of pitch-black trousers and oxfords; definitely enough for work attire but not for a night out in the city… not that he was interested in. He never brought or had an overcoat with him—the cold night atmosphere of the Mojave Desert never bothered him immensely. Alas, it was quite a freezing night, even during the summer months. As soon as the doors opened, Nathan went straight for the parking lot. It was a nice gesture that the Authority had not charged the personnel who live in Las Vegas an extra parking toll; they were already dizzy with the fairly dangerous proximity of the deadly anomalies they had in store anyway.

There wasn’t as much traffic in this part of the city compared even to the outskirts of Las Vegas… not that anyone would be interested in visiting some run-down apartment complex. However, that doesn’t mean that the streets were dead—The Strip was just seven blocks away from the apartments, definitely reachable by a brief walk. Regardless, at least Nathan doesn’t have to deal with the stress of being stuck in traffic daily. The people who lived here had nicknamed itself as "Paradise City", after the town. Nathan scoffed, thinking that it was definitely a fitting name given that this place served as a safe haven for the people who had to contain the various unthinkable monsters over at Site-002.

When he arrived, the house in which the scene was located was decorated from the uppermost roof tile down to the foundation with police lines and uniformed policemen. Nathan knew exactly that these uniforms weren’t actual LVPD officers. The Authority went through all this problem just to maintain a masquerade to the general public. Of course, he also got his own issued LVPD badge, in case anyone started asking questions.

At the moment he opened his car door, Nathan was greeted by a young uniformed man, bearing the complete package of LVPD insignias. He noticed his issued police cruiser was parked not too far from the house.

“Investigator Nathan Keller, sir! Investigator Snider is already inside, waiting for you.” He said, in a quite enthusiastic manner.

“Alright, good. Can you tell me what happened here?” Nathan asked, while buttoning up his suit jacket.

“Well, the boys inside told me that a guy hanged himself. They said it was weird but I don’t know; I haven’t gone inside.”

“Hanged himself? Why’d they call a homicide investigator, then?”

“I don’t know, sir but Investigator Snider must’ve had a good reason.” The young man said, eyebrows furrowed.

Puzzled, Nathan carried on with his questions. “Alright. You know who the first responder is?”

“Of course, sir. Investigator Snider called us in.”

Nathan was perplexed. Why would Snider call him in? He was a senior investigator, just like him. “Huh. Well, thanks, son, you’ve been a great help.”

Nathan donned a pair of blue latex gloves he had in his breast pockets. It was quite refreshing to be back In the Homicide department of the Sundowners; he dearly missed the walk, the slow and steady stream of curiosity and fear he once had every time he entered a crime scene. The impending descent into the world of darkness—the corpse that attempted to scream out, reaching from the void to tell him all of their stories. All of that sensation had escaped his mind ever since his last murder case when he was still a detective in New York City. He couldn’t believe it had been almost seven years. Nevertheless, his skill and instincts as a homicide detective hasn’t deteriorated over the years. However, as soon as he strode in to the apartment, he had a feeling that this case wasn't a murder case—he just somehow knew it. The stench was too strong; there’s no way nobody had noticed the victim’s disappearance even after one afternoon in this neighborhood.

Just like the good old days of the NYPD, curiosity took control of him and he carried onwards. The foul, sickly-sweet stench of rotting flesh filled Keller's lungs as he scanned the room. Keller brought out a can of aromatics he had kept buying since his old detective days. He swabbed his index and middle fingers onto the gelatinous aromatics and brushed it against his upper lip. It helped in repelling the foul stench, even by just a small factor.

It was quite dark when Keller entered the apartment complex; the shadow cast by the large motel sign across the street had kept the sunlight from striking the windows. One of the CSU personnel switched the lights on at six in the evening. The sudden ray of light shined throughout the room and revealed several other CSU personnel, all donned in their bright white Tyvek suits and respirators, all busy in doing their usual procedures. Every single inch of the scene has been photographed, marked and detailed, as evident by the yellow markers scattered throughout the entire floor. Looking around, Keller saw a plethora of birthday decorations as far as the eye can see. A large “Happy Birthday” sign adorned in red ribbons and festive balloons sat atop of a television that had seemingly showed old family videos, connected to a video camera. A round, stale chocolate cake, candles extinguished and swarmed by flies rested atop of the coffee table right in front of the television. Finally, Keller stood in front of the victim, where he observed the corpse carefully. The corpse wore spotless trousers, a pearly white shirt with the sleeves rolled back, and a partially undone necktie. Keller then observed the flesh tissues; the brownish complexity of the skin was not a racial derivation; it’s how rotting flesh looks like when left to rot for weeks.

