Year One: Duquesa Bay

"Confirmation and Denial"

Slowly strolling along the golden sands of Beacon Point Beach, Erika finds a spot to settle at and begins to unfold several maps and a star chart.

Erika: (Reading a book and using a compass) It's starting to make a little more sense now, this is definitely the sphere... ugh, this is NOT the time for a headache!

Sensing someone in back of her, she whips around to find a smiling Griffin dressed in his business suit with his shoes and socks off. He slowly sits down next to her and begins to rub her shoulders.

Griffin: Let me help you with that

Erika: (Not protesting) Thanks

Griffin: (Looking at the charts) Taking up astronomy now?

Erika: It's a simple diversion

Griffin: (Intensifying his technique) There are others, you know

Erika: (Turning to him) So, how goes the PR battle with "The Maleeva?"

Griffin: (Losing the mood) It's being handled

Erika: I'm sure father is thrilled with KJ's involvement

Griffin: What involvement?

Erika: Exactly

Griffin: You run circles around your brother when it comes to business sense, we could always use your input

Erika: Alright... stop using the ships to run illegal guns

Griffin: (Taken aback) We had no idea that was happening!

The von Meer daughter tosses him a look and returns to her book.

Griffin: Listen, why don't we go grab some lunch?

Erika: I'm not that hungry

Griffin: Dinner later?

Erika: If I say maybe, will you leave me alone?

Griffin: Only if it's an honest maybe

Erika: Damn - seriously, tomorrow night would be better

Griffin: Great, I'll make reservations - where would you like to go?

Erika: You pick... as long as it's not seafood

Griffin: (Getting up) I'll pick you up at 7:00

Erika: Goodbye, Rif

Griffin: (Kissing her on the cheek) Have fun with your charts

Erika: I always do

Later that afternoon inside Muldoon's, Gracie and Morrigan chat over lunch as Lieutenant Fiore, with guitar in hand, sets up for her evening gig.

Anita: (Going over to the two and smiling) Hello girls, do you have any requests?

Gracie: I suppose Fatboy Slim is out of your range

Morrigan: I have a request... tell me everything you know about what happened on the Maleeva

Anita: (Walking away) Heh, if you want some Stevie Nicks, let me know

Morrigan and Gracie smirk at each other as the lieutenant returns to the small stage area.

Morrigan: (Picking at some of Gracie's fries) I have to say, that editing job you did on our piece yesterday was brilliant!

Gracie: Of course, what else would it be?

Morrigan: (Turning serious) Have you heard anymore from your source on the train wreck tape?

Gracie: (Equally as serious) No, and that's starting to worry me - I've left several messages for him

Anita's raucous laughter causes them to turn in her direction.

Gracie: (Turning back to Morrigan) No new leads on what really went down on that ship?

Morrigan: (Still observing Anita) Not yet

Gracie: Why don't you try KJ for some inside scoop?

Morrigan: I could but I KNOW Fiore is hiding something and so is Phelps - it's just a matter of cracking their eggs at some point

Gracie: HA, that's some image - thankfully, not enough to ruin my appetite

Zach saunters in and heads for their table.

Morrigan: (Reading his shirt) Well, that's about to change

Zach: (All smiles) Ladies

Gracie scans his black shirt with white lettering - "I only listen to the voices in my pants."

Zach: Like the shirt?

Gracie: Tell me, does one of them sound like a foghorn?

Morrigan: (Laughing) Ouch

Zach: Not bad, not bad - whoa, look at all the lickity chicks lining up for the lieutenant, has she even sung yet?

Gracie: If you call it singing... no

Zach: (Still eyeing Anita's groupies) I hope she's considerate enough to bring home a leftover for Captain Crunch

Gracie: Yeah, he needs to get over her sister... her married sister

Morrigan: (Raising an eyebrow) So does KJ

Zach: Are you going to help him with that, Morri?

Morrigan: I'm not sure yet

Zach: I think I'll grab a beer, do you two want one?

Gracie: In the middle of the afternoon?

Zach: Yep

Gracie: I know, I just had to say it - bring me back a light draft

Zach: M&M?

Morrigan: No thanks, I still have my iced tea

The two watch the Daily Beacon reporter amble up to the bar.

Morrigan: (Looking at her watch) Speaking of KJ, I need to meet him in a little bit

Gracie: Where are you two going?

