Heart Shaped Box

Kathryn receives a grisly warning.


A package is delivered to your door. In a normal cardboard box like one would find in any mailing center, the package inside is more discrete. A paper bag, and inside is what appears to be a wad of meat, wet with dark clumps of blood hanging to the creases of the plastic. A heart. A note accompanies the "gift":

"Careful what you wish for. This will be you."

The phone call has been made. The recently-opened package sits on the coffee table in the homely lounge; an innocent little cardboard box amidst the strewn papers and magazines. And Kathryn Emerson herself? Why, she's calmly seated in the doorway of the adjacent dining room with a polished silver steak knife grasped firmly in both hands. Her fingers don't tremble, despite the rather ashen hue of her pallor against the contrast of scarlet tresses. A gaze is levelled upon the front door of her private home, as if expecting a guest… and yet, her sight seems somewhere -beyond- the obvious.

Dilated pupils darken her emerald eyes noticeably. The woman is in shock, even if she doesn't know it yet. Having had the presence of mind to make her calm phonecall was miraculous enough. She's done for now. And things had been so pleasantly quiet, lately. The calm before the storm, one might assume.

"Kathryn?" Gerard's voice rings out from the apartment complex's hallway as he enters. He steps lightly into view, pistol drawn, its muzzle pointed toward a point on the floor as he sweeps the room with his gaze. He ignores the package and the young woman, hunting for corners and other kill-points, checking each area with a quick, intense, glance. And then, satisfied that the room is secured, he moves toward the young woman, still ignoring the package entirely.
Without holstering his pistol, Gerard reaches out to lay his left hand on her shoulder, studying the woman's features. "Hey, sweetheart. Why don't you make us some coffee?" His tone is deliberately calm as he makes the remarkably mundane request. "I'll just go look through the rest of the suite, okay?"

"Nobody's here." Slowly raising her focus toward the detective, Kathryn speaks quietly, but evenly, as she meets his gaze. "And there's coffee in the pot." Beneath the facade of surprising calm - the vacant, wide-eyed sort of calm, anyway - the reporter looks decidedly queasy; barely even seeming to register Gerard's arrival, let alone find much-needed comfort in it.

Looking beyond him briefly, she gestures toward the coffee table with a vague swipe of her makeshift weapon. "It's in there. I didn't touch it aside from opening it, so.." She trails off, shrugging her slender shoulders beneath his light touch. Curious. Presumably, seeing as her apartment is as pristine as ever, it's not a bomb. So what is it?

"Make yourself some coffee, then, sweetie. A lot of sugar. Do it now." Gerard's tone is calm, but he does lock in that commanding note that sometimes slips through his easy-going banter. He squeezes Kathryn's shoulder firmly, locking eyes with her. "You've slipped into shock. Soon you'll start shaking. We need to get your insulin levels up, and caffeine will help with the adrenaline letdown. Go on." His objective explained, Gerard releases Kathryn and moves toward the coffee table.
As he moves, the man holsters his pistol and produces a pair of plastic surgical gloves from his back pocket, sliding them on with a -snap-. He whistles lowly as he stares down at the heart. "Wow." Crouching down, the man cautiously reaches for the attached note, touching it at the corner as he reads. "Somebody is determined to piss me off," he muses quietly before producing a cell-phone and pressing speed dial. "Hey. Yeah, look. I need a forensic guy at Kathryn Emerson's apartment. Uh-huh. And yank me a copy of the surveillance tapes from the building. Interior and exterior. Yep. No, no warrant. No paper trail. Huh? Yeah. She's alive." He hangs up.

Nodding numbly, the redhead hauls herself unsteadily to her feet as Gerard's 'suggestion' filters through her fog-clouded thoughts, whatever they may be. It's not exactly the sort of gift a girl hopes to have delivered to her door, after all. Whatever happened to a dozen roses, or a blood-written note? Romance is so dead. Exhaling a slow breath, she walks into the kitchen, soon followed by the quiet sounds of a cup of coffee being poured, sugar added, mixture stirred. She's remarkably obliging when she's in shock.

