“Next time you want to jump out of a building, tell me so I remember not to answer your call,” shouted Detective Khalid. He took off his blazer, drenched with water, as he tried not to slip on the marble rocks next to Bruce. They both had just jumped from a window of FAXX Corporation, a 12 story building, diving into the river on the other side. It was dark and the sound of the water blocked surveillance monitoring catching their presence. Bruce stood very still, looking up. Smoke and flames engulfed the window of the office they were just in. They could hear the sirens of emergency responders taking position at the front of the building. Guards, human and robotic, patrolled the remaining floors. Bruce continued to ignore Khalid’s complaints as he pulled out the corner of a handful of files from his backpack. “At least I got these,” Bruce said, which made Khalid froze. Now, looking back up to the window, Khalid sighed deeply, “It looks like someone did not want us to find something.”
The next day, all news outlets were covering the overnight explosion at FAXX Corporation. Reporters: “The office of Dr. Reptar burst into flames last night, destroying almost all of its contents. FAXX has made an official statement ensuring a full investigation continues. If viewers recall, Dr. Reptar was found dead in his office almost 2 weeks ago. Surveillance footage and his personal robotic assistant are still missing. Sources say the scientist was about to make the biggest announcement of his career before his untimely death. Law enforcement asks for anyone who has any information to help with the investigation to report to the station immediately.”
Khalid switched the wall screen projection to mute. He turns to face Bruce, who is sitting in the middle of a chaotic table full of papers, books, maps, and pens. Bruce takes a photo of a map with his tablet, writes a note on the screen, and swipes right to transfer the image to the screen on the other side of the room. Khalid’s study looks like a time machine glitch. The floors and walls are wood paneled and all the furniture is wood. One wall holds a large bookshelf and several filing cabinets with every size of paper, books, floppy disks, cassettes, DVDs, and external hard drives stacked in a way that only Khalid could know where to find anything. The two opposite walls hold screen projections. The last wall has a medium sized window looking onto the street. Bruce gets up to look over the screen projection. Him and Khalid have created a web of images, maps, and notes, with lines looping and cutting to connect the details.
Clearing his throat, Khalid takes a closer look at the screen. “If Dr. Reptar was showing signs of mental incapacity,” said Khalid, “according to FAXX, why are his lab notes up to his alleged death so advanced?” Bruce drew a line between an image of the FAXX owner and a sketch of a black panther found in Dr. Reptar’s lab notes. “Animals have not been used for corporate or scientific experiments since the 2000s,” said Bruce. “It seems that whatever Doc was building was not going to be used as he expected.”
As they examined the screen, they both realized that the murder they were hired to solve is much more complex then expected. Their collaboration on this case is also complex and unexpected. Khalid is a highly sought after and controversial detective. Bruce is a very effective assassin. They actually met years ago during college study abroad in Istanbul. They stayed in touch and kept a pulse on each others work. For this case, the CEO of FAXX hired Khalid to lead the investigation on Dr. Reptar death, which was alleged as a suicide. At the same time, Bruce was hired by the owner of FAXX to investigate Dr. Reptar’s death, which was alleged as a homicide. On the night of the explosion, Khalid and Bruce went to Dr. Reptar’s office, unbeknownst to each other, to gather more clues. They met in the same elevator going up to the office and quickly realized they were working on the same case and that the story behind Dr. Reptar must be more complicated than they anticipated. While they were looking around in Dr. Reptar’s office, the lights on that floor went out. They heard footsteps approach the office. Someone dressed in what looked like a ninja uniform entered the office with a duffel bag. Approaching the desk to place it on the desk, the ninja uniform took out a remote from the bag. Bruce stepped out of his hiding place with his gun raised. Of course, an acrobatic fight ensued. Khalid stepped in to help and distracted the ninja uniform for a moment, but then, the ninja uniform pressed the remote.
