Just Another Murder

September 16, 2018:

A geneticist was murdered and the police has no leads. But the crime has drawn the attention of aun unlikely detective. Was this mutant business? We'll see. Emits by Emma

Brooklyn, NYC


NPCs: Claudine Nakato (GM'd by Emma Frost)


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

An article is buried deep in the Tuesday edition of the Daily Bugle on August 22nd, restoration efforts and positive community feel good stories from Hell's Kitchen still often dominating the front page.

Scientist's Murder Yields No Leads

BROOKLYN, NY (AP) - A community gathered Monday afternoon in a small church to celebrate the life of Bernadine Nakato.

Nakato, a 39 year old Brooklyn native, was found murdered on the front steps of her home last week and the investigation is on-going.

Her family, friends, and neighbors expressed their shock and horror over the death, as Nakato was a pillar in her community. Known by many for her efforts in NYC schools to encourage minorities in STEAM fields, she was a champion for partnerships between schools and scientific organizations and companies. She also was an active member of her church's choir and food pantry ministry.

Authorities say that they presently have no leads and ask that anyone with information please contact Det. Charles Brubaker at…

Which brings us to today. Brooklyn has moved on from Bernadine’s brutal murder, as it must in the day-to-day tyranny of the urgent. There are new monstrosities with which to grapple, new things that rend a tender heart in twain.

It’s the middle of the afternoon on a Friday, and the streets are still fairly quiet with children still in school and so many still at work. The lunch rush has died down, and now it’s a manageable roar across the streets and avenues.

Nate did not pay attention to Nakato’s death. His area of interest is Mutant Town, and there is usually plenty to do there. About 30 people get murdered in New York every month. Not counting the bombing of Hell’s Kitchen this year. Also, the police investigate the murders of humans much more carefully than most mutant killings.

But more recently he found out what Bernadine Nakato did for a living. And his priorities changed.

Rachel and Illyana seem to have the search for Killian under control, so he can spare a few hours to check out this woman’s killing. Maybe he should ask Bishop if he can get the police files too. But later. First step for him is see how she lived.

As Nate travels the street that Bernadine Nakato once called home, it becomes readily apparent where she lived. One of the apartment buildings has a shrine of sorts set up in front of it, with flowers set up in Erlenmeyer flasks and tea light candles set in beakers. There are also just flowers on the ground, pillar candles, and a memorial wreath with her picture has been hung on the wrought iron fence that separates the windows of the basement apartments from the sidewalk at large.

It’s a nicer building, perhaps speaking to the hefty salary she might have commanded.

Aside from the flowers, though, and a large chip that has been blasted out of the step… There’s no real sign of the violence that was here only a couple short weeks ago.

In front of the building is a large moving van, and an apartment’s contents are being loaded into it under the watchful eye of a slender black woman with an edgy pixie cut lightened to a striking copper hue and an overtired four-year old bouncing on her hip.

Nate examines the picture for a minute, trying to figure out what kind of woman was Nakato. Also gives him a minute to scan lightly the minds of the woman and the workers moving furniture. There is a chance they are related to the murderer woman. Maybe a family resemblance with the portrait.

He is not a detective, although he is slowly learning a few tricks on the field. Mostly he relies on telepathy. And sometimes he gets lucky with psychometrics. Hit and miss, with a lot more of miss than hit.

But Nakato worked for a genetic identification company. It becomes a mutant issue when that kind of info can be used against mutants.

Nate doesn’t have to look terribly hard. The woman on the step with the kid, the woman with the strain of dread permeating her and the toddler who will not still are Bernadine’s sister and nephew. It’s moving day, and Nate’s timing is luck. A few more days and the woman, Claudia, would be gone.

She’s pointedly not looking at the memorial arrangement, but she does have to go down the stairs and get out of the way of the movers as a narrow sofa in a striking ikat upholstery gets carried out and moved into the truck.

“Careful with that,” she calls, protective of the piece. A piece covered in fabric Bernadine had brought back after a college internship abroad.

Family moving away from this nice apartment two weeks after the murder.

Of course it might be they can’t afford it any more (and they are quick taking decisions while grieving). Or it has now very bad memories. Or possibly some other excellent and innocent reason to move away. But it might also be Claudia has been ‘invited’ to move away or perhaps she has something to hide.