Staying where she is, standing at the counter, the young woman listens in silence to the agent's hurried phonecall, cupping a large mug in both palms and blowing across the scalding surface of the beverage inside. Just when she'd begun to think things might just be 'normal', for perhaps the first time ever. Work. Home. Dating. And now this. Talk about a false sense of security. All this passes behind her eyes in the space of a few fleeting moments, failing, as yet, to touch her expression. She can't afford to crack. Not yet. In that sense, her own mind's reaction to the horrific scenario is helping her.

"Alright, honey. I need you to tell me what time you found this. Can you remember the exact moment?" Somehow, Gerard is back in the kitchen, approaching Kathryn at the counter - the man moves swiftly when he needs to. His manner is calm, controlled, low-key - the exact opposite of his usual boisterousness. But there is an anger coiling inside of him, visible in the way his shoulders tense, in the way his left hand clenches and unclenches in a meaty fist. Someone has awoken a demon.
"Once you walk me through the timeline, Katie, I need you to get your files. We - I'm sorry about this - have to go through everything. You've got more than one enemy, and I need to know who they are before I can brace them."

Closing her eyes, steeling herself against the bitter taste and almost uncomfortable heat, Kathryn takes a sip of her coffee as the detective approaches. That done, if only to pacify his wishes, she rests the cup down on the surface, hands still wrapped around it and draws a steadying breath. "It was delivered. I signed for it. Maybe an hour ago." Pausing, she plainly tries to think of further details. Gerard, after all, is a man who loves his details. "I came home from work and put on some coffee. I was going to take a shower and do some research online for an article I'm working on. I signed for the package and left it on the table a little while. Then I opened it and.."

She wavers, just briefly, her lashes flitting downward with her gaze to the surface of her drink, almost obscenely dark against the creamy ceramic mug. "..then I called you." Only then does she actually look -toward- the man, apology and pleading mingling in her green eyes. She doesn't want him angry.. she's not there yet. "I do have a lot of enemies." she agrees, gently, "..but I'm used to that. I'm used to scare tactics. What I'm not used to is body parts being sent to my home. Do you think that.. whoever did this, do you think they killed someone I know? Or did they just happen to -have- a spare heart laying around when the idea came to them?" A slight laugh, bordering on hysterical, bubbles up from her throat. It's promptly followed by a fat tear that rolls down her cheek.

"Hey. Hey." Gerard reaches for the woman quickly with both arms, attempting to draw her against him. "It's going to be alright, Kathryn. I'm not going to let your friends get hurt, alright? And I'm not going to let you get hurt." His tone is confident, soothing, as though he has no doubts in the world on this subject. But the man's eyes still flash with a supressed rage, as hard as he tries to hide it for the moment.
"Just take some deep breaths, okay, kiddo? Slow, easy, breaths. I've got the best guys in the world coming over here to work on this." The detective smells, up close, of bourbon and cigarettes beneath his cologne, as though he had been drinking when the call was made, but he appears perfectly clear-headed.

The young reporter allows herself to be pulled into Gerard's embrace without argument, pressing her face into the hollow of his shoulder to better hide the eventual evidence of her fear and upset. Perhaps fortunately, it keeps her from seeing the man's expression. Doing her best to follow his calmly-uttered orders, she draws and looses a few shaking breaths until the trembling in her shoulders begins to abate. With her senses slowly returning, clearing of the numbing fog brought on by the gruesome package, she inhales deeply of his scent, finally taking some comfort in his simply being here.

For a moment, she lets herself linger. It's a moment longer than she'd ever normally allow. But the lure of feeling safe seems to win over, for once. When she does draw back enough to look up at him, she musters a wan smile, sniffing hard and clearing her throat, just once. "..thank you." Whether she believes him or not, on the subject of protecting her, it's the thought that counts.