Morrigan: He's taking me for a "sunset hike" in the Kiyomis

Gracie: OOH, major make-out place... according to Zach

Morrigan: Actually, I am more interested in the background of the area - I have a strange feeling about it and I don't know why

Gracie: Aw, not more funky dreams again?

Morrigan: Not yet

Gracie: McBride, you're sad

Morrigan: I know

Gracie: Well, you better get going soon, there's a storm due tonight

Morrigan: Really?

Gracie: Ya know, it would be wise if you watched your own newscast - sure, Austin can be annoying at times but he's very accurate when it comes to the weather... and it's supposed to be pissing buckets later

Morrigan: (Throwing her napkin on the table) Great!

Zach: (Returning) I heard the word "piss" - what did I miss?

Morrigan: (Jumping up) All of this talk has inspired me, I'll be right back

As she enters the bathroom and selects the lesser of two evil stalls, her cell phone begins to ring.

Morrigan: Yes?

The somber voice of Justine Mirabello is heard.

Justine: Hello, Morrigan - I just wanted to let you know that, to my UTTER AMAZEMENT, the test results your SCU contact did are 100% valid

Morrigan: (To herself) Nice job, Tim

Justine: And thanks for dinner the other night at Le Petite Bistro

Morrigan: I appreciate you taking the time to confirm these findings

Justine: Please be sure to tell Zach how much I ENJOYED Le Petite Bistro and how I wouldn't mind dining there again

Morrigan: Heh, no problem

Justine: On a serious note, you seem like a good person... I don't want you to end up as my job

Morrigan: What?

Justine: These results frighten me and, you can ask Zach, it takes A LOT to frighten me... science can explain 90% of what's out there and explain it relatively well, but there's 10% we cannot even touch yet and this falls directly into that category

Morrigan: Can you even call it a category?

Justine: We can't touch it, we're not even close to touching it and I, quite frankly, don't want to touch anything that touches it, understand?

Morrigan: Unfortunately, I do

Justine: Why don't you go back to investigating defective teddy bears or something?

Morrigan: Can't, I'm more curious than ever now

Justine: Normally, I would be too, but something in my gut - which I RARELY RARELY listen to anymore - is doing backflips

Morrigan: Are you sure it's not the frog legs from Le Petite Bistro?

Justine: Oh, and one final thing - which I'm sure will come as no surprise to you... the bodies from the Maleeva all share similar characteristics to the museum victims, as well as the Celeso Beach boys

Morrigan: (Sighing) Thanks, goodbye Justine

Walking home from school and taking the long way through the cemetery by the sea, Penny and Jeremy share an apple and a kiss. They sit under a huge marble monument with a majestic angel looking down on them.

Jeremy: (Nibbling Penny's nose) Are we cool again?

Penny: (Holding his hand) For now

Jeremy: I'm really sorry about not being there for you at the museum

Penny: Forget about it and move on

Jeremy: How's your mom doing?

Penny: Still trying to play superwoman - how's your mom?

Jeremy: Doing the same

Penny: (Looks around at the tombstones) "Beloved wife and mother" - is that all we're supposed to be?

Jeremy: I see just as many "beloved husband and father"

Penny: Yeah, but you also see "honorable soldier," "community leader," "esteemed inventor"... I want mine to read "feared businesswoman and creature of the night"

Jeremy: First, you need to pass high school

Penny: (Flopping backwards on the ground) Not you, too - what do I need stupid school for? - I have a genius IQ, not to mention my family's fortune and business connections

Jeremy: What if your family cut you off? - then what?

Penny: (Sitting back up and grinning) My family would NEVER cut me off - I hold a massive guilt leash around both of their necks

Jeremy: (Scoffing) Well, you'll never fully appreciate the joys of the real world until you choose between paying the gas or the electric bill

Penny: (Going into her purse and pulling out some money) Here, Merry Christmas

Jeremy: (Scowling) It's not Christmas

Penny: OK, Happy Ramadan then - whatever, just take the fucking money!

Jeremy: I don't say these things for you to give me charity

Penny: It's NOT charity... it's a gift

Jeremy: That helps!

Penny: Look, I don't need it, my family sure as hell doesn't need it - and if this amount means your family gets both gas and electricity for a month, then who are you to be offended?

