The Clean Kill

June 27, 2015:

Betsy, Rose and Nate investigate a murder and find a serial killer

Croton Falls, Westchester

Outskirts of a hamlet in New York

Characters

NPCs: Tom Corsi, Mr. Clean (in flashback)

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Hate crimes targeting mutants are a growing problem in the US. As the number of mutants grows and public awareness increases, hiding becomes harder, and hate groups organize.
The Friends of Humanity, Humanity Last Stand, The Right, The Purifiers, The Church of Humanity, The Sapiens League. More organizations seem to form every day, and some are growing at an alarming speed. Some of them are outright terroristic and treated as so by the US government. Others hide under legal fronts claiming being just concerned citizens, but keep armed militias that secretly harass or even murder mutant whenever they can.
Then, there are some apparently independent murderers. Case to point, what has happened today in the hamlet of Croton Falls, not ten miles from Xavier’s School. This particular killer has killed at least a score times in the past year, but never this far north. He always targets families with children, always when one of the spouses is a mutant and the other a human. He kills the adults and the children using flamethrowers.
That is horrifying enough. What is also alarming is that the killer usually hits powerful alpha or gamma class mutants. Those are the kind of mutants that most anti-mutant thugs scrupulously avoid because they can fight back. It is easy to beat up a mutant with blue skin, but not so easy if said mutant is bulletproof and can lift ten tons.
This was the case of Gina Taylor. She was blue and could punch through a brick wall. Moreover, she was a graduated of Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters and quite able to defend herself. But she left the school five years ago to raise a family with her husband, a country doctor.
She died last night, along with her husband, Anthony, and her children Charles and Moira, aged 4 and 2. And this is why Nate, still sore after the attack by the purifiers to the concert in New York just a few days ago, has asked Rose and Betsy to come with him to investigate and see if they can find the killer.

Betsy can't fly without an airplane. It's a bit of a rankling issue for her now and then, particularly when associating with teammates who can rip across the countryside at mach-plus speeds with a thought.
On the other hand, her newly modified Aston Martin Volante gets going so fast that it's a pretty good /substitute/ for flying now and then, and on some of the highways going out into the boondocks of New York state, Betsy pushes her awareness out to scan for cops and opens the giant V12 engine to full throttle, the exhaust dump screaming behind it like an air-raid siren. If she had more road, it's not impossible they'd be approaching a groundspeed sonic boom now and then.
A few miles out she kills the exhaust dump, then hits the 'running silent' mode, communing with Nate telepathically to dial in to the location.
~Linking in,~ she tells him. The offer of a psychic helping hand is extended to Rose, but knowing her preference for operating solo, Betsy makes no effort to drag the woman into their psychic converation unless she's willing.
She pulls off the side of the road and hides the Aston behind a ramble of buildings at the edge of what might pass for a small town- more like five or six large farms all occupying the same acreage- and steps out of the vehicle, shedding her civilian clothing for the fitted black combat uniform she has recently taken to wearing. She moves to the front of the vehicle and opens the boot, and, unlocking a case, starts attaching various ninja implements to hooks and loops subtly woven into the design of her new one-piece leotard.

The ride is a silent one. Not for the fact that Rose is naturally anti-social, but for the real fact she is gearing up. On missions like this she knows the drill, and it is habit to drop her wall, brick by brick she mentally opens up to let Nate through, and with him Psylocke by default. Jean got punched for taking liberties, and she'd do the same to anyone else who did not practice patience at the first time. No means no!
But that does not nullify the placid look upon Ravager's face, the half-mask is perched atop her head, that mass of white hair pulled back into a large ponytail that still hangs below shoulder blades in the high prop of ancient warriors. The suit that she wears is one of known make. Reinforced black leather, scale maille down the sides from beneath arms, over hips and thighs to where knee high boots are lashed and buckled to calves. Every bit of attire with precise ribbing and placement for vitals and /give/ - outlined in red hems.
Though going break neck speeds leaves her for simply curling fingers into the seat of the car and stare out the window. Shutting down, shutting out, the glassed over look in single blue ocular says she is not even registering what is going on until they come to a stop. Blink. Back to normal and her fingers peel from the upholstery.
Ravager hates not being in control.
Swinging feet out of the car, heavy soles grind out on earthen floor, straightening and checking tac belt while swords are mounted at her back, the pistols upon each thigh clicked to safety off, the semi-automatic rifle across her back struck to load and ready it as well.
Upon that tac belt and within a pocket a teeny tiny pistol she calls her 'Stinger' charges, the small electrical shock buzz sounding and then dying off as it charged. «Ready.» Sent out to Nate, and Psylocke if she was paying attention to the new mental arrival.

