Year One: Duquesa Bay
Chapter One

"Enter Erika"

    Inside the von Meer family estate on Beacon Point, a blonde woman is sprawled out on the Italian marble floor of her bathroom with a small, bleeding gash on her lower left shin. Lying naked in a pool of her own vomit, she shivers and struggles to regain consciousness. The woman slowly rises and stumbles over to the sink where she checks the watch she left on the counter top.

Erika von Meer: (Gasping) A... marked... improvement

    After splashing her face repeatedly with cold water, Erika begins to chant a Pali prayer as she cleans up and closes the opened window.

von Meer House

    Later that morning, the family begins to gather around a long, mahogany dining table for breakfast. Karl von Meer sits at the head, reading a newspaper, while his son KJ, piles his plate high with eggs, bacon, and more.

Karl Sr.: Pass me the muffins, would you, son?

KJ: (Doing so) Here you go, Dad

Karl Sr.: I see someone left a gift for you out front

KJ: The trailer, I know, I'll take care of it after breakfast

Karl Sr.: (Returning to his paper) No problem

KJ: Oh, I almost forgot, I'm working with Ona Rosa on a pro bono case today and then I'm off to practice, do you mind if we go over the office stuff tomorrow?

Karl Sr.: KJ, you promised you'd help out - this is a family business and I want my family involved

KJ: Dad, we're worth over $300,000,000 - no matter what happens, I think we're going to be OK - the charity cases I work on involve people who don't know where their next paycheck is coming from

Karl Sr.: I think you just like working with Ona Rosa

    KJ does not respond.

Karl Sr.: (Peering at his son over the paper) She's married with three kids... hands off!

KJ: I resent your implication, Dad - I enjoy her company because she is a very smart, very compassionate woman... unlike the usual bevy of the airheads I'm surrounded with daily

Karl Sr.: It doesn't stop you from dating them, does it?

KJ: Hell no - that's why I spend my weekends with a smart, married woman

Karl Sr.: (Shuffling his paper) Fine, I'll just get Erika to help me with the business today - where is she?

KJ: I heard the shower running when I came down

Karl Sr.: Doesn't that girl spend enough time in the water?

Pauline: Could someone please explain to me why in the hell there is a U-Haul in the front yard?

KJ: (Mouth half full) 'Morning, Mom - Gracie left it but she didn't say why on her message

Pauline: (Taking her seat) Gracie, I should've known - I still don't know why you hang around that creature

KJ: Gracie is NOT a creature, she's my friend

Pauline: (Pouring herself a cup of black coffee) She's a fat Oriental midget with eight fingers - that constitutes "creature" in my book

KJ: Mother, I will not let your racism ruin my enjoyment of this beautiful blueberry muffin

Pauline: (Looking at her gold and platinum watch) I have a match with that whore Ursula in less than a half hour, WHERE IS MY GODDAMN FRUIT COCKTAIL?

Karl Sr.: (Leaning over and kissing his wife's cheek) Good morning, Darling

Pauline: (Returning it) You have butter on your chin, Dear

KJ: It could be on worse places

Karl Sr.: Heh

Pauline: Karl John, do not be vulgar at the breakfast table

    Erika von Meer quietly enters the room and takes her seat. She wearily pours herself a cup of licorice spice tea and takes two slices of dry toast.

Karl Sr.: Good morning, Duchess

Erika HeadshotEvM: Father

Pauline: Thank you for finally honoring us with your presence

Erika: Mother

Pauline: Is it really asking too much to have my children share breakfast with their parents once a week?

    Erika and KJ exchange glances with each other.

KJ: Mom, Rikka just turned 30 and I'm not far behind, when are you going to stop referring to us as children?

Erika: (Looking at her brother) Maybe when you stop spilling jam all over your shirt, Kage

Karl Sr.: Heh

Pauline: Listen, I suffered through a combined 47 hours of labor for you both - you two will ALWAYS be my children

KJ: What if it had only been 46?