Jeremy: (Begrudgingly taking it) Fine

In his black mini-truck, Brad slowly drives by the cemetery gate and honks at them.

Brad: (Shouting out of his window) Hey Pen, are you going to the Iron Party tonight?

Penny: (Holding Jeremy's hand up) Yes, WE are going to the Iron Party tonight

Jeremy: Why don't you try hanging out with people your own age, old man?

Brad: Why don't you try owning a real ride, baby boy - by the way, LOVE those fuzzy orange pants... very masculine!

Penny: SCREW OFF, BRADLEY

Brad: (Driving away) ONLY IF YOU'LL HELP ME, PENELOPE

Penny: (Getting up) C'mon, Jere, let's go

Jeremy: He's stalking you

Penny: Don't be dramatic

Jeremy: Admit it, you like Brad

Penny: I DO NOT

Jeremy: Yeah, you do!

Penny: He totally repulses me

Jeremy: People can be attracted to and repulsed by someone at the same time

Penny: I'll admit to liking Brad if you'll admit to liking Gracie

Jeremy: (Unnerved) GRACIE? - dude, she's my friend and music mentor

Penny: Uh-huh

Jeremy: Knock it off

Penny: Make me

The two begin to tickle and kiss each other. The Renselier daughter suddenly spots Erika running across the sands.

Penny: (Taking off after her) There's Rikka, I got to go tell her thanks for trying to help me with my classes - I'll see you later at the party?

Jeremy: (Heading in the opposite direction) For sure

Penny: You better not bail on me this time!

As Penny reaches the sand, Erika has disappeared from her sight.

Penny: (Scanning around) ERIKA... HEY ERIKA, WHERE DID YOU GO?

After she walks along the beach for a few minutes, she stumbles across a pile of Erika's clothes and books hidden behind a dune.

Penny: (Picking up her shirt) This really odd

She suddenly feels a presence in back of her.

Penny: (Turning around) Did you decide to go for a swim au natural?

A grinning Brad winks at her.

Brad: Not yet but I could be convinced

Penny: AW MAN, GET LOST

He slowly approaches her, saying nothing.

Penny: I'm looking for Erika - have you seen her?

Brad: (Glancing at the discarded clothes) No, but I sure wouldn't mind

Penny: Pig

He grabs a hold of Penny and kisses her hard.

Penny: (Semi-resisting) OW... your stubble hurts

Brad: I thought you fetish chicks like that kind of thing?

Penny: I'm not into fetishes

Brad: (Pulling her into an embrace) So, you're a poser?

Penny: (Allowing herself to be felt up by him) Hardly

The two resume kissing.

Penny: (Wrapping her legs around him) Creep

Brad: (Carrying her behind a dune) Freak

Inside the caverns beneath the Kiyomis, several hooded figures gather in a circle illuminated by a single flame. After a round of rhythmic chanting in Patristic Latin, the hooded woman with the coral fingernails approaches the center of the circle and holds open her left hand. On her palm is the clasp from the Duquesa's Tears. It slowly begins to levitate and spin.

Hooded Woman: We are one step closer... but the next move will be theirs!

All of the other members fall to their knees and bow.

Hiking along the trails of the Kiyomis, Morrigan and KJ take a break and perch themselves on an escarpment overlooking the entire Santa Conchita Valley and the Pacific Ocean.

Morrigan: (Watching the sunset) This is nice

KJ: (Watching her) Yes, it is

Morrigan: Thanks for inviting me, KJ, I haven't been on a hike since I moved out here

KJ: So, how do you like the area?

Morrigan: It's lovely - as a native Californian, I can appreciate the chaparral, however, I do miss the lush green and pine trees of Montana

KJ: (Putting his arm around her waist) Well, we'll just have to go to Lake Tahoe some weekend and take care of that

Morrigan: (Leaning into him) Sounds nice - wow, look at how the colors are reflecting on the bay

KJ: Mmm

Morrigan: You know, Gracie warned me that this was a major make-out place... according to Zach

KJ: Every place is a make-out place for Isaacson

The two share a small laugh.

KJ: According to legend, it was also a make-out place for Ernesto and Leticia

Morrigan: (Baffled) Who?

KJ: You've been here all of this time and you don't know the legend of Duquesa Bay? - and you call yourself a journalist!