Nate could simply pick it out from her mind. It would be equivalent to enter in her house and search around for information without the owner ever noticing and not taking anything away. Vigilantes do that kind of illegal trespassing all the time.

That is not really his first choice when dealing with normal people. Instead he keeps himself to her surface thoughts and walks up to the woman and greets her, “good morning. You are Bernadine Nakato’s sister, aren’t you? Could I have a minute of your time?”

The woman, who many might consider striking with her skin the color of umber and bright hair, turns to look in Nate’s direction. Her dark eyes narrow suspiciously. She twists at the waist, not-so-subtly interposing herself between the curly haired boy on her hip and the new arrival.

“Yeah, I’m Claudia. Who are you?”

The movers keep pressing through with furniture, some of it more carefully wrapped than other pieces. But all of it a striking fusion of traditional forms and bold paint and globally inspired upholsteries.

“Nice to meet you, I am Nate,” replies the young man, offering a friendly smile.

It used to be more reassuring a few years ago, when he was a few inches shorter and he had no scars around his left eye. Boyish good looks have been turning rugged too early – the cost of his unruly powers and the vigilante life. But he is a telepath and he still knows how to be charming.

“I am investigating the crime. I am shocked there are so few leads and,” he looks at the men moving the furniture. “It looks as if no one cares enough. I am a bit surprised. Did you live with her?”

“I did,” Claudia ventures cautiously, turning the kid a little further. “If you’re investigating, where’s your badge and card?”

There’s a bounce or two of her hip, and then the woman tilts her head to the side and narrows her eyes in open appraisal. Nate may be charming, but her sister’s death seems to have awakened a new feeling in her. Paranoia.

Is it paranoia, though, if there’s really someone out to kill you?

“A black woman died,” she says, distrusting. “You’d be hard pressed to find someone who cares enough to do more than flip over a couple of pieces of gravel looking for the one who did it.” Nevermind that she was a scientist. That there was money in her account. That she had countless hours of community service to her name. That she had people who loved her.

Nate loses his smile, replaced by a frown. “It matters to me,” he says firmly, folding his arms, “no badge. And I am not a police or a government agent. I am not a private eye either, more like an independent reporter, and my part time work as a stage magician pays better.”
See. Anything pays better than vigilante work.
“But I have a gift for finding out the truth,” he adds, Give me a chance. You have little to lose,” he looks at the moving van. “You are leaving, because you are afraid. Someone killed your sister right here and it was not a random killing. It was because of her work, wasn’t it?”

“Independent reporter, huh.” There’s scepticism in no short supply as Claudia arches one ebony eyebrow. “A little late to the party don’t you think? What paper you with?” It seems that for every question, the mother can offer one or two in return.

“I’m not leaving because I’m afraid, either.” Not that she isn’t afraid. She is, and her increasing speed with which she bounces her kid is an outward indicator of her anxiety and agitation. “Can’t make rent without her. We’re gonna be moving in with my parents.”

“Paper is dead trees, and papers are pretty much finished,” retorts Nate, handwaving the question. He seems to consider her statement, and decide that the rent here must be indeed insane even for New York standards.

But she didn’t wait for her sister corpse to cool down before moving.

He sighs and peers deeper into Claudia’s head. “I didn’t come to investigate until I learned about your sister’s work. There are many eyes on the whole genetics debate right now. And there have been some incidents. People going missing or worse.”

Claudia is—in the way of most normal human beings—an open book with regards to her psychic landscape. It’s not that the apartment is absorbently expensive for the City—although the apartment is certainly one of the nicer ones in this stretch of road, but that she and Bernadine had time-shared taking care of the little boy. Bernadine worked long hours at the Juno lab, but got home just in time for Claudia to pick up a night shift.

Nearly everything came out of Claudia’s hide, and she’s got all the marks around her brain of the exhaustion that comes from satisfying the mortal need for sleep with only half of what is required. A couple of hours during the baby’s nap. Four hours between when she gets home and when she has to be up again to start all over again. Catch up a couple of days on the weekend.

In the wake of the grief that comes of her sister’s death, she’s not sure she’s got anything left at all to spare. Certainly not the spare change to cover the other half of rent. And certainly not the money for daycare. It was Bernadine who was the achiever in the family. It was Claudine who provided the tenderness.