Nate can fly, so he got to Croton Falls half an hour ago. « There is no one here but a few cops » he notes telepathically « supposedly a couple federal agents will come this afternoon, since this killer has attacked in several states. The trail is getting cold, though » obviously he has been reading minds without asking. How rude.
When the women arrive, they can see Nate leaning against a tree a score yards from the charred remains of a two stories family residence, glaring at it. It is still smoking. Police cars from three different departments are parked in the street. No reporters. Hate crimes against mutants are not for the news unless done by some famous super-villain. It doesn’t look like Dr. Doom was involved, though.

~ Nate, do the local bobbies have any leads? ~ Betsy examines her katana carefully- a ninja's weapon, it reflects no light, a shadowy extension of her arm. It's snapped around and drop into the sheather running parallel to her spine, and a short straight-bladed tanto is sheathed horizontally at the small of her back.
She nods at Rose when the other woman indicates she's ready and starts walking along with her towards Nate's location. It doesn't take them long- even if they weren't psychically communing with the telepath, the rising smoke signal would be a good giveaway. Betsy stops within comfortable distance of Nate, shifting her hips over one foot and resting her fingertips on her waist. She scowls at the smoking remains, a dangerous look crossing her amethyst eyes.
"I knew Gina," Betsy says, after a moment. "We were friends. Sort of," she amends. "She is- was- a little older than I was. I thought she was barmy for leaving to raise a bunch of squealing babies. God I miss her," she says, her coldly detached tones in odd contrast to her soulful recollection

« No leads and half of them are thinking Gina got what she deserved. Officer Corsi (Scott’s friend) is here. He seems a good one, but thinks it is a federal case, way over his pay grade » He walks to meet the ladies, Betsy can sense he is again using a telepathic trick so the police doesn’t know he is here. “I want to try a psychometric reading. But I need Bets to give me psychic cover so the cops don’t see me.”

Approaching Nate with Psylocke, she hears the conversation, though staying stoically silent in her own collection of what is going on. Not two feet from leaving the car's side she had pulled down her half mask that surrounds the one milky white bionic eye, covering the scar tissue and reinforcing the socket, for now it remains in normalcy, blinded in the half as she had come accustomed to over the years until the X-Men.
Ravager has nothing to add in, she knew nothing foo the woman, the family.. Only the circumstance and why they are here. "Just let me know when I need to go and where." She states, her eyes sliding from them towards the police.

Betsy nods at Nate and puts a hand to her temple, eyes lidding in focused concentration. Something invisible wraps around Nate like a familiar cloak, and for a moment he doesn't become transparent, but… well, sort of unremarkable.
"Try not to strain me too much, please," Betsy says, in standing meditation and focusing hard on making sure Nate can walk through the police barricades without being noticed. Just as difficult is making sure she doesn't interfere with his own talents- the 'not-notable field' is about as fragile as tissue paper and someone of Nate's phenomenal psychic gifts could blunder through it with a stray thought. She opens her eyes slowly, a bit unfocused, and nods at Nate. She puts her back to Rose. It's not a gesture meant to be rude- quite the opposite, she expresses that she implicitly trusts Rose to guard her while she's consumed with making sure Nate can do his thing.

"I'll try not to, but if I get a reading, I might be incapacitated a few seconds." It is not as if he can control much that facet of his powers. Violent deaths tend to leave an impression, though. An unpleasant one, but usually easy to see.
Sparing a brief smile to Rose, Nate sneaks into the house. Well, not much sneaking possible in full daylight a bright summer morning, but he at least tries not stay in the way of the police as not to strain Betsy's telepathic cloak.
Then he wanders around, touching the floor in a few spots. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. He might be contaminating the crime scene for nothing.
Then it hits him like a speeding truck.

*

Fire * Fear * Anger. Her house is burning, a child is crying, burning. She is burning too, her legs hurt -so- bad. the skin is peeled to the muscle. Horrible burns.
She thought she was too tough for fire, but the killer is using some hideous acid thing that eats away even her super-hard skin.
What it did to her Anthony! The anguish is unbearable.
But Gina is fighting. Trying to fight. She saw the assassin among the smoke. She lounges to the blurry figure that stands among the flames. Contact. But he is incredibly fast, easily tossing her across the room with a simple judo throw. A flash of regret as how rusty five years of peaceful marriage have left the fighting skills she had learned at Xavier. But she never wanted to be a hero.
Gina tries to stand. But as soon as she rises something sharp and cold stabs her chest. A knife. Again her invulnerability fails her? How strong is the killer to be able to do that?
She steps back, chocking. It went deep. So much blood. She is burning. She didn't even see him.
A kick sends her flying against the wall, and the killer stands over her. Now she can see him. Tall, powerfully built, blonde. Looks like a movie star from a 80s action film. He has a flamethrower.
The last thing Gina sees as her eyes melt is the man spraying her with the flamethrower. "You are cleaned, genetic filth," he spits.

