The rain had slackened for a moment, but the wind was a bad as ever. It howled through the house, carrying the sparse drops throughout the remnants of the lower floor. The fire department had come and gone during his time at the hospital, leaving behind the sodden, dirty wreckage of a house. It was a home no longer, now just a place where once a family had lived, laughed, and loved. A few firemen remained, churning through the smoldering piles and continuing to wet everything down.

Richard stood in the ruins of his life, silent and unmoving.

He had just come from the hospital where he had left his daughter, wife, and brother. They would survive, but he knew they would be forever touched by the events of this night. His brother would probably fare the least bad, as he had at least been exposed to the this sort of horrors before. His wife was resilient and as strong as steel inside, but this sort of insidious evil had never before followed him home. Even when Daniel had been killed and he'd shut the world away for weeks on end, she had remained supportive of him and his job. The occasional threatening call from a perp who swore revenge and the silent reserve from her circle of friends who saw her as 'the wife of a cop' were tolerated with her silent, loyal stoicism. She was a far better woman than he knew he deserved, and she'd stayed with him through it all.

A few steps brought him to the stairs. He looked up, and remembered. A brief smile surged, then was drowned in memories.

But this was new. This was evil that had known her name, and stared in her face every night as she tucked it into bed. It had sought her, knowingly and deliberately, because of him and his actions. This was going to rock their marriage, and there was a very real possibility it would end. He could hear her accusations in his head, "You knew it was a cursed doll and you let her keep it! Did you want another Entity, just so you could kill it?" Unbidden, his memories returned in vivid, terrible clarity. Draw, aim, and firing an anti-tank gun at his daughter. He didn't know if he could even bear to look at her now, fearing the silent, questioning disbelief in her eyes. He was sure he couldn't meet his wife's. She didn't know now, but she would find out soon enough and when she did....

His step had brought him to the upstairs bathroom. He glanced in, and just as rapidly moved on. He couldn't face his own reflection in the mirror. Not at the moment.

Gone. It was all gone—into ashes, into corruption, into memories. His daughter had been seduced, used, and imprisoned by a soul-stealer. An entity of immense power, capable of consuming and controlling dozens of people, a cesspool of vile foulness, petulance, and cruelty, wrapped up in a shell of sadistic evil. And he had given it to her. He had let it stay, knowing it was abnormal and wrong and doing God-knows-what to his precious little baby girl. Especially after her esper powers had bloomed, she had no hope of a normal life. Now, after the horror of being raped and tortured and mutilated, of seeing her father try and kill her then succumb to the foulness, she was --

A large piece of sheetrock dropped from the ceiling, shattering into a cloud of wet, gray dust on the dresser. It rapidly turned to a grimy mud, but was sufficient to break Richard from his thoughts. His wife had packed for a trip to the mainland, and the suitcases were in the bedrooms, luckily spared most of the destruction inflicted upon the lower portions of the house. The gouts of blood in his daughter's room were a stark reminder of his failure. He was supposed to protect her, not—he broke that line of thought off as the weight on his hip provided an unwelcome reminder of his actions.

A quick search through the closets added a few things to the suitcases—his wife's dancing shoes, a few pieces of jewelry he'd given her for special occasions, his daughter's toothbrush and bath kit, and a few other personal items. He threw it all together and considered grabbing a few things for himself, then stopped. No. I'll be coming back in the morning. Michelle and Lorraine will be transferred from the hospital to the mainland and won't have a chance to return. I can collect my things then, and stay in my office until things get back to normal.

Downstairs, the near-complete destruction brought the despair back, with friends sorrow and loss. A few things were salvageable—a charred picture here, a paperweight there, and against all odds the antique coffeepot was intact. Already battered, the old tin pot was a gift from Michelle years ago, and Richard was still for several long minutes. He couldn't allow himself the luxury of a cry. Not yet.

The fire safe in his study was intact, however, and the important papers had survived. So had the digital backups of his important computer files, pictures, and letters. Richard tucked the small computer chips into his breast pocket, while the letters themselves went into her suitcase. They had written many, long letters to one another during his time in the academy, and they had played a significant role in saving his marriage the first time. The smile vanished as he considered the likely fate of his marriage from this disaster, and as he concentrated on sorting through the debris his shoulders tightened. There was no one there to see them shake.

He emerged a few minutes later, eyes dry and face blank. A few meaningless words with a fireman and the police, and he packed the bags into the spinner. He had a job to do, and only a few minutes before meeting with Tyger. He'd apparently been able to contact Satori Hanzo, and a meeting was on. He knew his job, now --- he had to pick up the team, get to the docks, and try to arrange for the safety of his family. He didn't have much to bargain with, but as an officer he should be able to get more sensitive information than as a sergeant, and perhaps a dozen or so of those mil-spec weapons would suffice. Then he could get back to the job of saving the city from itself.

A sigh escaped his lips as he buckled himself into the seat and he started the spinner. His job. At least he could do that—he could always count on having a job to do.