<img class="graphic" alt="Making the Cut, Chapter One" src="https://calamitywritescom.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/mtc_ch01.png" />
Roz hadn’t planned to end her first day as (link-reveal:" Special")[//** Probationary **//] Agent Rosalyn Hart by sitting in the Agency Director’s office. She especially hadn't planned to be waiting with her heart in her throat for him to finish reading her after action report. Scrawled in blue ink on the goldenrod-yellow form, her handwriting was (link-reveal: "barely legible.")[<span class="norm"> Her hands had still been shaking so hard at the hospital. At the reminder, Rosalyn flexed her hand experimentally. Under a shiny layer of disinfectant, fresh cuts itched and tugged at her skin.</span>]
Director Stonewick sat down on the other side of the desk. It was laminate, worn down from decades of use.
"//Probationary// Agent Hart, what I would like to know," he said slowly, looking over the (link-reveal: "pages that he had in front of him.")[ <span class="norm"> Smears of (link-replace: "red") [//(colour:"#B22222")[blood]//] made it even harder to read the report.</span>] "How a pre-arranged interview with an accountant turned into the loss of our contact, **extensive** property damage and your partner put into the hospital, suffering severe injuries." Director Stonewick set the pages down and very carefully folded his hands together atop them. Then he looked up at her, dark eyes unreadable over his glasses. "And all this on your first day out in the field."
Roz swallowed hard, and dug her fingernails into her knees through the thin leggings.
"Well, sir," she said. "It started out routine. Well, as routine as the exercises we’d run in the Academy, and the ones I’d shadowed special agents on previously. But-"
"Get to the point Hart. I asked you a question."
<img class="picture" alt="Director Stonewick" src="https://calamitywritescom.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/laptop-2561221_1280.jpg" />
Right. Roz dipped her chin, eyes falling to the scrapes and cuts on her hands. She might as well start with...
(set: $numExplained to 1)
(link-goto: "The reason they were there in the first place: the accountant.", "Accountant")
(link-goto: "The warehouse, it was the first sign things were about to go terribly wrong.", "Warehouse")
"We arrived early to check out the area," Roz said. The bruise on her knee had started to throb. After this was over, she looked forward to icing it again. "The Warehouse was in the industrial park just south of the docks..."
Rosalyn had arrived early. She had gotten maybe a few hours of restless sleep before she gave up on trying, and gone for a run with Charlie(click-replace:"Charlie")[*her dog*]. Then made coffee. Then, still with too much time to kill before the arranged interview, Roz had driven down to the meeting location to scout the area. It was either that, or sit and worry that she would somehow get into a car accident or traffic and be late for her first day at work.
There had been no traffic at 6:00 am, and Rosalyn had arrived at the address as the streetlights were turning off. Driving past the warehouse, Rosalyn parked a block away from it in a small gravel lot. It belonged to the sole coffee shop(click-replace:"coffee shop")[*slice of heaven*] in the area. A few pickup trucks were parked close to the door, and the lights were on. Thank God. She could use another coffee.
Roz got out of the car and locked it behind her.
Pulling her phone from her purse as she headed to the door, she checked the time.
6:45 am(click-replace:"6:45 am")[Still an hour to kill before her partner would arrive(click-replace:"would arrive")[was *supposed* to arrive].] Roz rolled her shoulders and took a deep breath. First days were big and scary, but nothing would happen that she wasn't ready for.
<img class="picture" alt="coffeeshop" src="https://calamitywritescom.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/people-2592341_1280.jpg" />
Stepping into the coffee shop, she nodded to the barista with a nervous smile. The man behind the counter was as burly and rough looking as the other customers in the shop. He raised an eyebrow and looked her over.
"A suit?" the barista asked. "Are you lost, lady?"
Roz blinked. Oh. Uh. (link-reveal:"Why //would// someone be wearing a suit here this early?")[(show:?lie1)]
|lie1)[<span class="norm">"Oh god, I hope I'm not lost!" Roz said with a nervous laugh, tucking her phone into her pocket. "I have an interview today," she added. It was technically the truth, and those were always the best cover stories. "A block or so over. I was nervous I might be late, so I got here early. About an hour too early... I hope it goes well, I've been a student too long."