*

Connected telepathically. Betsy and Rose also watch the scene, barely filtered by the mind-link, as Nate is nearly overwhelmed by the force of the flashback. It only takes five seconds. The long string of curses that follows takes considerably longer.

Ravager is seeing this as if she is looking through a window, a voyeur unto it all. But instead of also watching she can /feel/? That's not something she has experienced before. Not from outsiders and strangers, just Nate when he allowed her to peer back and she had known him by then. This…
Breath hitched almost like a hiccup, raped in capture in her throat while her stomach knots with the similarities of Gina's feelings and the wails of a child unable to be saved while the offender stands before her… And she is helpless.
As much as Rose wanted it to stop she did not ask for it to, her breaths finally evened, but fingers dug and bit into that tree she had leaned against, the bark chiselling away but fingernails split into its surface while waves of nausea are bit back. Then his face…
«…I've seen him before…» It's breathed out while that small burn settles at the back of her throat and is swallowed. «Disgusting.»
Now at her post she turns her head and spits to rid her mouth.
"Never kill children." She murmurs.

Betsy moans and staggers a bit, clutching her forehead and screwing her eyes shut. It /hurts/. It hurts a lot. She does what she can to keep feedback from rippling around their linkage, but it's the equivalent to screaming in someone's ear when everyone's six inches from one another. She squelches the pain as fast as she can, but no one's fast enough to override a blaring psychic trauma on a linkage.
Talented enough, though, she keeps it from overwhelming her- instantly, almost on instinct, she shunts control of the linkage to a different part of her brain, splitting her focus between controlling the pain impulses and handling Nate's telepathic inscrutability cloak. It wavers briefly, but holds, and she immediately starts sending pain-dampening signals to Rose and Nate to prevent their brains from generating a huge hormone spike to compensate for the psychic trauma.
~Bloody /hell/, Nate,~ she snarls. ~ Turn the volume down, that /hurt/.~ She winces repeatedly and opens her eyes, fingers pressed firmly into her brow, and sweeps her eyes around to make sure the cops haven't keyed to anything.
~ Rose… that face, that seemed familiar. Was that you or me? ~ she asks the woman, wincing despite herself again at the memory of pain. ~ Bugger, give me a minute- I need to get myself centered,~ she admits, struggling to stabilize the connection and her teammates at the same time.

« It is always like this. For me. Fucking psychometics » grumbles Nate, stumbling out of the burnt down house. A couple cops seems to almost hear him, and go snooping. But Betsy restores the telepathic cloak just in time and they fail to see him. « That guy needs to die » states the young man bleakly, rejoining the women. He is bleeding from his nose.

Ravager's gaze lifts when Psylocke speaks to her through that link, taking a moment to coke back the bile bordering on the outspurt of rage, ground teeth making inhales that of a hiss.
"I have seen him on the forums." No more, not in her mind, slowly the duo can feel the bricks laying back in place like a well trained mason. low in this instance for their sakes. "I swear it." Though when Ravager spots the blood on Nate her brow creases with the concern and also a silent chiding, he /knows/… But she will spare him the embarassment and does not move, just silently exchanges.
/"Load Last Visited."/ Not to them, but to the bionic addition in her skull that is connected much like a cell phone. Where there's satellite feed… "I am just making sure." She states to them as the sata scrolls and the eye faintly glows.
"because we should have the honors."

Betsy moves towards Nate, reaching out to take his elbow for her stability- and mutual reassurance- as he rejoins her and Rose. More than most, she knows how traumatizing unexpected psychic feedback can be, and a moment of sympathy is extended to the young man.
"I'd like nothing better, Rose. Shall we draw straws, or take turns?" she asks the woman, deadpanning a bit in an awkward attempt to lighten the moment. No one ever accused Betsy of being /funny/, granted, but gallows humor does lend itself to a deprecating mindset like hers.
Her fingers start itching and she fishes of all things a little alcohol pad from her back pocket, looking at the blood crusting under Nate's nose. She reaches for him almost automatically with a critical look in her eye, going to swab the injury clean, then checks herself at the last moment before she actually starts assaulting him with cloying maternal cleanliness. "Sorry," she murmurs, spreading her stopped fingers to let Nate decide if he's going to let her help or take the alcohol wipe for himself.
"Do we have a fix on his current location? Next target?" she asks Rose, glancing at that glowing eye curiously.