Morrigan: I've been a little busy

KJ: True

Morrigan: Give me the Cliff's Notes version

KJ: Leticia Maria Cabrera del Aragon was a duchess and blood relative to the King of Spain - she was married off to the best admiral in the fleet, Bernardo Martinez - he was also a huge asshole

Morrigan: Every good story needs an asshole or two

KJ: He cheated on her, physically abused her, and used her family's money for his own gain - well, one of his business ventures was a gold mine out here in the nueva territories - because he traveled so much, he wanted to make sure his investment was protected - no one would dare harm a duchess, let alone a relative of the king, so he forced Leticia to leave her family and live out here in their hacienda

Morrigan: Bad Bernardo!

KJ: Leticia was even more miserable than before but found solace in the mission - it was there that she met Padre Ernesto

Morrigan: The forbidden love interest, ooh

KJ: They enjoyed teaching the natives as well as rutting like rabbits - Bernardo eventually found out about it and hunted down Ernesto

Morrigan: (Dramatic) Duh duh DUH

KJ: May I continue?

Morrigan: By all means

KJ: The admiral beheaded the monk-no-more and rowed a clueless Leticia out into the middle of the bay under the pretense of giving her a special gift

Morrigan: Why can't men give gifts without strings attached?

KJ: Would you like a breath mint?

Morrigan: There is a string attached there

KJ: Hee hee, anyway - he opened the sack and pulled out a dazzling pearl necklace and placed it around her neck - he then pulled out the head of her lover and forced her to hold it while he shot three holes in the bottom of the boat and swam off

Morrigan: That's just wrong

KJ: The duchess couldn't swim, the boat slowly sank, and she drowned - the people on shore said they could hear her wailing for Ernesto and praying for mercy for hours - weeks later, they found what was left of Leticia's body on Celoso Beach, the necklace still around her neck... the skull of Ernesto has yet to be recovered

Morrigan: What about Bernardo?

KJ: That's another story for another time - now, you either found this really horrific or really romantic... which one?

Morrigan: (Half smile) Both, I suppose

KJ: (Bending in to kiss her) Stick with the romantic side right now, please

Morrigan: (Returning the kiss) Alright

The two continue to kiss as a light rain begins to fall.

Morrigan: (Stopping and looking up) Wait a minute, I didn't even see these clouds on the horizon

KJ: (Getting up and putting his jacket over her) It's rolling in from the southeast, let's get out of here before it really opens up

The two trot quickly back to their cars in the parking area. KJ's pager goes off as the rain comes down harder.

KJ: (Sheepish) Um, I'm sorry but I need to take off - Ona Rosa wants me in on this deposition she's doing

Morrigan: Right

KJ: Can we meet up later?

Morrigan: I'm actually a little tired

KJ: (Getting into his car) How about tomorrow night then?

Morrigan: I'll give you a call and let you know

KJ: Aren't you taking off?

Morrigan: In a minute, I need to get some brochures from the park ranger

KJ: OK, I'll see you... I had a great time, Morri!

Morrigan: (Watching him drive off) Yeah

The storm intensifies as she walks up to an information kiosk and then returns to her car with a few pamphlets. An uneasiness envelops Morrigan as the hairs on the back of her neck begin to prickle.

Morrigan: Not again

She frantically rummages through her glove compartment and grabs a hold of a flashlight.

Morrigan: DAMMIT - I forgot to get my freaking gun back from the CHP

Emptying everything out of her backpack and purse, Morrigan finds her Swiss Army Knife and opens the tiny blade.

Morrigan: Oh yes, this will do the trick - stay back or I'll stab you... or open a wine bottle and clip your nails!

Now totally dark outside with rain coming down in sheets, Morrigan debates whether to investigate the eeriness or just start up the engine and leave. As she reaches for the keys, a hooded figure stands before her car and beckons to her.

Morrigan: (Gasping) OH MY GOD... what do I do?

Suddenly, the figure floats off into the bushes. Morrigan reluctantly gets out of the car and follows with her flashlight and knife firmly in hand.

Morrigan: I'm insane, I'm insane, I'm insane

Upon reaching the mouth of a cave, the brunette inhales deeply and clenches her teeth. Suddenly, her flashlight begins to fade.

Morrigan: That's it, I'm going back!

As she turns around, Darkfin stands directly before her, eyes blazing in front of her face.

Darkfin: There is no going back

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END OF YEAR ONE!

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