CW: Strong language, adult situations, violence, blood, gore, domestic abuse, murder jokes, sex (yes, all in the same chapter)
How late is this chapter? Let me count the days.
I’m sorry, y’all. I have been completely and utterly overwhelmed at work and with home renovation stuff. Every time I open WordPress, I want to cringe because I’m also way behind on responding to comments and leaving comments on everyone else’s fantastic lits. Just know I think you’re all incredible, I’m blown away by your observations, and I LOVE reading your shit, even if I can’t get myself together to tell you about it (and pester you with my insane theories).
I think it’s pretty clear that I got in my head about this chapter. I rewrote it 7 (YES SEVEN) times, and I’m still not sure it’s good. Although, what even is “good” anymore? I agonized over screenshots and spent approximately 8 billion hours uploading everything because I kept looking at it and finding “mistakes.” Some lovely simmers gave me great advice about overthinking, so you can finally read it.
TBH, I know I’m burning out because I am trying to do too much. My job is creatively demanding. It’s very cool and exciting, and I love it, but holy shit, I am exhausted. In addition to that, I’ve got a bunch of home renovations going on, I’m DMing for my longtime D&D group, and I’ve got some ideas for machinimas that I’m super pumped to make but require a very insane amount of prep work.
I want to spend more time playing, reading, and generally getting inspiration without feeling guilty about the next chapter’s screenshots. The only way that will become possible is if I temporarily move to a monthly schedule, so that’s what’s happening! I’ll beef up my posts if I start to build a bank of chapters or things slow down in other areas. But for now, expect this story to come out monthly.
And yes, Chapter 7 is already done (wink, wink).
I now return you to your regularly scheduled BBD AU craziness.
Planet Honey Pop, San Myshuno
“My first day back on the job, and they stick me with a smoking corpse? I must have pissed somebody off,” Taryn joked.
“It’s good to have you back,” Bella mumbled, her mind spinning.
“Uh-huh, sure. You seem distracted; what’s going on?”
Werewolves. Sims working for some kind of supernatural cover-up agency. Bella shrugged. “Just Mortimer.”
“Spouses,” the Medical Examiner shook her head. “Always on you about something. That’s why I cut mine loose.”
“You and Fred are splitting up? I’m sorry.”
“Please,” she waved a hand, “I’m only sorry we were so much of a cliche. Too many late nights, too many nightmare cases. Anyway, we’re looking at a struggle. The perpetrator knocked Johnny into the bubble blower and struck him with a weapon. See the plasma spatter? The victim fell back here,”—she pointed at the ground—”where he combusted.”
“Just like Eliza.” Bella scanned the room. “Is there passionfruit flavor in that bubble blower?”
“Spot on,” Taryn raised her eyebrows. “Lucky guess?”
“Another case, similar MO. Was Johnny taking some hits before the altercation?”
Taryn made a note. “I’ll have it tested for saliva. Why?”
“We have a working theory that the killer is drugging his victims with a bad strain of passionfruit.”
“I suppose an overdose could raise the internal body temperature. It would be hard to time it. I’d need more information about the flavors on the illegal market.”
“We’ll start running down dealers,” Bella assured her.
One of the young officers that had been dusting for prints cleared his throat. “You guys should probably bring in Salim Benali. He’s a low-level dealer, but I shadowed the vice squad for a few months, and they used him as an informant.”
The name was familiar, but Bella didn’t know why.
“Is he rich?” Deacon asked, scrolling through his camera.
“No,” the officer looked confused. “Why?”
“Footprints,” her partner looked up. “Hella fancy shoes. Can’t be Johnny’s ’cause he didn’t walk out of here. Oh, and he totes has a necklace just like Eliza’s.”
Alice’s Cottage, Windenburg
“I go walking!” Gwendolyn made a show of pulling on her tiny book-bag. “You sit.”
Alice waved the flashcard. “No, that was just an example. Mommy is going for a walk, but you’re staying here. ‘Walk’ makes a wah sound, so this is a ‘W.'”
Gwendolyn scowled, and Alice bit back a smile. The tiny terror wanted so badly to be invited on this date. “It’s a hike; you won’t like it,” Alice promised.
Hiking was another one of her free date ideas. She meant to keep things with Vlad in the realm of “just sex,” but her stupid heart refused. Against her better judgment, she let him take her to an expensive nectar bar and rent out a restaurant for dinner. In return, she’d taken them to a cheap matinee movie and coffee.
At least she was great in bed.
“Alright,” Alice stood and clapped her hands, “Let’s clean up before Mrs. Daily gets here, and—”
Her phone rang.
“Salim?” She moved into the kitchen. “I called you ten times, dude. What is your fucking problem?”
“Whoa, chill,” he laughed, “I got a lot of things going on.”
“Is one of those things child support?”
“What?” He huffed. “Come on, A. You told me you didn’t need my fuckin’ money, you were going to Windenburg to land a dope-ass gig, and that I could take my middle-aged girlfriend and go fuck myself.”
Alice looked around her kitchen. On a good day, she didn’t beat herself up about the things she couldn’t afford. On a bad day, she was desperate. “My gig is not that dope,” she sighed. “I’m just bartending. Gwendolyn needs her vaccines, and I gotta replace the fridge. I need some help.”
The phone made a muffled sound. “You want me to come over there? Hop a flight?”
She preferred dental surgery.
“We could reconnect. Bet your bed is cold. You know I’m good at warming things up.”
“My bed is warm enough!” Alice snapped. “And I don’t need your dick; I need you to send me some fucking money!”
“Oh, I get it,” his tone was like ice, “You got a boyfriend. Why don’t you ask him?”
“He’s not my boyfriend.”
“But he is there. You’re good at making something out of nothing.”
Alice struggled to stay calm. “Salim—”
“No, A. And you better not have some random fuckin’ dude hanging around my kid because you want to get railed and lock somebody else down!”
As if on cue, Gwendolyn toddled into the kitchen. “Snack, mommy! Please and crackers!”
Alice swallowed hard, tamping down the hurt and rage until it settled on a low boil. “No one is around our kid but me and the babysitter.”
“Snack! Snack!” Gwendolyn shouted.
One minute, she mouthed, holding up a finger. “Salim, you still there?”
She knew what he was waiting for. Calm, calm, she thought. “It’s not serious with this guy; I’m just killing time.”
The silence stretched. Words she didn’t feel. A suggestion that made her skin crawl. “Maybe you could come for Gwendolyn’s birthday.” Her hands squeezed into fists. “It would be good to see you.”
He made her wait so long that she thought he’d hung up. “I’ll think about it.”