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Lena Hauser left the police department at nine in the evening, after a fourteen-hour-day that had been filled to the brim with meetings and telephone conferences and office work. There had been a lot of talks with the guys from analytics and a lot of briefings from her superiors, a lot of reports to make and a lot of data to file.
It was weird: On one hand Lena felt tired now, in dire need of a shower and maybe a glass of wine or a beer at least. She longed to get her mind off work and wanted nothing more than something to drink and a long night of good sleep right after that. She felt she needed to switch her mind off, so it might be able to begin sorting through all the new information it had collected in the course of this new busy day.

But on the other hand Lena Hauser felt like she hadn’t been productive enough yet. She was only 27 years old but already a successful careerist – or an “upstart” as some of the older guys in forensics still called her. She had traded friends, hobbies and a steady connection to her parents and siblings for the life of a detective, had in fact been one of the youngest detectives ever promoted in this city, had already more recommendations than many of the male colleagues ten or fifteen years older than her. She was, in short, a gifted woman and a veritable workaholic, and that was nothing you could change just because you were tired.
Maybe she’d access the files by remote once she was at home, try to get a new perspective on some of her cases. That seemed like a good idea.

Lena used her keycard to access the parking garage, found her Pajero, climbed inside the large car and started the engine. She had to smile when she saw herself in the rearview mirror, even though it was a pretty tired smile: Curly brown hair, bright and round brown eyes, stubbed nose, freckled cheeks… she was still pretty, still found herself looking so damn young. But she didn’t feel that way anymore. A few years in the job could in fact make you feel pretty damn old. Most people were good and just wanted to live their lives, but some others were far from being good: They were maniacs, murderers, sadists, lunatics. You saw what they did to good people and realized how easy this world could be turned into a very dark place, just by a few determined monsters.

Evening rush hour traffic was long over and the streets were clear. The orange shine from the streetlamps glittered on the asphalt as it did almost every time she drove to her small apartment in the city – there were not many occasions on which Lena ever got home from work early. She had only five more minutes to drive when her phone rang. The number was her superiors, so she answered the call quickly, her voice as professional and concentrated as ever.

“Hauser.”
“It’s Lieutenant Davis, Hauser. How are you doing? Still in office?“
“Just barely on my way home, Sir. Do you want me to get back to the Department?”
“No, keep driving. I know you are always eager to prove yourself Hauser, but this time you’ll get a chance to catch some sleep. You’ll need your wits, you are being assigned to a special task force I’m just forming.”
Lena hesitated. She blinked. Maybe it was her being so tired, but she didn’t understand what this was about. And Davis sensed that, realized her not answering was a sign of confusion. He added: “You may remember Victor Erkenbrand. In fact I’m pretty sure you do.”
Lena took her Pajero through an intersection and then turned left, following the main road further. She wasn’t in danger of causing any accidents, still had the car well under control… but she wasn’t too concentrated on her surroundings anymore, so much was for sure.
“Of course I remember that fucking piece of shit”, she said with a coldness in her voice that came straight from her heart. “That was the first major case I was ever involved in, five years ago, when I was still a rookie. It was the case that jumpstarted my career because I made a few good guesses.”
“More than just a few good guesses”, Davis stated. “You proved you were highly intelligent, very determined for a woman your age and endowed with an excellent instinct. You sensed something was wrong with the guy and you just kept digging.”
“Thank you Sir, but…”
“No buts, Hauser. Now tell me what you remember about Erkenbrand.”
“He was a german immigrant, a physical therapist who turned to art and made a small fortune. He became one of our main suspects when women went missing all over town and in the suburbs. We found out he was a sadistic control-freak, a sociopath. I was part of the team that searched his place and I found the hidden door to his basement. He attacked us, hurt two men badly before I could subdue him.” Lena remembered it all so vividly now: How the big, heavy-set man had nearly strangled her to death before she had gotten hold of her stungun. How he had just gotten up again after the electric shock, shaky but far from beaten, and how she had had to beat the ever living crap out of him in hand to hand combat. It had been a very close call that day, and she’d not missed one single hour of unarmed combat training since that day.
“And you also remember what we found in his basement?”
She was nearly at home and there was as good as no traffic on this small street. That was why she allowed herself to close her eyes, just for a second or two. She felt a beginning headache.
“Yes Davis, of course I fucking remember that. There were several women in his basement, all still alive, all forced into different cruel kinds of bondage. All of them had gotten insane due to isolation, confinement, pain and despair. He had kept them like that for weeks and months, and he had made sure they stayed healthy and at the same time lived in a new kind of hell.”
Davis’ voice was soaked with sarcasm. “You remember the guy fondly, do you?”
“Let’s just say he made an impression”, Lena answered, grumpily but at least with a thin, sour smile on her lips. Her humor had gotten darker over those past years and today she could smile about the weirdest kinds of things, just like the veterans.