Pauline: (Turning to her daughter) Honey, you look like shit!

Erika: Thank you

KJ: Rough night at the lab, Sis?

Erika: (Slowly sipping her tea) You could say that

Pauline: Well, it certainly wasn't with a man, poor Griffin has been leaving you messages on the hour

Erika: My own living cuckoo clock

Pauline: Are you going to return them?

Erika: Maybe

Pauline: Honest to God, Erika, I just don't get you

KJ: (Leaning back in his chair) Here we go

Erika: (Not looking up from her tea) And what exactly is it you don't get, Mother?

Pauline: You

Erika: Yes, you've already established that

Karl Sr.: (Reading the sports section) I see the Cactus finally won one

KJ: I know, I was at the game with a couple of buddies

Pauline: (Ignoring the men) I wasn't blessed with your physical gifts - I had to work twice as hard on the tour to succeed

Erika: So you've told us... countless times

Karl Sr.: Did you see Doug at the game?

KJ: Nope

Pauline: Erika, you could've been a fashion model, an Olympic athlete... you could've been so much more!

Erika: "Could've" - you talk like I'm already in the grave

Pauline: Aren't you?

    Erika folds her arms and looks away.

KJ: I did score with one of the cheerleaders

Karl Sr.: A "Cactus Flower?"

KJ: Yep

    The women continue to ignore them.

Pauline: You stick yourself away in a dreary lab, all hours of the day and night - and for what? - SAVING FISH? - NO ONE GIVES A FLYING FUCK ABOUT FISH

Erika: YOU WOULDN'T KNOW WHAT I DO IN THE LAB BECAUSE YOU DON'T HAVE THE INTELLIGENCE TO EVEN BEGIN TO COMPREHEND IT

Pauline: OH, I GET IT, I'M A DUMB JOCK - I CAN'T UNDERSTAND MY DAUGHTER'S SUPER-SMART WORLD OF NUMBERS AND TEST TUBES AND LAB COATS - OOOOOOH

KJ: We made out in the parking lot behind left field

Karl Sr.: That's nice

Pauline: WHAT I DO KNOW IS THAT THE EARTH HAS ALWAYS BEEN HERE AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE HERE, WHETHER OR NOT THERE'S A BLUE FISH, OR A RED FISH, OR AN ECRU FISH - FIND SOMETHING BETTER TO DO WITH YOUR TIME

Erika: RIGHT, LIKE CHASE A FUZZY YELLOW BALL AROUND SOME WHITE LINES

KJ: On the topic of colors, she had pink nipples instead of red ones

Both women in unison: SHUT UP, KJ

KJ: I LOVE SATURDAY BREAKFAST

Karl Sr.: Heh

    Pauline's cell phone rings as everyone takes a breath.

Pauline: Hello? - Ursula, Sweetie, are you ready for our match? - WHAT? - AGAIN? - how utterly dreadful, you poor thing!

Karl Sr.: What?

Pauline: (Holding her hand over the phone) More bodies were found on the beach this morning, just a few houses down from them

    Erika sips more of her tea.

KJ: (Looking at his watch) Quick, turn on Channel 8!

    Karl Senior reaches for the remote in back of him and flips on the television.

From the lake to the bay, everyday, good morning everyone, I'm Dan Henshaw... and I'm Claudia Steel and this is NewsCenter 8 at 8... we begin this morning with breaking news on the shore of one of Duquesa Bay's most popular beaches, KCON's Morrigan McBride is live at the scene with the very latest, Morrigan...