"Don't thank me, baby. If I lost you, who would fix me coffee in the middle of the night?" Gerard smiles down at the woman, a quick grin, an attempt to break through the tension of the night. "Listen, odds are, that heart came from a hospital, okay? Break-ins aren't -all- that rare, you know. We just don't advertise it. None of your friends are dead." He reaches up to brush a finger down the woman's cheek as he talks.
"In a few minutes, a guy named Gary Harold is gonna show up. Now, Gary is a big nerd. He isn't going to talk to you. Don't be offended. All that matters to old Gary is his job, okay? He's gonna take some pictures, and make the evidence disappear." Gerard's tone is still comfortably low as he explains what is about to happen, that obsession with details showing through again.
"Once Gary leaves, you're going to notice that there's a van outside the building. That van will contain five very deadly men. They're members of our Special Response Team, of which I'm a member as well. You will be given a panic button. Just in case. Now, those guys are all very young and very handsome. Hands off. You're mine. Okay?" Again, the gentle jest, a hand sliding to the small of the woman's back. "Drink some more coffee, okay, kitten?"

Remaining quite still, Kathryn listens attentively as the detective speaks, his business-like competence working wonders to put her at ease. She doesn't like chaos. Perhaps because she's so often at the center of a shitstorm, self-inflicted as that may be. Gently nodding her understanding, she keeps her eyes on his. There's not so much as a flicker of a smile, though, in response to his tentative joking. Her mind is already elsewhere.

"You're not going to leave, are you..?" The question is soft-spoken but with an underlying urgency, a warning note of fearful panic at the notion. "I don't want to be here by myself." She ignores the prompt about the coffee, leaving it be for now. This is more important. Besides, the shock is fading, replaced by something else. "Will you stay?"

"Eventually, I'm going to have to go shoot someone. But, yes, Kathryn. I'm going to stay." Gerard's tone is mellow, despite his words - the concept of killing someone seems to neither excite nor dismay him. He simply presses his knuckles into the young woman's back. "If I'm going to stay, though, you better pour me some coffee too. Black. Have you ever seen Young Frankenstein?" The non sequitur seems to slip into his stream of talk perfectly naturally.
"Once Gary leaves, you can take that shower and I'll make up a bed on the couch, alright?" Always the gentleman, despite growing evidence that he is enjoying the proximity of the young woman. And at that moment, a gawky-looking young man - barely old enough to be in high school, pimples and all - steps into the apartment, ignores both man and woman, and goes right toward the coffee table. He carries a camera and a bag of tools. "Ignore him, Katie. Trust me, he ignores us."

For a splitsecond, Kathryn seems about to say something further, her lips parting as if to speak. But the timely arrival of the aforementioned youngster halts the words in her throat. Whether it was an argument or an agreement will remain unknown, now. Glancing past Gerard's shoulder, she sweeps one hand back through her hair, tucking it behind her ear and, with a slow inhale, she steps back quietly from the detective.

Settling her focus on the task at hand, she opens an upper cabinet, reaching inside for another mug, identical to the one already on the countertop. "I haven't seen it, no." she murmurs, carefully pouring a second cup of steaming coffee and studiously avoiding Gerard's gaze. "I'm also not sure I'm in a monster-movie sort of mood, now. I may have to play the death-threat card and force you to watch a chick-flick." Once again, her green eyes flit toward the stranger in her living room, then reluctantly back up toward those of the taller man in her kitchen. "..I should.. probably let my 'friend' know what's happened. Maybe he can help."

"Absolutely not." Gerard's tone is the sort that either brooks no arguments or starts a huge one. "I've got no desire to share my case with your 'friend', and I'm pretty sure he and I would end up push-pulling in opposite directions." He accepts his cup of coffee, taking a long sip. "Young Frankenstein's a comedy, not a monster-movie. Mel Brooks. It comes on in.." He glances down at his wrist-watch. "One hour, on AMC." A quick, sideways grin. "I plan my nights around AMC."
Flash. Flash. Gary is over at the evidence, popping photos from every angle. He still hasn't even glanced at the pair in the kitchen. After a few minutes of this, he begins bagging up each individual piece - carefully, delicately, as obsessive as a surgeon checking for missing scalpels.
"I could watch a chick-flick," continues Gerard easily. He doesn't even seem to notice the forensic genius at work. "I got no pride about that sort of thing. Maybe, uh, Friends With Benefits? I bet we could find it online." As if the law doesn't apply to a cop. For shame.