She parked her car in front of her apartment complex, got her briefcase and walked towards the front door, nodding a silent hello at the tired receptionist behind his desk. The old guy smiled, looking nearly as tired as she felt, and nodded in response. “Okay, by now I can guess what the special task force you’re setting up will be about.”
“You can?” Davis sighed. “Yeah, I guess it’s not that hard to deduct. He escaped custody, just three hours ago. He was being moved to another place when someone attacked the transport. He’s gone.”
Lena brushed a few of her dark curls from her forehead, again closing her eyes for seconds while she waited for the elevator. “So someone freed him?”
“Seems so. He was the only person in that transporter, so we can assume the attackers were specifically after him. Well, he’s still got the weird fetishist fanbase in the internet, but we wouldn’t have thought there’d be anyone with the means and determination to free the damn lunatic. Now he’s on the run, and we need to get him back quickly.”
Lena head meanwhile stepped into the elevator. Her connection was still good, it was a modern piece of technology. She hoped that despite the excellent mobile reception Davis wouldn’t hear how frustrated her voice sounded.
“Definitely. He doesn’t deserve even a single day in freedom. I’ll be in office tomorrow at six and you can introduce me to the rest of the team.”
“Excellent Hauser. I was pretty sure that you’d want to be part of the crew, but I just wasn’t completely sure. And I wanted to leave the choice to you.”
“Thank you Sir, but I’m a big girl and can do the job just like everyone else could. I’ll not be emotionally affected.” Lena tried not to sound sarcastic, but she could tell that Davis knew. She unlocked her apartment door and suppressed a yawn as she entered her place.
“I am sure that you’ll handle this professionally. But I will not in a thousand years believe it doesn’t affect you emotionally”, Davis replied dryly. "Now get some sleep. See you tomorrow, Hauser.”

He hung up and here she was: Standing in the middle of her small, shabby apartment, suddenly alone, suddenly surrounded by silence. She put the phone away, yawned again – loud this time – took her brown leather jacket off. In the mirror she could see herself from head to toe, and what she saw was a pretty but pale woman, her dark curls a bit too wild, her face a bit too serious, cheekbones showing a little too much through her freckled skin. Lena found she looked tough enough in her jeans with the broad belt, heavy brown shoes and the blue-white plaited shirt. She looked even tougher now that she reached for the buckle of her holster, loosened the strap and freed herself from the weapon she had been carrying all day. But she didn’t feel too tough right now. She felt like the rookie again who had stepped into that basement and found these poor women, each one lost in her own hell of captivity, bondage and isolation.

Right in that moment a voice, only a meter away from her, at her side – where a simple curtain concealed the passage to Lenas bedroom – said quietly:
“I’ve not seen you for a long time, Detective Hauser. Now I can truly say that you look better than you ever did before.”
I did it again. I'll be happy about feedback.
:iconabsolutissimus:
absolutissimus Featured By Owner Aug 28, 2013  Hobbyist Writer

Indeed, you did it again! Once more I'm taken with one of your stories. A riveting start that has me looking forward to the next parts, of which I hope there'll be many, since Erkenbrand appears to be a villain after my own heart ;-)

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:iconurglamp:
urglamp Featured By Owner Aug 28, 2013
Thank you very much - after my long absence (spent some time in a high security prison) I really appreciate your quick and so positive reaction.
Reply
:iconabsolutissimus:
absolutissimus Featured By Owner Aug 28, 2013  Hobbyist Writer

You're welcome! I surmise your stay in prison did not cure you of your evil ways (rather the opposite) and you'll continue to delight as with accounts of your wicked exploits. Considering your latest endeavor I have high hopes in this regard.

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August 28, 2013
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