Junie Ferguson is kicking back on a sofa, listening to Chopin's Nocturne #1 in a tiny box of a room with all the curtains drawn. Have you ever heard that one? If not, I recommend you give it a listen, and I wager so would the old man with a hooked nose sitting across from our demon hunting dame; Doctor Jasprey Adler, who would often play it on his reverently polished and preserved phonograph during their Saturday morning sessions. And boy, did Junie love dragging her carcus out of the apartment to be willingly probed by a total stranger.
"How are you feeling, Miss Ferguson?"
She is staring up at the ceiling blankly with an entranced look; her eyes unblinking and mouth hanging open. The gentle, chill breeze blowing forth from the cooling vent overhead combined with the quiet classical music droning on in the background wrapped her in a comforting embrace.
"I feel tired...of course I'm tired," she grumbles at him, her eyelids drooping then flickering open again as she struggled to stay awake, "I've barely slept all week. They've just been getting too out of control." She was of course referring to the nightmares, which had steadily grown from being harmless, occasional annoyances to crap-your-pants nightly terrors.
"Have you been taking up yoga classes at the convention center like I suggested?"
Junie shakes her head while gazing dully into the doctor's eyes. "No...no..." she mumbles, with an amused smile creeping across her face, "I don't get involved in any of that socialized...bull..."
"Yes, well if stress is what is causing these vivid hallucinations, the sooner you find a way to cope with what is the source of the stress, the better it will be for you."
A buzzing noise like that of a circling fly interrupts the sanctity of the room, and it's all Junie can focus on.
She scans the four corners in search of the little pest, but stops when she looks upon the wizened face of Jasprey Adler again, whom she could tell was waiting on a response from her by his slightly impatient expression.
"Huh?" She blinks and the buzzing subsides. "Could you...repeat whatever you just said? I zoned out again."
He massages his temples and sighs as if to do so were a major chore, but goes on, "I believe we have been circling the major issues for weeks, Miss Ferguson. Now, I know that you've lived in Stark Pines your entire life and that you were adopted at a young age, but we have yet to delve into what your early childhood was like."
"You mean...my real parents?"
He nods, and Junie grunts at the tall order.
"That was a long time ago, doctor," she professes, squinting her eyes as she tries to conjure up a single genuine memory, cast amidst a sea of emotions, "I was very...lonely."
Those words conjure up a little girl, sitting cross-legged on the floor in the darkest corner of the room basked in the ghastly glow of an antique kerosene lamp. Wearing a tight floral dress and with her hair done in dual pigtail braids reaching far down her back, she looked to be from a different time period.
"Good morning, Rocket! Did you get good sleep last night?" The imagined girl appeared to be saying into thin air, when suddenly a brass birdcage appears in front of her. Inside of the cage is a chirping blue bird that hops nimbly from branch to branch.
Junie chuckles at the phantasm.
"I wouldn't grow too attached to that bird if I were you," she says, waving a hand at the girl drunkenly, "Rocket's gonna die before you turn eight, and you'll bawl for a month. But he'll be back, with the most annoying accent you could have possibly imagined."
The girl in the old-fashioned dress gives her a mystified look.
"What do you mean by 'before I turn eight'?"
"Hey, chick," the Blue Jay chimes in, clicking its talons against the bars of the cage for Junie's attention, "don't be giving out spoilers now!"
"Shut your beak, bluebird."
The doctor's hand on Junie's shoulder pulls her back to reality.
"You were hallucinating again."
"Was I? It all feels the same to me lately." Like dreams and reality had become the same thing, and that is what scared her the most.
"Then your condition is much worse than I thought," the rightfully concerned doctor says, rubbing his chin as he stared off into space. "We'll have to...change something..."
That darn buzzing noise returns, only this time the culprit reveals itself when it decides to roost upon Adler's craggly forehead.
"Change...something," he repeats, as if the phrase contained a hidden meaning he expected his confused confidant to comprehend. It was either that, or the phonograph machine could be controlled by speech, because then it started to loop the same garbled notes over and over again.
Meanwhile, mister mystery fly has not moved a muscle.
"Hey, doctor...there's something on your face, and it's really bugging me." Junie reaches for the brash bug, but a slight tug on the back of her teal button-up holds her at bay.
When Junie looks, she is surprised to see that it was the birthday-less, bird-loving brat from before.
"No, daddy, don't do it! Not again!" the girl begs, with tears flowing from her eyes.
"What are you blubbering about?"