The barista nodded, his expression changing from suspicious to sympathetic.
"I have a master's in Pre-colonial african history," he said, rolling his eyes. "And about thirty grand of debt. I feel you. What can I get? On the house, so long as you come back here once you get the job."
Rosalyn felt the weight of the day ease from her shoulders, and her smile grew.
"One cream two sugar, dark roast please," she said. "And deal."
Coffee acquired, Roz found a seat and pulled her phone out to (link-reveal:"check her notifications")[(show:?phoneNotifications)] from last night. Her partner was supposed to check in, but it was still early... </span>]<!-- end of lie1 -->
|phoneNotifications)[<span class="norm"> Three messages. One from (link-reveal:"Cara")[(show:?Cara)], one from her (link-reveal:"Mom")[(show:?Mom)] and one was an alert from (link-reveal:"Instapic^^TM^^")[(show:?Insta)].</span></div>
<div style="margin-left:30px; margin-right:30px;">|Cara)[<span class="digital">**Cara:** I told Mom it was ur first day. Srry. But Ur gonna do great! Love you!</span>]
|Mom)[<span class="digital">**Mom:** Hi Rosie. Cara said it was your first day as a cop. I hope it goes great and you can always move back home afterwards. Love you, Mom.</span>]
|Insta)[<span class="digital">**JDoe Designs** has posted a new video: "**New collection for Summer!"** (link-reveal:"Watch Now!")[(show:?stonny1)]</span>]
</span>]<!-- end phone notifications -->
</div><!-- ends flashback-->
|stonny1)[<span class="norm">"So you arrived early," Stonewick said. His voice was getting flatter. He was losing patience. "Get to the warehouse. Did you notice anything strange? Any sign of what was going to happen?"
Roz bit her lip and shook her head.
"Sorry sir. No sir, there wasn't any sign of Mister Samuels being... like he was. The warehouse itself (link-reveal:'seemed normal enough')[(show:?continue1)]."
|continue1)[<div class="flashback">The building was mid-century concrete and small barred windows with a loading bay that was empty of any trucks. The back door was left ajar, and while waiting for her partner to arrive, Roz had snooped inside.
<img class="picture" alt="warehouse" src="https://calamitywritescom.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/archive-1850170_1280.jpg" />
Several palettes of goods filled the main area of the warehouse. Pearson and Sons Shipping, the leasing company of the property, handled shipping for all kinds of products for third party companies. Just peeking in the door, Roz could see toaster ovens, boxes of clothing, and something technical. From the sharp edges of the logo on the boxes, and the choice of acid green and black, she figured it was something related to gaming.
<!--after accountant and warehouse are complete, partner option available -->
(if: $numExplained is 1) [ (set: $numExplained to it + 1)(link-goto: '"I suppose I should talk about Mister Samuels himself."', "Accountant")]
(else-if: $numExplained is 2) [ (link-goto: '"At about 7:30 am I heard from my partner and left to meet him at the warehouse."', "FirstPartner")]
]]<!-- end of stonny1--><!--THE ACCOUNTANT-->
"Wilbur Samuels was an accountant of Pearson and Sons Shipping. He’d reached out to the Agency requesting a meeting to discuss some concerns he had about the books." Roz jiggled a leg as she spoke.
<img class="picture" alt="the accountant" src="https://calamitywritescom.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/office-495808_1280.jpg" />
Her partner was late. He had sent Roz a text, saying he was on his way, that he'd be there in fifteen minutes. That was half an hour ago. Sitting in her car outside the warehouse, Roz was reading over the brief she'd received the day before.
Mister Wilbur Samuels, Accredited Accountant for six years. Law abiding. Paid his taxes on time. He'd just taken the job at Pearson and Sons Shipping three months ago. Before that, he had worked with a Bridal Salon since he had graduated. He wasn't married, and had no ties to organized crime or drugs that she had been able to find.
The closest Samuels had ever been to the 'wrong' side of the law was when he paid his parking ticket one day before the deadline... almost ten years ago.
</div><!-- ends flashback-->
"There was nothing to suggest that he would be on any kind of drugs," Roz said quietly. "I did all the background research, even spoke to his old employers. They loved him."
