And The Hollow Darkness

Prologue: And the Murder at Kurtz Mansion

"Mr. Leon Kurtz, died approximately twenty-five minutes past seven," the detective relayed to his partner as he knelt down close to the body.

"Already questioned the butler who found the body in the study when he brought up supper. Cause of death is unknown, but his employees say he was battling sickness ever since he came back from his campaign in Africa."

The other detective sighed as he stared at his partner and asked, "If the old man croaked of natural causes, then why are we here, Marlow?"

The kneeling detective, Marlow, shook his head as he reached for the clenched right fist of the body.

"Because of this."

In Kurtz' palm was a single penny.

The detective gave out a laugh and Marlow looked shocked.

"Thomas! I'm serious! I believe this man was murdered!"

The detective, Thomas, tapered his laugh into a chuckle.

"Let me get this straight. You believe Kurtz was murdered because he was holding a penny when he died? You have heard of the Greeks? Maybe he was just a superstitious old man that knew his time was up."

Marlow made an exasperated sound.

"Leon Kurtz wasn't Greek! He was a politician for goodness sakes! He thought himself the only god worth anyone's time!"

Thomas held up his hands in placation.

"You have some strong feelings about this I can see. So let's say you're right and Kurtz was murdered. Who would do it and why would they be stupid enough to leave a penny in the man's hand?" Thomas made a noise of sarcastic epiphany. "You think it was the butler? It's always the butler!"

Marlow growled at his partner. "I've considered a few options but the man has over fifty employees and that's not including his waiting staff or personal gua-" The man cut off his sentence abruptly.

"Thomas?"

"Yeah?"

"How do you suppose a famous politician could be murdered inside his own home without his personal guard not noticing?"

"...The butler-"

"Forget the butler! My point is, where are the guards?"

Thomas had a puzzled expression. He opened his mouth a few times but could not give a valid answer. He eventually settled on a question.

"Why is the wait staff not missing too?"

Marlow abruptly stood from his crouched position over the body.

"This isn't just a murder. There is something big we are missing."

"You are absolutely correct, which is why my team and myself will take it from here." A beautiful blonde with an all business attitude entered the study and strode up to them with three people behind her. They were all as different as could be. The blonde was tall, all legs and dangerous angles. Her comrades were all a few inches shorter than her and about the same height. One was an attractive young man of Asian descent with cheekbones that could cut a person and a smirk that said he knew it. A redheaded woman stood next to him and she looked like a rainbow threw up on her clothing. The man on the end was more rugged than his fellow peers and was built more like a brick wall than the slender tower that was his boss.

Thankfully, they had different hair colors so the detectives wouldn't have to know their names.

"I'm sorry? And you are?" Thomas asked with a bit of bitterness.

"We're the-" the redhead started.

"NATO," the blonde cut off her colorfully dressed companion.

Thomas lifted a brow and was likely about to make a smart comment when he was interrupted by Marlow.

"NATO? At this hour?" The detective checked his watch to affirm it was late in the night. "The government thinks this is an act of terrorism?"

Thomas gave a look at the three behind the woman. "You don't look like NATO," he said with amusement.

The blonde narrowed her eyes.

"I am with NATO. They," she gestured to the three behind her, "are consultants." She turned towards Marlow. "As of right now, a politician of higher standing died mysteriously after his campaign finally gained some attraction. That is grounds for investigation in my department in case this the beginnings of a terrorist attack."

"Well, you got some credentials?" Thomas sighed in defeat as he crossed his arms.

The woman conceded with the request, and Marlow elbowed Thomas when the man grunted in irritation at the authenticity of her identity.

"See she's the real deal. Now can we get back to the case?" Marlow asked his partner in slight exasperation.

The redhead all the sudden looked confused, her hands raising as she seemed to be tracing the room with her fingertips and mumbling nonsense under her breath. The brunet man next to her started whispering soft words that the detectives couldn't hear but were sure were encouragement.

With the attention on the two, only the young black-haired man noticed the silent and slow easing of the door to the study.

"Hey guys..." he stated in a thick Australian accent.

"What is it?" the blonde asked her charge.

"The door is moving."

All but the redhead turned in time to see the door slam shut.