While that is going on, the caged Rocket is flapping his wings and squawking like there is no tomorrow. Then again, you would probably freak out too if you were to witness a swarm of tiny, winged insects claim a living fossil's entire face.
"Jesus H. Christ!"
Junie presses her back against the wall in an attempt to distance herself from the disfigured daemon doctor, who is screaming at the top of his lungs.
Marco Riddler; a lean, quiet seventeen year old with spiky red-dyed hair, just so happens to be pushing his bike up the hill right when Dr. Jasprey flings himself over the second story railing of the Pink Plaza Center.
With a sickening snap, the seventy year old man smashed headfirst into the pavement right in front of him.
Now what would you do in his situation?
Well, when Junie rushes outside, she sees that the high schooler has carefully turned the soundly deceased old man unto his back, checking his heartbeat and feeling along his arms for a pulse (never mind the chunks of brains splattered across the street!).
"Max! What are you doing -- call an ambulance, quick!"
He shakes his head solemnly then looks up at Junie, on the upstairs walkway.
"He's...dead," Marco announces in disbelief.
And so the doctor was, with a haunting grin strewn across his lifeless, bug-bitten face.
Within minutes the Stark Pines Police were involved, and needless to say there was much head-scratching among the responding officers and ambulance crew. After hearing the bizarre testimony from Junie, and releasing the boy who was simply caught in the wrong place at the wrong time on his way to a convenience store, Deputy Hank Will and Sargeant Andrea Talesman could think of only one person to call, and the name he goes by is a strange one.
"Kage? Who's that?" June asks the deceptively petit and beautiful, blonde ponytailed Talesman, as they are sitting next to each other on the hood of her squad car.
"Oh, I don't know much about him personally. He's some kind of private eye from Little Tokyo who's been lending us blueshirts a hand with the..." she hesitates briefly, "weirder stuff that's been happening around town lately."
"I take it the Reaper killings are on his agenda?"
"Yup. In fact, those are what brought him down from big Tokyo in the first place. Must be he's like a dog to steak biscuits when it comes to tough cases."
Junie sighs, and claps Andrea on the shoulder.
"But now look at you, Andy! Last time we spoke, you were still shooting ducks at the academy."
"Yeah. Pretty sad, how it took a guy jumping to his death off a two-story building for us to see each other again, huh?"
They both glance at the royal mess that whole scene had caused, which was since reduced to a side attraction of sorts. Junie is about to ask what steak biscuits are when she notices something squirming inside of Andrea's shirt collar.
Rocket's head pops out of Talesman's shirt as the sargeant is still looking to the side, causing it to unbutton down to her cleavage area where the feathered freak appears to be nestled cozily.
"Boy, it sure is roomy in here," he says with a whistle. "Bet ya you could fit in here too, if you squeeze in real tight."
It required all of Junie's willpower not to say anything against the awesomely annoying abstraction, which she had learned shortly after he debuted in her life is as good as real to her, but simply nonexistent to everyone else.
Deputy Hank Will, with his aviator glasses and road warrior moustache, had been cordoning off the area with yellow tape all this time, but approaches them now to put a merciful end to Junie's abstraction distraction, as well as to inform her that the man of the hour will soon be arriving.
It is at about noon when their trump card makes it there on foot. Although not a police officer, he wears an instantly recognizable uniform of his own; comprised of a toneless tricorne hat, and a similarly pure white coat that hung at his knees in the back, billowing like a cape whenever the wind got caught in it.
"Looks like a real Stark Pines original," Junie says under her breath.
As the lone ranger draws closer, she is bowled over by the strong scent of bleach that he carries, the glitter of the impeccably polished diamond cross on his right lapel stuns her, and the necklace affixed with ivory magatamas he wears strikes her as exotic.
Every facet of his being is attention-grabbing, but it is with a hushed, accentless voice that he says, "open your eyes, Junie."
...and in a flash, she finds herself standing in her boxer shorts with one leg draped over the railing of the Pink Plaza Center's second story walkway.
Dr. Jasprey Adler; quite alive, looms behind her in the open doorway of his office, dilligently recording the observed results of an experimental drug he had injected into her veins at the start of the session.
"Somnambulism...somniloquy...vivid, multisensory hallucinations..."
Panting and sweating in fear, Junie carefully brings her leg back over the railing as Marco Riddler, leaning against his bike on the street below watches, and the squad car of Deputy Hank Will and Sargeant Andrea Talesman pulls up to the curve.