Not that any of that is showing now, her expression nothing but ever-growing suspicion.

“Yeah, I bet. I think we’ve had more than enough of reporters,” she says as he dismisses her concerns, but her meaning goes beyond the last few weeks.

There was another reporter that Bernadine was going to meet. Someone who was going to take action about something that smelled funny at Juno. Juno… now rebranded as Genet-X.

It was a big name. A name that hopefully was going to do something good.

Lois Lane.

And here, a couple of months later, now Bernadine is dead. It grates on several fronts.

“You want me to help you make some big political stink, you are barking up the wrong tree, mister. I ain’t dragging my kid through some circus.”

Nate sighs, nodding at the woman’s words. “No, of course not.”

Spying her like this makes him feel like shit. Here is a good woman dealing with loss and worried for her child. These are the people that need protection, not more grief. “Look, I only want to help.”

Lois Lane? That is indeed a famous reporter he met once. Interesting enough a woman to draw the attention of Sinister himself. And if Bernadine was going to meet her there must have been something important to report.

“And this is not the best place to talk,” he adds, although he is verifying no one is paying too much attention to their conversation. If someone does, there will be some mind-scanning soon.

“And I imagine you must be tired of all the usual questions. So just one and I will leave you alone,” he lets a few seconds pass, and keeps his mind-eye in the woman’s thoughts. “Do you want the people that killed your sister brought to justice, or just gone for good?”

“Bernadine wouldn’t want anything but forgiveness,” comes the swift and thoughtless reply. “She’d want justice.”

And it’s true enough, if the resonance through Claudia’s mind is any indication. If Bernadine would have wanted it, furthermore, then that’s more than enough for her.

She’s glad for the end of questions, her eyes darting back towards a dresser being pulled out in a wrapping of white padding. “HEY,” she shouts around Nate, her expression immediately an open irritation. “WATCH THAT. THAT’S A MOROCCAN ANTIQUE.”

There’s an apologetic turn of her features, mingling with the suspicion in a strange brew of sentiment, as she politely offers to Nate, “Look, I’m sorry. But I gotta…” she nudges her chin in the direction of the movers.

And, to his other concerns, no one seems to be observing this exchange at all, save a protective couple of neighbors across the street who have sometimes let their four year old have play dates with the toddler swaying now on Claudia’s hip and seems to be finally falling to sleep on her shoulder.

Nate nods, giving the woman a quick smile. “Yes, thank you for your time.” Justice and forgiveness? That is a bit of a contradiction, but he will work on it. Although the legal circus seems likely regardless of who are the killers.

If Nate finds them.

Which means going to Genet-X next, since Claudia knows little. And maybe an appointment with one Lois Lane. A trip to the shiny Metro, too. But first…

First he falls on one keen on front of the memorial, mindful not to step on the flowers and touches the ground with two fingers of the right hand, opening his mind to psychic impressions. Murders often leave some. Sometimes they even make sense. Sometimes they don’t leave him with a splitting headache, but those are rare.

Claudia smiles apologetically enough, and then slips past to start micromanaging the movers.

It leaves Nate to do what he needs to do. To kneel, in what looks like a mark of respect to the outside observer. The sister misses it entirely as she hears something break inside and races into the building.

There’s something there.

//Bernadine experiences a sudden flash of horror. She’d been warned. Was this that? Of course, there’s no indication as to who had warned her in the course of the moment, but there is a dearth of surprise that melts away to reveal just a dread.

She tries to get to the steps, to Claudia and her nephew, but her legs aren’t working. Her hands aren’t working. She’s cold. She’s…//

It’s just a moment.

And then it’s gone.

Nate has seen it many times, and felt in his mind happening almost as many. The death of a human being is rarely anything less than depressing, and often traumatic. He stands up paler he was a minute ago, but gets over it quickly.
He has seen it too many times.

There is still a headache, but a flight to Metropolis will help clear his head. Step one, talk to Lois. She probably remembers him as a fellow kidnap victim. Fun times.

Later he should see if he can get the police files. For a murder case they tend to be quite reluctant to share, but the X-Men might have a contact or two that could help.

Then… a visit to Genet-X is warranted.

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