"You must have missed something," Stonewick said, rubbing his forehead. "Law abiding accountants aren't known to attack Special Agents."
Rosalyn felt her ears get hot and she shifted in her chair. No. She had to have missed something, and now people had gotten hurt because of her mistake.
<!--after accountant and warehouse are complet partner option available -->
(if: $numExplained is 1) [ (set: $numExplained to it + 1)(link-goto: "Then there was the warehouse. I knew something felt wrong the moment I saw it", "Warehouse")]
(else-if: $numExplained is 2) [ (link-goto: "Roz still wasn't sure what she had been thinking, listening to her partner.", "FirstPartner")]<!--HER PARTNER FirstPartner -->
"The Sergeant paired me with Agent Reeves, sir," Roz said, running a hand through her hair. "He said he thought it would be good for me to (link-reveal: 'see how our top agents work."') [
<div class="flashback"><span class="norm">Roz ducked at the first deafening clang of steel on concrete. Crouched just outside the warehouse's main stairwell, she watched as a steel filing cabinet slid down the steps to the the landing just in front of her. A drawer had popped open and thrown papers out onto the concrete stairs. The man who had thrown it down was still yelling incoherently about how they wouldn’t take him alive.
Roz looked across the doorway to where her partner stood. Special Agent Donny Reeves. Rising star of the CRIME Agency, hero with the highest arrest rate... and recently ex-boyfriend.</span></div>]
"And you didn’t tell him that you were previously involved in a relationship with Agent Reeves?" Stonewick asked, unmoving. Roz was sure that she had seen the smallest twitch under his eye, but the man might as well have been carved out of... well. Stone.
"I didn’t want to make it become a problem," Rosalyn said quietly. She looked down at where her knees were crushing her hands together. "But it //was// a problem. (link-reveal:'At least, it //became// one."')[
<div class="flashback">"I think…" she said, wincing as a trash can followed the filing cabinet, bouncing on its way down the stairs with a clang. "I think we should try talking."
"Now’s not really the time, Agent Hart," Reeves said. "I’m sorry this is so hard for you. But it’s time to let this go."
"I meant that we should talk to Mister Samuels," she said patiently as her face grew hot. There was a lot she wanted to say to him, but he was right: now wasn’t the time. "He seems agitated. Maybe we can calm him down and reassure him that we’re just here to ask about that tax claim."
Donny rolled his (link-reveal: 'eyes.')[ His perfect, stupid, beautiful, blue eyes.]
"Rosie, the man is clearly on crack or something that’s making him act this irrationally. You think talking to him is going to make him magically sober up?"
"I just think-"
"Sure, Roz. You know best, go try to talk to him. I’ll wait down here and radio in that the rookie got herself killed. What do I know? I’ve only been working in the field while you were still in class."
Roz frowned. Donny was being rude(click-replace:'rude')[an asshole], but he had a point. She was fresh out of the Academy, still on probation, and so far, her first ‘interview’ had turned into a circus.
"Okay," she said as calmly as she could. (link:'"What do you suggest we do Agent Reeves?"')[(show:?stonny)]</div>]
|stonny)[<span class="norm">Director Stonewick held up a hand. Rosalyn stopped talking. She bit the inside of her lip. This was the point where everything had spun out of control. The exact turning point when her decision had cost her any chance of being a field agent. Maybe even of working in the Agency at all.
"And this is when you left Agent Reeves alone with Mister Samuels?"
Roz closed her eyes. She took a deep breath.
"Why?" Stonewick asked.
//Because he told me to, (click-replace:'he told me to,')[I was angry at him,]
(click-replace:'I was angry at him,')[I wasn’t thinking,](click-replace:'I wasn’t thinking,')[he was the senior Agent and I had no seniority,]// Roz thought to herself.
"I asked you a //question// Probationary Agent."
Rosalyn opened her eyes. She swallowed the hot lump in her throat.
"Because I believed Agent Reeves when he said he could handle himself. I shouldn’t have left him, sir. I had no idea he would-"
"It doesn’t //matter// what you thought he would or wouldn’t do," Stonewick said sharply. The anger was finally starting to bleed through the cracks, Roz thought. A quiet disassociated corner of her mind noticed that his eye really was twitching. She hadn’t imagined it before. The Director was still lecturing her however. She had to pay attention.