The duffel bag buzzed as an electric current pulsed through the desk and spread through the room. Then it started beeping, as if a clock was counting down. Twenty seconds left. Bruce grabbed what he could from the shelf next to him and the files he was looking at before this interruption and quickly placed it in his backpack. Twelve seconds left. Khalid was focused on the duffel bag trying to figure out how to dismantle the bomb, but having difficulty avoiding the electric shock. A spark snapped from a corner of the office. Khalid and Bruce whirled around and found the ninja uniform had disappeared. Five seconds left. Bruce grabbed the desk chair and smashed the window with it. He then grabbed Khalid, who was protesting, and they both ran and jumped out the window, right before the bomb exploded.
Back in Khalid’s study, the screen projection was filled with more details. Why did the owner and CEO of FAXX hire two different professionals to solve this? Why did they both give them different information? What was Dr. Reptar’s announcement? Who wants to hide the evidence? What type of machine did Dr. Reptar build? Why are there so many sketches of black panthers in his notes? The list of questions continued to grow without many answers. What was for sure? The announcement and his recent project is connected to his death. FAXX may or may not be behind it, but the fact that the top security corporation in the world cannot explain how surveillance footage and a robotic personal assistant is missing in their own building is suspect. Khalid had picked up a book from the shelf and was fervently flipping through it. “Aha!,” he said while placing the book open on the table. “I know who we need to add to our team.” Bruce looked at him annoyed. “Team?,” he asked. Khalid gestured to him to come closer to look at the book.
“I knew Dr. Reptar looked familiar,” continued Khalid. “Here he is with my dear friend Dr. Fly. Some years ago they collaborated on a research initiative which created the vaccine for plastic allergies. I’m sure they must have kept in touch.” Bruce looked at the page Khalid held open. Pictured was Dr. Reptar and Dr. Fly wearing their lab coats smiling and shaking hands. “Why would she know anything,” asked Bruce. Khalid’s face lit up. “Because,” Khalid said, “she is an extraordinary.”
The Fly house is one of the most colorful homes in the neighborhood. As Khalid and Bruce rang the doorbell, they heard Hip Hop Jazz playing in the home. A woman with bright silver hair, high cheekbones, and a wise stern look opened the door. She eyed the two men with a mixture of suspicion and indescribable knowing. “How can I help you?,” she said. Khalid gave a slight bow as he introduced himself and Bruce. “We are here to meet with Dr. Kamali Fly,” said Khalid. “She is expecting us.” Bruce nodded in agreement. “One moment please,” the woman said. She closed the door. A moment later she opened it again, “You are welcome. Please follow me.” Stepping into the foyer and looking around them as they waited, Khalid and Bruce felt as if they had stepped into another dimension. Black and white tiles lined the floor. The walls had gold accents with African masks hanging up to the top of the high ceiling. The music continued to play in another room to the left of the foyer, now with added chatter. The woman lead them to another living room to the right of the foyer to wait. She left and returned with two glasses of chilled Ribena and a bowl of plantain chips and pistachios. As Khalid and Bruce waited, they could see part of the other room across from the foyer. The room was full of stunning, beautiful people all dressed colorfully and edgy. It looked like they were having more of a meeting than a social gathering, in spite of the upbeat music. Everyone was holding a tablet with the same crest engraved on the back. Then, everyone’s attention shifted to one part of the room and stopped talking. One woman addressed the group, thanking them for their attendance and summarizing their points of discussion. They have scheduled a health mission trip, an inter-generational mentoring brunch, and have a new collection of art ready for their next exhibit. She hugged each of them as they filed out of the room and out of the house. The music decreased in volume and transitioned to an afro house mix.
The woman walked in the room with her own glass of a juice mixture. Khalid and Bruce stood up when she entered. “Hello Kamali,” said Khalid. Kamali grinned, opening her arms to give Khalid a hug. Bruce noticed a flash of orange quickly appeared and disappeared in her hair, like a streak of electricity surrounding her curls. “It’s been a long time,” said Kamali. She stepped back and looked directly at Bruce. Khalid introduced them as they shook hands. She then sat on the lounge chair across from the. “So,” she said, “what adventure are you mixed in now?”
Khalid and Bruce explained their findings about Dr. Reptar’s research and death and their suspicions of FAXX and the ninja uniform. Kamali listened intensely. When they finished their story, silence fell on the room as the afro house music continued to loop in the background. Again, Bruce noticed Kamali’s hair. This time, a spark of blue flashed around her curls. Bruce quickly looked at Khalid, who was already eyeing him with a knowing smile. He mouthed the words “an extraordinary.” Kamali took the last sip of her drink and sat back in her seat.