"And he has access to certain investigative avenues that you don't." argues the reporter, resting one palm on the countertop and the other on her hip. "Surely there's no harm in exploring all possibilities? It could be that certain members of his 'community' don't actually -like- either one of us poking around, you know." Kathryn's not angry, that much is obvious. Her tone is reasonable. "..he'll find out anyway, Gerard. You know that." Unable to help another glance toward the living room as the flashbulb starts popping, the young woman sighs, taking up her coffee in both palms again but not sipping quite yet.

"Mel Brooks is fine. Good. Whatever." Dismissing the previous topic - notably without accepting Gerard's blunt refusal - Kathryn finally steps away from the counter, wandering somewhat aimlessly about the kitchen.

Gerard seems about to renew the argument - his jaw is setting in that stubborn way of his - but he glances toward Gary, hesitating, and shuts up. Probably just as well. Taking a long sip of his coffee, the man closes his eyes in a long-suffering manner, exhaling slowly. "Then I need to meet with him. We need to set parameters and lines of communication. And I'm gonna have to call in some favors."
Gary is packing his stuff now, and quietly exits the apartment. Gerard takes this as a cue to move back toward Kathryn, patiently, like a man approaching a spooked animal. "Hey. I remember who you called first, alright? And I appreciate it. I'm not gonna disappoint on this. So you tell me - what do you want to do next? What'll make you feel safe? Want a shower? I'll sit on your bed and pass you a towel through the door. You make the rules."

"Look." Slowly pivoting on a heel to face the detective - then starting a little to find him already standing in front of her - Kathryn presses her lips in a firm line for a moment. "I'm not going to run and tell him, alright? I'll let you try things your way. But.. if it points to vampiric involvement at -any- point, then it falls into -his- jurisdiction. That was the whole point of his claim on me; to keep tabs on anyone who might pose a threat." She searches Gerard's expression for a moment. "I'm not doubting you. I'm really not. I'm trying to -help-, rather than just cause trouble all the time."

Trailing off, the silence announcing the quiet close of her front door, the redhead looks down at her coffee cup, not pulling away from the detective when he returns to their confiding proximity. "..maybe I -should- just quit. If people are so determind to keep their heads in the sand, what's the point of me trying to tell them the truth?"

Gerard lays a hand on the woman's arm, grinning a bit at her words. "Yeah, we should all just fold up and quit because people are fucking morons, right, sweetheart?" His sardonic tone seems intended to sting the woman back into action. "Look, I've thought about quitting every day for seventeen years. Maybe bury myself in a bottle of Jack. Maybe sing a whiskey lullaby. Different days, different ideas. But that's the thing. You and I never quit." He sips his coffee with his free hand, rubbing his thumb into the woman's shoulder lightly.
"Your friend -has- no jurisdiction. Not in my eyes. I'm SAD, baby; if I can't protect you from the supernatural, don't you think you're wasting your tax dollars? But thank you for giving me a shot." He seems sincere enough. "Look, we're two sides to the same coin, right? You shed the light on these guys - and I make sure that whatever you find isn't as bad as it could be."

"Or prove that it's every -bit- as bad." counters the young woman. Setting her mug down, she rakes a hand back through her ruby locks with a harassed sigh, her gaze straying toward the living room. The offending box might be gone but she's still obviously ill at ease. "I just.." She shakes her head, for once lacking words. "I don't know. I guess I'll go take that shower. I feel all.." The shudder speaks for itself.

Looking up into Gerard's eyes the momentary quiet is suddenly deafening. No, she won't quit. She would have done so long before now, if it was going to happen and they both know it.

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