"...the very first thing the Academy is supposed to teach you, is to never leave your partner’s line of sight unless you are under fire. And you left your partner, alone, to face a man who was throwing filing cabinets down the stairs."
"Just one filing cabinet, sir," Roz said. "I specified in the report... didn't I?" Shit. What if she had forgotten?
"Don’t get smart with me, Hart," Stonewick snapped. He jabbed his finger into the after-action report. Onto one of the blood smears. "You left your partner alone. As a //direct// result of your poor judgement, he was severely injured and the contact fled the scene, causing significant property damage that the Agency must now pay for.</span> (link-reveal:'Give me one reason I shouldn’t strip your badge."')[
<img class="picture" alt="broken glass" src="https://calamitywritescom.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/glass-984457_1280.jpg" />
<div class="flashback">There was a yell from down the aisle of cubicles filled with filing boxes. Donny’s voice.
Then glass cracked, shattered.
Sprinting forward, Rosalyn reached the Accountant who stood at the window at the end of the cubicles. Shards of glass were red where they stuck out from the frame. Everything happened so fast...
Donny was laying in the parking lot, a story down, spread-eagled. A dark stain was slowly growing around him.
(link:"She couldn't breathe.")[(show:?stonny2)]</div>]] <!-- closes stonny hook -->
|stonny2)[ <span class="norm"> "Well? I’m waiting," Stonewick said.
Words choked in her throat. Too many and not enough at the same time, and Rosalyn couldn’t get any of them out. The only thing that did manage to make it out was the tears she’d been struggling to hold back. Roz stood, hands shaking where she held them together. She turned and headed for the door, desperate to get out of the Director’s view before she broke down completely.
Roz opened the door, rubbing the sleeve of her sweater across her eyes, and slammed into a wall. No, not a wall. Walls didn’t grunt, and they didn’t hold paperwork that fell to the ground when she (link-goto:"knocked into them.","MeetGage")
</span> <!-- closes stonny2 hook -->
] <!--ends firstPartner see how our top agents work.'-->"Jesus, watch where you’re going," the agent said. Tall, broad, he might as well have been a wall for all that he’d moved.
"Shit, I’m so sorry," she stammered. Crouching to pick up the papers she had knocked from his hands, Rosalyn tried to wipe away the tears before they burst out again. "I didn’t see you…" She trailed off, staring at the (link-reveal:"pictures she had just picked up.")[(show:?photos)]
<img class="picture" alt="photographs" src="https://calamitywritescom.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/album-2974646_1280.jpg" />
<!-- photo 1 -->
(link-reveal: "Examine First photo")[(show:?clue1)]
|clue1)[<span class="norm"> The first picture was of a workshop that had been trashed. Fabric and paper littered the room, and paint of different colours had been thrown over half-finished drawings and sewn garments. Some of the art on the walls... the fabric... looked familiar.
<div class="flashback"><span class="digital">**JayDoe** has posted a new video on Instapic: "**New collection for Summer!"** Watch now!</span></div>
</span>]<!--end of 1 -->
<!-- photo 2 -->
(link-reveal: "Examine Second photo")[(show:?clue2)]
|clue2)[<span class="norm"> The second photo was a shoe print on wood flooring. Left in blue paint, the print was of a high heeled shoe, with the heel's print in the rough shape of a heart.
</span>]<!--end of 2 -->
<!-- photo 3 -->
(link-reveal: "Examine Third photo")[(show:?clue3)]
The last picture was of a woman's naked back. She was lying on her front, and ink lines were drawn lengthwise along her skin. The lines were patchy, the ink and already fading in some patches. The ink was purple...or indigo. The woman's clothes looked to be cut along the back, folded open to reveal the killer's work.
</span>(link-reveal:"This was it.")[(show: ?continue1)]]<!--end of 3 -->
]<!--end of photos hook-->
"Can I have those back now? Those are above your security level," the man said, holding out his hand. "You aren't supposed to see them."
Roz sniffed, and stood, pictures held tight in her hand. Looking up at the other agent, she pointed to the lines on the human torso.