Morrigan: Claudia, at approximately six o'clock this morning, the bodies of three local men were discovered on the southern shore of Celoso Beach by a Coast Guard patrol unit -- although it appears that the men drowned, officials have not confirmed the cause of death and declined further comment -- family members of the victims will be notified shortly -- according to area residents, there were no signs of a disturbance during the night or in the early morning hours, however, because of dense fog, no one can say for sure -- since April of last year, six other bodies have been found on area beaches, ranging from Chaparral Heights to Beacon Point -- whether these three are related has yet to be determined -- officials from the Coast Guard, along with the Quartz County Sheriff, will be holding a joint press conference later this evening, you can be certain we'll have more details on this tragedy for you then -- as for Celoso Beach, it will remain closed until further notice... Morrigan McBride, KCON NewsCenter 8

    Erika stares intently at the television while chomping on her toast.

Karl Sr.: (Returning to his paper) Interesting

KJ: That McBride girl must be new - she's cute in the "wholesome/girl next door/kind you'd marry" type of way

Pauline: Oh please, she needs to drop about ten pounds and get a tan!

Erika: (Finishing her tea) On that note, I need to get back to the lab

Pauline: Of course you do

KJ: Because of the murders, Crunch won't be at practice today - please ask Shelby if she can fill in?

Erika: (Rising from her chair and taking a water bottle) I will

Pauline: Karl John, would you PLEASE do something about that hideous trailer outside?

KJ: (Wiping his mouth and getting up) I'll do that right now, Mom

Karl Sr.: Erika, I need your help with the business today

Erika: I'll be back this afternoon and we can work then, I promise

Karl Sr.: (Glancing at KJ) Thank you, Duchess

    KJ rolls his eyes as he walks outside of the house with his sister. Erika momentarily loses her balance and leans on her brother's arm.

KJ: Rik, are you OK?

Erika: (Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly) Yeah... just a little groggy

KJ: DEAR JESUS, PLEASE DON'T LET IT BE GRIFFIN'S SPAWN

Erika: What?

KJ: Are you pregnant?

Erika: WHAT?

KJ: Is this morning sickness?

Erika: GIMME A BREAK, KAGE

KJ: I heard you puking in the bathroom earlier, I tried to check on you but the door was locked

Erika: Thanks, but there's no need to worry

KJ: If you only had a hangover, I wouldn't worry at all

Erika: Look, I just ate something wrong last night, that's it

    The two resume walking.

KJ: I know it's hard putting up with all of Mom's crap but she does have a valid point

Erika: That's a first

KJ: You're spending WAY too much time in the lab

Erika: Stop taking her side

KJ: I'm not

Erika: You've always been a "Momma's Boy"

KJ: Well, you're "Daddy's Little Girl," so I guess we're even

Erika: I guess

KJ: Mom only says what she does because she loves you

Erika: Why can't she just make me pudding?

KJ: You don't look well, Erika, you haven't been for awhile now

Erika: (Pinching her brother's cheek) I'm not the one who didn't shave this morning

KJ: (Taking her hand) SERIOUSLY, I'm worried about you!

Erika: (Patting his hand) Please don't be, I'm fine!

KJ: You better be

Erika: Since you're feeling so concerned, may I ask a favor?

KJ: Sure

Erika: Drop me off at the lab, I don't feel like riding my bike today

KJ: Let's go!

    The two hop in his black Porsche convertible and speed down the driveway.

KJ: You know, you're a better polo player than Crunch and Shelby combined - why don't you play with us anymore?

Erika: (Putting on her sunglasses) I have more valuable things to do with my time than waste it on frivolous athletic competitions

KJ: (Doing the same) Don't give me that line - you enjoyed it, I know you did

Erika: I never said I didn't enjoy it

    The two reach the front of the driveway and are blocked in by the U-Haul.

KJ: (Slamming on the brakes) DAMN, I almost forgot

    Erika's jaw drops in disbelief at the sight of it.

U-HaulKJ: (Noticing) C'mon, Rikka, I can understand Mom's revulsion to it but not you too?

Erika: No... I... uh... it's just not something I expected to see

    KJ gets out of the car and begins to pick the lock of the trailer with his pocket knife.

Erika: What are you doing?

