TEN YEARS LATER
Detective Michael Lee Harker paced up and down the Investigations Room, examining the case board closely.
Over the last few weeks, a string of thefts had taken place all over the city. The whole affair was rather mysterious: no signs of forced entry at any of the crime scenes, no-one injured or physically harmed in any way... but still, items had been going missing left, right and centre. Clearly, the police were dealing with a criminal mastermind - but fortunately, they had a mastermind of their own working on the case.
Michael had already taken in a few suspects - people spotted near the crime scenes around the time of the thefts. He'd tried every questioning method he could think of: the good cop, the bad cop, trying to win them over, threatening them with jail... but the only reply the suspects ever gave to his questions was, "We did what the Commander told us to."
Who this "Commander" was, he was still none the wiser, but something about every suspect he had questioned... unnerved him. Some strange instinct inside him told him there was something not quite right about these people. In time, he'd decided that these feelings must have been brought on the the fact that they were criminals. He was, after all, a man of the law.
As Michael looked over the events timeline and various photos of the robberies, he was interrupted by one of the officers calling to him from the back of the room.
"Hey, bro!" Yuri said. "I'm heading out to the clubs tonight - gonna have a bit of fun. You wanna come with me?"
"No, thank you," Michael replied. "I am busy dealing with this case."
"Oh, come on! One night off won't kill you!"
"I said no."
"Fine. Be a boring old fart. See if I care."
With that, he turned on his heels and walked away.
The Comet Club was packed to the rafters: it always was busy on a Friday night. Yuri hovered around, mixing and mingling with his fellow patrons. A couple of ladies caught his eye, but unfortunately, their boyfriends swiftly came along and stopped the amorous Yuri in his tracks.
After an hour of failed flirting, Yuri headed to the bar and ordered a beer.
"Not doing so well tonight, Yuri?" the barman asked him. Yuri was one of The Comet Club's regulars, and the two had got to know each other quite well over the last few months.
"Ah, well..." Yuri replied. "You have good nights and bad nights, don't you?"
As he sipped his drink, a soft, sweet voice coming from the seat beside him caught his attention.
"May I have a Galaxy cocktail, please?" it said.
The barman smiled at the voice's owner.
"Sure thing, Crystal," he said. "Good to see you tonight."
Intrigued, Yuri turned to see just who this "Crystal" person was.
A beautiful young woman, probably around Yuri's age - bright streaks of green and pink dye woven into her long black hair. A bright green gemstone hung from a black string around her neck.
As Yuri turned to look at her, Crystal smiled at him.
"Hello there," she said. "I've seen you around here a few times. I'm Crystal Cross. What's your name?"
"Yuri. Yuri Lee Harker."
"'Yuri...'" Crystal replied, wondering the name carefully. "Like the cosmonaut?"
"Yes! My parents are scientists, and my mother is from Russia. She named me after him."
"Your mother has cool taste, then."
"Thanks," he said.
After a brief pause, he added, "I like your hairstyle."
"Thanks very much!" Crystal replied. "I like to be a little bit different."
The pair continued to chat as they had their drinks. In fact, they kept on chatting for quite a while afterwards. A couple of hours after their initial meeting, Yuri had reached the stage where he was showering Crystal with compliments. Luckily, his new acquaintance seemed to appreciate his flattery. Before either of them knew it, the barman was ringing the bell for last orders.
"Crystal," Yuri said, "I hope you don't think I'm being too forward, but... I'd really like to see you again. Perhaps we could go to the gallery or something together tomorrow?"
Crystal considered this offer carefully, then smiled.
"I'd love that," she said. "Meet me outside the gallery at noon."
"Hey, lovebirds!" the barman called sharply, glaring at the couple. "I'm really happy for you, but I need to close this place up!"
"Don't worry!" Crystal yelled back. "I'm heading off now!"
She quickly took hold of Yuri's hand, gave it a gentle squeeze, then slowly let it go as she walked towards the door.
"See you tomorrow," she whispered flirtily.
Yuri watched her leave, stood frozen to the spot: a stupid but thrilled grin on his face. He remained there for at least five minutes as everyone else left the bar - the barman chuckling at him as he collected glasses from the tables.