"Do you know what this is?" She asked. Her hands were trembling, and she pointed at the torso again. "Those lines. Do you know what those lines are?" She could hardly breathe, and there was still tears threatening to spill out. But she had to know. She had to ask.
The man shook his head, frowning.
"Even if I did, I’m not at liberty to discuss this case with y-"
Roz turned on her heel, and marched back into the Director’s office. Stonewick looked up from the report, one hand sliding over his mouth to scratch at his jaw. Behind her, Roz could hear the other agent scrambling to pick up the remaining papers.
"I have my reason for you not to take my badge. You **need** me," Roz said, and slapped the picture of the human torso down onto his desk, right over the scribbled and bloodied report. (link-reveal:'"Do you know what those lines mean?"')[(show:?continue2)] She asked.</span>] <!--ends continue1-->
|continue2)[<span class="norm">The Director, looked from Roz to the man who was hurrying in after her.
"I'll humour you only once Hart," he said, looking at the photograph. "No. I do not know what those lines mean."
"Those are clothing seam lines marked on that body, probably made with a pattern marker. And this," she said, slapping down the other photos in her hands in quick succession.
"//This// is the work of the designer Jane Doe. She posted previews of her latest collection on social media yesterday morning."
"Sir I am so sorry," the man from the hallway said. Roz realized she recognized him from the academy. He’d been an instructor of fireteam tactics. (link-reveal:"Professor Gage.")[<span class="norm"> Roz had almost failed that course. </span>]"She just grabbed them and stormed in."
Stonewick held one hand up and took a closer look at the pictures Roz had put in front of him. Then he leaned back, took off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes with a knuckle. Roz waited, practically vibrating on the spot. The rush of adrenaline from seeing the pictures was starting to fade, and she was exhausted and on the very last emotionally stable thread she had.
"Agent Gage," Stonewick said. "I don’t think we have much choice here."
Roz shifted forward, weight onto her toes. Please, please… please. She had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from begging Stonewick to give her another chance. Deskwork, research, legwork, whatever. She would do it. Just don’t take away her badge.
"Isn’t this the rookie that put Reeves into the hospital?" Gage asked, glancing from the Director to Roz, then back again.
"Yes." Stonewick said. He leaned forward, resting his forearms onto the pictures. "And now she’s your problem. (link-reveal:"Brief her before you fly out tomorrow")[(show:?continue3)]."</span>]<!--end continue2-->
|continue3)[<span class="norm">// YES!(click-replace:"YES!")[Wait...(click-replace:"Wait...")[**What?**]]//
Roz curled her fingers into her palms, digging her nails into the skin there to keep from falling to her knees and crying in thankfulness.
"And you," Director Stonewick said, turning his head to face Rosalyn. "This is your last chance. If Agent Gage has any problems with you, if you break any Agency protocol, //no matter how small//, you’ll be on a flight back here within the hour to (link-reveal: 'hand in your badge')[(show:?continue4)]."</span>]<!--end continue3-->
|continue4)[(link-reveal:" Oh.")[(show:?continue5)]]<!--end continue4-->
|continue5)[<span class="norm">"And I personally will ensure that you never work in law enforcement again. (link-reveal:'Dismissed.')[(show:?continue6)]"</span>]<!--end continue5-->
|continue6)[<span class="norm">Roz rocked back onto her heels, unsure if she was going to cry happy tears or terrified ones. There were going to be tears, but maybe she could maintain the shell-shock she had going until she got home. Or at least into her car.
"Yessir," Gage said, and took the photos from the director. "Hart, right? C’mon, we’ve got a lot to cover before you go home to pack."
Dazed and feeling like the world might drop out from under her at any moment, Rosalyn followed. They’d gotten all the way to the elevator before she remembered she could talk.
"Pack? Why? Where are we going?" she asked.
Gage looked at her. Then pushed the ‘up’ button.
"I hope you weren’t bullshitting back there," he said. "If you were, it’s both our careers down the drain. Yours wasn’t much but I //like// mine."
"I... no, not bullshitting," Roz said. She felt faint, like she was floating just a few inches back from her body, watching everything happen. "So," she swallowed. "Where are we going?"
Gage sighed. Again.
"We're going undercover."
]<!-- end of continue6-->