Nate looks at the women frowning, and then he realizes, sweeping the blood off with the sleeve of his right arm. Nosebleeds. Another reason not to use his psychometry. But this time he wanted to know very badly.
"Alright, we know how he looks like. We are like eight hours behind, though. He could be anywhere. Uh, no idea who is his next target. Maybe we should check nearby motels and cabins? He might have been spying the Taylors, and a guy looking like him might have drawn some attention?" Nate: not a great detective.

Ravager's glare is at everything and nothing all at once as she is trying to finish what she is reading and make sense of it, though when she comes back to and Psylocke is trying to 'mother' the blood of Nate a small suggestive smirk tugs with a light snort of a laugh. There and gone though befiore she gets to talking. "He isin the databases I use for… my other work." A glance to Betsy, as she knows what that is now after a run in prior with Sabretooth that had worlds colliding, but it worked out for the best… Maybe.
"He leaves no hints, his page is a philosophers nightmare. I could bait a hook, but if he takes it.." A rise and fall of a leather clad shoulder. "Given the timing, even I would not bite and if I did it would be with extreme caution. We would have better luck and faster turnaround if we put feet to pavement and tracked him. First thing. Pattern. We need a map."
Ravager had doubts in a pattern, but it was like IT. /Is your machine plugged in?/ Step one. Be a simpleton. Step two, dig in. Step three… Let's hope he doesn’t have a family of his own…
"He's big enough for us all to have a piece and pull." Rose states in response to Psylocke, the smile not one of jesting, this was work and it bore a darker light.

Betsy gives up when Nate ruins his outfit(!!!) with a sleeve, but passes him the wetwipe anyway, refocusing on the matter at hand. She listens to Rose attentively, thinking, keeping an idle eye on the 'somebody else's problem' field that buffers them from passers-by. It's a small town in New York, and they're wearing spandex and body armor- they'd stand out a bit. She meets Rose's eye, and nods understanding. She does know. She also suspects that Rose might know who /she/ was. Thus far, it's working out nicely for both of them to just go on pretending like the other didn't have a very sordid and not-nice history of violence.
"Protocol would be to go to ground," Betsy says in neutral, thoughtful tones. "Rest. Rearm. Acquire a new target. I don't think he's working off a clock- this all seems very personal to him. My thought would be to float a target out there and make it as appealing as possible without arousing his suspicion," she suggests. "We need someone who can be a convincing target to get his attention, to follow around and stalk. He's very studious, if insane. This will be a hard sell."

It is just a little blood in the uniform. It has already soaked more blood that Nate has inside right now already. Mostly Nate's blood. Good thing he can do the telekinetic clothes trick. The wet wipe is nice, though, it draws a small smirk from his lips. He listens to Rose and Betsy, and frowns. "Mutant Town would be full of targets. But this guy favors flamethrowers, families and powerful mutants. I don't know. He would go hiding to plot the next strike, you say? You know who would know the pattern and all the killings? The feds that are coming this afternoon. We can check their minds, I guess. I still would like to make a sweep of the area meanwhile."

There is a mutual regard for Betsy, it says as much the platinum haired assassin is working with her. Teams are not her thing, but this one… It fits, for more reasons then one. "I can track, if he left anything even remote I will pick up on it, until then I will scan the coordinates of the places he has been and once the Fed's and their brains leave with you two plundering them for other information, we can find the best course.."
Though Betsy's tactic may work if they got someone loud enough to play a part of the part. "A family. Do we know a couple we can make the poster family for loud, proud, and mutant? Plant children in the open but behind closed doors… Not there. A perfect trap." A look between the two as right now they are all proverbially grasping at the very straws for dibs on a murderer.

The FBI agents are a rather tired-looking pair of agents in their 50s. They have made a rather good job gathering information about the killer. Mr. Clean. Real name Paul Botham. Suspected member of the Church of Humanity. Suspected meta-human (but they aren't sure).
They know all the murders in Xavier databanks plus a couple more, plus a dozen more that didn't involve using a flamethrower on families but nevertheless place Mr. Clean in the area. His kill record might be close to one hundred, with half of them confirmed mutants and the rest humans that associated with mutants.
They also think they are not being given the resources to hunt down a very dangerous killer because his victims are mostly mutants and mutant families. If he is a suspected super-human, why isn't the SRD involved? Because they don't want him caught.
Business as usual.

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