Chapter 2

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Vanessa sighed, her gaze flittered over the endless stream of buildings that seemed to follow the rather worn-down-looking police car that she was in. The police car was as subtle as a freshly popped zit and just as welcome. It sat squat on the rain-washed tarmac, its black paint sun-bleached with age.

After Vanessa found out about her aunt's passing, she could barely register what happened next. It was like her mind had gone numb.

Blank.

Perhaps this was a nightmare that she just wanted to wake up from. Maybe this was just a fragment of Vanessa's crazy imagination. Maybe it was... she didn't even know anymore.

So she did the only thing she could think of, stare bleakly into the chaotic streets of her hometown.

Why? Why did this have to happen to her?

Without her consent, tears started rolling down her face. Her aunt had been in a car accident.

She died.

Vannesa tried to conceal her sniffles, but she must have not been successful because Officer Carter and Officer West glanced at the backseat with a look of concern on their faces. The car decelerated, and she hurriedly swiped away any evidence of her tears before anyone noticed. At least, Vanessa had her fluffy grey rabbit best friend, Popcorn. Suddenly, she sat up straight as the giant mud-colored building of the police station came into view. She watched intently as both officers opened open the car doors.

"Hey honey, are you okay?"

Okay? No. All she could feel, right now, were waves of intense sadness. But Vanessa replied, "I'm fine." in a very unconvincing 'fine' voice.

It was pretty clear that both the officers didn't believe her, and she became more certain about it after the disbelieving but sympathetic gaze from Officer West.

Patty opened her mouth to argue with Vanessa but was abruptly cut off by another wailing police car that was leaving the police station.

"Come on," Officer Carter said in a concerned voice. Patty ignored him and helped Vanessa out of the police car and then crouched to Vanessa's eye level. "Here, take him," Officer West said, handing Popcorn to Vanessa.

A genuine smile erupted from Vanessa's face, for a moment the pain of losing her aunt seemed to seep away before she said in a sly quiet voice, "Popcorn is she"

Patty West looked horrified. "Oh no!" she said, bringing Popcorn with one hand to meet her eyes, her other hand going to her chest dramatically."I am soooo sorry Miss Popcorn. Please forgive me"

A burst of laughter escaped from Vanessa's lips, "Silly Miss Patty," she said, still giggling.

Officer Carter smiled at his partner's antics. He was very satisfied that the young girl was smiling after being given such traumatizing news. He hoped she remained joyful for long because he started to grow fond, despite his gruesome experiences of being a cop.

"Come," he said, to a still giggling experience. "You are going to have to meet Dr. Osbcorn, Dr. Finsley, and Mr. Drew."

"Who are they?" asked a confused Vanessa.

The only reply she got back was from Patty, who said, with laughter in her voice, "You'll see. They are quite a... quirky bunch"

She followed Officer Carter through the bustling hallway filled with a ton of police officers and other people in general. They all stopped outside a heavy metal door that was labeled Dr. Osbcorn in big, black, and gold font.

Inside, they took Vanessa to a sleek black room, with a wooden table and matching chair. There were other beeping machines in the room.

The only other people occupying the room were three individuals, two of which were female and the other male.

The male was a tall, intimidating man, his greying hair giving away his old age and even though Vanessa had just met him she seemed to think that his disapproving frown seemed to be permanently engraved onto his face along with his stern gray eyes. He wore a midnight-colored suit with a maroon tie.

Vanessa removed her gaze from the man and settled it on the woman closest to the man. They both seemed to be arguing over something. The female was a pudgy blonde with a childish face. Her face was red with anger but appeared to have eased at the sight of Officer Carter, West, and Vanessa entering the room. She gave a gentle wave to Vanessa, who responded by hiding her blush behind Popcorn's face.

Last but not least, Vanessa's gaze traveled towards the last occupant in the room. Vanessa's immediate impression was of a large, glittering insect.

Dr. Finsley stood from the machine she was leaning on. Vanessa noticed that she was very thin; her large glasses magnified her eyes to several times their natural size, and it draped her in a gauzy spangled shawl. Innumerable chains and beads hung around her spindly neck, and it encrusted her arms and hands with bangles and rings.

"Vanessa, I want you to meet Mr. Drew," Patty said, gesturing toward the grim man. Then toward the plump woman, "That is Doctor Osborn and the other lady, she is Dr. Finsley," Patty gestured toward the glittering insect lady.

Vanessa tried to hold back her amused chuckle. The woman did have a slight resemblance to a glittering, green bug.

But what Officer Carter said next made Vanessa's blood run cold, instantly stopping her small moment of laughter.

"They are going to check if you have any remaining family left."

Now, she knew what was happening. The three individuals in front of her were going to determine the fate of that hope.

...

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