KJ: Ordering pizza

Erika: (Getting out of the car) Kage, knock it off!

KJ: This is one of Gracie's practical jokes, I know it!

Erika: What if this really isn't a joke and you're breaking into someone's personal belongings?

KJ: (Opening the door) Aint it fun?

Erika: (Folding her arms and stepping back) I will not be an accomplice to this crime

KJ: Yeah, whatever, hand me your mini-flashlight

Erika: (Looking in her purse) Lose yours again?

KJ: You really don't want to know where

    The sister tosses the flashlight to her brother in disgust.

KJ: (Going through boxes) Hmm... ordinary junk, I guess it is legit

Erika: Little Miss Takanachi is going to be furious with you

KJ: Look, I was nice enough to let the owner of this trailer use my driveway...

Erika: (Raising an eyebrow) Ahem

KJ: I was nice enough to let the owner of this trailer use OUR FOLKS' driveway until Gracie gets here

Erika: How are you going to explain the lock?

KJ: I heard something inside and broke in to let it out?

    Erika shakes her head "no."

KJ: El Niño?

Erika: Over

KJ: (Still looking through stuff) I'll think of something to say, I am a lawyer, afterall

Erika: Poor woman

KJ: (Catching her) How do you know this belongs to a woman?

    Erika thinks for a second and then quickly points to a box full of cosmetics and bag of tampons.

KJ: Purely circumstantial

    Erika goes over to the belongings and picks up a pink octopus with little red hearts all over it.

Erika: (Squeezing it) Cute

KJ: Ooh... this is really beautiful

    Holding his hand up, KJ displays a strand of rosary beads.

Erika: (Studying it) That's Belleek porcelain, be very very careful, Kage

KJ: What are these symbols?

Erika: Celtic knots - now, put it away, this is beyond trespassing!

    Following his sister's orders, he does, and then checks the final box.

KJ: OH WOW, IT'S HER

Erika: Who?

KJ: That new chick on the news this morning, Morrigan

Erika: McBride

KJ: Here's her diploma - she's a Cal. State graduate - and here's a bunch of journalism awards... what does this one say?

Erika: (Taking the plaque from her brother) "Hinc quam sic calamus saevior ense, patent."

KJ: I know it's Latin but what does it mean?

Erika: You're a lawyer, you should know Latin

KJ: I only know what I need to know like "fellatio" - now, what does the damn thing say?

Erika: "The pen is mightier than the sword."

KJ: BORING - I was hoping for a Satanic chant of some kind

    As KJ's pager goes off, Erika suddenly notices a spot of blood and scales on the ragged edge of the trailer's metal bumper.

KJ: (Looking at his pager) Speak of the devil, it's Gracie - she'll be by in a little bit to pick up the trailer

    Carefully, the sister takes out a tissue and wipes up the stain without her brother noticing.

Erika: (Slipping the tissue into her pocket) Can we please get going now?

KJ: Sure - give me a few minutes to get this into the garage and out of Mom's sight, and then we'll take off

Erika: One more thing... I need to make a quick stop on the way to pay a bill

    Awhile later, Erika enters the lab at Santa Conchita University where Shelby Willis is conducting an experiment.

Erika: Good morning, Shel

Shelby: (Removing protective goggles) Oh, there's that look, I see that look - that's the look of "I just had breakfast with my whole stinking family" look!

Erika: (Putting on her lab coat) How perceptive of you

Shelby: Girl, you better not be bringing that look anywhere near me, I am having too good of a day for that!

Erika: (Going over her) Good news on the kelp tests?

Shelby: GREAT NEWS ON THE KELP TESTS, TAKE A LOOK

    The two go over the data.

Erika: Excellent results on the Giant Kelp... you might have to recheck the Understory Kelp, however

Shelby: I realize that - why else do you think I'm here on a Saturday?

Erika: Because you love me?