“Have you heard of the Corks?” Kamali asked. Bruce sat up straighter and Khalid raised both eyebrows. She continued. “The news paints them as a little gang, but they are actually a very organized and highly connected mafia group that has this government wrapped around it’s pinkie toe. FAXX is not as far removed from them as they seem. Rep, that is what I called Dr. Reptar, was so committed to his research. I’m sorry I don’t know the details about his announcement or project. I know it meant a lot to him. He even sent me a calendar invite to make sure I did not miss it.”
Bruce returned his glass to the ornate table between them. “The Corks are lethal,” said Bruce. “They have too much money and too many underground businesses to care about one scientist.” Kamali looked at Bruce with a raised eyebrow. “Well,” she said, “that announcement and that machine must have meant a lot to them.”
Khalid took out his tablet, “Have you seen anything similar to this?” He reached over and passed the tablet to Kamali. On the screen was one of the sketches of a black panther from Dr. Reptar’s notes. Kamali looked at it, gasped, and stood up quickly. “Come,” she said, as she walked out of the room. Khalid and Bruce looked at each other and stumbled over the table to keep up with her. Walking further into the house, they passed more ornate figurines, African carvings, family portraits, and tapestries. Kamali was standing in the library. The windows and shelves reached from the floor to the high ceiling. There were elegant nooks and desks to read and write throughout the two story room. She was standing in front of a painting. As Bruce and Khalid moved closer, they noticed that the painting moved too. “Don’t be frightened,” said Kamali. “It is one of my own masterpieces.” The painting was of a black panther, similar to the one illustrated on the tablet and in Dr. Reptar’s notes. However, this one moved within the canvas. As all three of them stood in front of it, the black panther in the painting paced from left to right watching them. Finally, it climbed back up on the tree within the painting and watched them from a higher level.
Bruce did not have much patience for mysteries or manners. He now turned to Khalid. “Alright. Why are we here? What is up with her hair? Why is that cat moving?”
The panther in the painting and Kamali turned to look at both Bruce and Khalid at the same time. Kamali wrinkled her nose at Khalid and turned to Bruce. “So, dear Khalid did not have the decency to explain anything to you?” she said. “I am an extraordinary. My hair changes color with the shift in my mood. I love to paint and whatever I create lives in the canvas. I can heal wounds with the power of nature. Professionally, I am a doctor.” Bruce nodded slowly, but his face showed the million questions he wanted to ask.
“Now,” said Kamali, “this panther in Rep’s notes is the same as my painting. We have a heart for real animals you see. Did you know there is a group of panthers that escaped and continued to evolve? They are the last real animals. Some say it’s a conspiracy, but the last panthers can be used to create a weapon of mass destruction. Of course, they would have to be slaughtered. Rep told me about it.”
Khalid asked for the tablet back and examined it next to the painting. Bruce paced back and forth near one of the windows. He paused and turned to the other two. “FAXX and the Corks must be the same entity,” Bruce said. “Or a paid accomplice,” said Khalid. “You will need a lot more evidence than a sketch and a hunch to go public with that statement,” chuckled Kamali.
The sound of plates and cutlery came from the dining room. Kamali’s hair sparked a flash of pink. “Oh,” she exclaimed, “I know both of you are staying for dinner.” Bruce and Khalid started shuffling towards the door slowly while mumbling about work and needing to get back. “Nonsense,” she insisted. “Quincy is on his way back and we already prepared for guests this evening. I think they would love to hear about your new adventure.”
Bruce and Khalid stopped shuffling. “Who is coming for dinner?” Khalid asked. As she walked out of the room, Kamali twirled around with a grin. “Well,” she said, “Pepper and Gold.”
I really enjoyed putting this look together and playing the character Kamali.
Wearing: SheIn Lace Blouse; ASOS high waist pants; ALDO black heels; Fenty Beauty primer and foundation; Black Radiance contour and highlight; LipBar lipstick
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