Flies were already feasting on the corpse even before the first responder had arrived. Nathan tried to rotate the corpse to get a better view. However, as soon as he touched the corpse’s arms, maggots and flies scurried out of their covers. He heard one of the CSU personnel gagged and one even rushed out of the living room. He would have understood the feeling if he had picked a different path in his life. Nathan let out a brief sigh in disappointment; Sierra-8 investigators and its CSU personnel were trained for these situations. Keller abstained from looking at the ceiling and the rope; it didn't matter. He understood the “How”, all he needed is the “Why”. He turned to Investigator Clyde Snider.

“So, nobody touched the stiff before I came here?”

“Nope. None of them had the guts. Honestly, even I don’t.”

Keller gave a blunt chuckle. “Figures. You got the psych report on him?”

“It’s awaiting declass; should be sent in anytime now.”

“Alright, so who’s the first witness?”

“Technically, nobody; HR sent me to check on him after he overstayed his vacation by two days.”

“Right well, you were here first; what do you think?”

“Well, it can’t be a murder, I mean, this place is tidier than my apartment… aside from the maggots.” Sneered Clyde.

“How about the tapes? You watched it yet?”

“No, I haven’t touched anything until you came here since, you know, you’re the homicide investigator. Anyway, you have fun, I’mma go find some fresh air.”

Now Nathan knew why Clyde called him in. Investigator Snider worked in the Cartage department; he had no business in investigating a homicide case. After a conversation that felt like a second, Keller was back to the everlasting gloom of the crime scene. He was right, it wasn't a murder, but who would take their own life on their own birthday? If it’s not his birthday, then whose was it? No signs of a roommate were found around the apartment and the rotting, undisturbed nature of the flesh indicated that nobody had seen him in at least a week.

He sat down on the sofa right in front of the television. He inspected the video camera that was attached to the television. It seemed that the cable that was outputting the video footage to the television also served as a charging cable—explains how the camera was still on after a few weeks. Nathan pressed the play button on the camera and a video began to play. The whole room suddenly fell silent, not because the sound of the video drowned out the background conversation but rather everyone tuned in together. The video showed footage of a tropical bungalow. Two children, approximately aged ten to fifteen each was shown to be building a sandcastle on a pristine, white sand beach. A grown woman in a red swimsuit approached the two children and told them to face the camera. Not a while later, the figure who has been capturing the footage pointed the lenses onto his own face, announcing that it was the best vacation he had in twenty years—it was clearly the victim. the people in the footage seemed happy. They were happy. The video came to an end; the screen showed the exact same imagery as before Keller touched the camera. The victim had evidently been watching this footage. The timestamp on the video said that it was taken in 2017; 2 years prior from today.

One of the CSU personnel tapped Keller's right shoulder, informing him that the victim’s psych report finally came. The CSU personnel handed him a tablet with a copy of a document with some redactions here and there. The victim was a senior researcher working on an undisclosed RPC object. He had a family before he joined the Authority, so he had quite the benefits. The document said that his family—one wife and two children—all died shortly after the wife picked up the children from school in a car accident. The victim was back at Site-002 when it happened and wasn’t informed of their deaths until after the end of his shift. An outgoing call from his apartment phone indicated that the wife had reserved four seats at a restaurant to celebrate his birthday, dated 07/01/2019, a whole nine days past from today. His family died on his birthday. The document also stated that he had suffered from severe depression and had even attempted suicide.

Keller was right, it wasn’t murder. The victim took his own life in hope of celebrating his birthday with his family again. The room was still silent but he could hear some whispering behind his back. Keller put down the tablet and reclined on the sofa. He tried not to think too much of the victim; it goes with the job. However, he couldn’t stand the sight of him dying alone… just like he will be soon… and he began to tear up. It was peculiar; he was so desensitized to these kinds of things ever since The Black Tulip murders. He spent all this time as an unfeeling wraith just looking to avenge his family’s death and was proved fruitless. Ever since he met Laverne Perske, he was reminded him of his late wife, who had always whispered to his ear each morning that not everyone was standing against him. She reminded him that the world was not as evil as he thought it was. Her ambition, her innocence and her spirit made him remember his true self, before he became a revenant to a specter. Maybe the thought of him reminiscing himself as a family man teared him up… he doesn’t know… he doesn’t care.

The motel's neon signs began to shine its bright pink lights, Nathan could feel the gentle warmth of its light on his cheeks. The sadness he had fruitlessly attempted to keep at bay was getting ever so unbearable with each waking second. “Damn.” He said to himself. ”Now everybody can see my tears.”

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