Queens and Rooks

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The Debora Jane murder did exactly what Alex knew it would do. Less than a day after the story broke like an incendiary bomb over New York, the media whipped into a frenzy. It was entertainment of the most gruesome kind, sparking a tempest of debates and wild theories with Alex caught in the bullseye.

For a solid week, she endured the media storm with glacial grace and jaw-clenching dignity. Shoulders back and head held high, she took both Georgia and her newly appointed lawyer's advice, speaking candidly with only a trusted few and referring the rest to the detectives investigating the case. Like any flash-pan media event, it would burn itself out quickly. But a second dose of regurgitated trauma barely a month after Alex's return Topside was a brick to her already fractured nerves. Her life was spiraling, and if she didn't force herself to react, she would lose herself entirely.

Which meant Alex stood at a crossroads, staring down the barrel of two opposing junctions. Fight back or endure. With snarled determination, she bared her teeth and dove down a rabbit hole into an intimately familiar darkness.

Phillip liked to tout journalists were monster slayers. They pulled back the curtain, revealing the man behind the machine and the human within the myth. God-killers, he would joke, crowing that analysis acted as the tweezers to the tapestry of fearmongering and evidence the scissors. They were the trademark tools of a journalist, and Alex armed herself with both.

If she wanted to kill the fear crawling up her spine every time she turned on the TV or glanced at a newspaper, she would have to become a God-killer.

It was time to dig.

There wasn't much information available on Marco Falconi. There never was. He was stain resistant in the eyes of the law. A genius when it came to evasion. Those who worked his cases called him "Teflon" – nothing stuck to Falconi.

Alex wanted to know the man behind the mob machine. Wanted to know how he ticked, how he operated, where the chinks in his armor were. If she could know the monster, she could shake the fear of him from her like a dog ridding its fur of water.

Too bad for Falconi, he left Alex Bailey alive with a growing vendetta.

Scrunched into her favorite booth at the diner two blocks from her job, Alex poured over her most recent findings procured by an unhappy Georgia.

"Don't ask how I got these. Like you, I don't give up my sources," she said tossing the folder onto Alex's table during their shared Sunday lunch three days ago. "I'm going to ask you again: are you sure you want to head down this road? Because once you dip so much as a finger into their world, you're going to find something nibbling on it, and it's not going to be a minnow."

One look through her eyebrows told Georgia all she needed to know about Alex's resolve and how "sanity" and "sense" had beat a hasty retreat.

Papers spread across her lunch table, Alex swept through each article one by one. To a curious onlooker it looked like chaos. To Alex, these were her hard-won breadcrumbs bled from sources who owed her and flinched when she came calling. Secret dealings. Conversations. Photos. Small victories, but victories, nonetheless.

Reaching for her coffee, eyes on her notepad, Alex didn't notice the lone figure stride past her table heading towards the bathrooms at the end of the hall. What caught her attention, however, was the figure turning to face her just before pushing open the men's room door, hands laced in front of his belt buckle.

Chills exploded up her neck. Alex didn't dare move — the man had already gotten her attention, which was his job — instead opening her senses to the world she blocked out while working and felt her stomach drop. The diner was quiet. Alex had chosen a secluded spot near the back so she could work in peace, but atmospheric noise still remained. Pots clanging. Cooks chattering. Waiters and waitresses taking orders. People conversing.

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