Shelby: AHA - you are a good girl but no amount of love can bring me into work on a weekend

Erika: (Smiling) Except for results like these

    The two chuckle and continue their work

Shelby: So, did you hear about the dead men on Celoso Beach?

Erika: Does this involve a priest, a rabbi, and a sailor?

Shelby: This is not a joke

Erika: Oh

Shelby: Captain Craig just called

Erika: Uh-huh

Shelby: It turns out one of the men was a father of a girl in my son's school

Erika: That's a shame

Shelby: Anyway, he wants to talk to you about the situation

Erika: As usual

Shelby: The press will, as well

Erika: (Rubbing her forehead) Sandy can play "Dr. Soundbite" for the university today

Shelby: Aren't you feeling well, Erika?

Erika: Not you, too

Shelby: Forgive me for giving a monkey's crap!

Erika: No, it's just... I'm a little tired

Shelby: THEN WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? - SPEND YOUR WEEKEND RESTING OR HAVING FUN... NOT WORKING

Erika: I could say the same to you

Shelby: (Taking off her lab coat) I'm heeding that very advice and leaving

Erika: Kage needs you at polo practice today

Shelby: Captain Craig already asked me, that's where I'm going now - you should, too!

Erika: (Preparing some beakers) No thanks, I need to do this

Shelby: Very well then, I'll see you Monday

Erika: Goodbye, Shel

    A few moments later, after making sure she's alone, Erika closes the blinds and locks the lab door. Taking out a syringe, she draws blood from herself and then collects a urine sample. Later in the day, she takes out a black & white speckled log book from her leather satchel, everything inside is written in Prakrit.

 "ERIKA'S JOURNAL"

Complete Morph #24

WHITE BLOOD CELL COUNT: 6.84 x10E3/uL
RED BLOOD CELL COUNT: 4.38 x10E6/uL
HEMOGLOBIN: 12.0 g/dL
HEMATOCRIT: 37.1%
SODIUM: 137 mmol/L
POTASSIUM: 3.5 mmol/L
CO2 CONTENT: 25 ol/L
ALKALINE PHOSPHATASE: 98 U/L

After total saltwater submersion, the morph occured within 6.4 seconds, compared to the last one at 7.1 seconds. Mean water temperature was 59 F. Total time of the morph was approximately 3 hours without a resubmergence. The recovery time continues to lessen, however, dehydration is still a problem.

Personal Note: I'm not as dizzy today but slight nausea and a transient migraine persist. I remember all of my actions while transmogrified. Part of me wishes I didn't. The charge of my trident continues to be an issue. Unfortunately, electrical engineering is not my forte. A larger issue looms, and her name is Morrigan McBride. I'm almost certain that she was unaware of my presence but I cannot be entirely sure. Further observation is required.
 

    The lab phone rings simultaneously with Erika's cell phone. The woman lets them ring for half a dozen times and then finally picks one up.

Erika: Hello, Griffin

Griffin: I was going to get you, one way or the other

Erika: What do you want?

Griffin: Have lunch with me?

Erika: Aren't you at practice?

Griffin: Have a late lunch with me after practice?

Erika: Sorry, I need to help out my father this afternoon

Griffin: Have an early dinner with me after you work with Karl?

Erika: (Sighing) Griffin

Griffin: Say yes, say yes, I know you want to, say yes!

Erika: If I agree, will you leave me alone until then?

Griffin: YES

Erika: Alright, pick me up around 5:30 - goodbye, Griffin

    Inside his stately, Neoclassic office, Griffin Martel leans back in his chair with a smug smile. His assistant, a large Samoan man, enters carrying an athletic bag and polo mallet.

Asst.: Are you ready, Sir?

Griffin: Those three little matters we had this morning... have all traces of their employment been eliminated?

Asst.: Taken care of, Mr. Martel

Griffin: (Getting up to leave) Good

Asst.: We still don't know who... or what... killed them

Griffin: A puzzle I look forward to solving... a problem I look forward to eliminating!

  

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