Start the story from the beginning Chapter One: Rita Lauren)
Chapter Three: Rita Lauren
The next couple morning hours pass by quickly because I am so focused. Even now I can’t take my eyes away from the files. I look for anything to do with “green lights” or “cult circles” – anything related to what we saw that day in the forest. I sigh and prepare to take a short break, but the last file I look at has something interesting written in it that catches my eye.
Lander May. Specifically, it is a report given to the police by him stating he witnessed suspicious, possibly criminal activity and was victim of a very criminal attack. His statement mentions he encountered a cult circle, barely making it out alive once they discovered he was snooping. Unfortunately, there is no mention of magic written anywhere. But then I do a double-take at the date of the case. 150 years ago!? Holy – just how old is this guy!?
After sitting for a few hours, I feel a need to stand up and stretch my legs a bit. I exit the conference room and walk down to the kitchen area to grab a coffee refill. Instead of heading back directly toward the conference room, I decide to walk around the floor a bit to see if I could chat a few people up. I say hi to Mindy, my friend in electronics, and a couple of old patrol buddies hanging out by the elevators. I walk by the Drug and Trafficking area, intending to skip through there as quickly as possible but I see Captain Rhymer in there, talking to the head of the Drug and Trafficking Unit.
It should not seem out of the ordinary to me, but my gut is somehow telling me it is. Perhaps it is from the extremely stern expressions on their faces, and the fact they seem to be trying to be hush-hush about whatever it is they are talking about without trying to look suspicious. Well, obviously they are failing in that regard.
I glance around to see if anybody is currently watching me, and when I see there is no one, I silently sidle closer to the door in an attempt to listen in on anything that is going on in the office, but I can only catch snippets.
“We need this case…cover…” I hear out of Captain Rhymer.
“…inconspicuous…summon…can’t be caught,” says the other man, who is the head of the Drug and Trafficking Unit.
What is this? I think to myself. This sounds awfully…suspicious if you ask me.
I notice that they are finishing up their conversation and about to leave each other’s company, so I high-tail it out of there and make it back toward the conference room I was working in before.
When I get back, I work through the files again. Soon enough noon rolls around, and the only thing that comes up of any importance was that old report by Lander May. We had decided to meet up at noon to discuss our findings, and I have every intention of discussing this finding with him.
I find him snoring at his desk, with his hat over his eyes. That bastard. He better have found something useful.
I shove his shoulder to wake him up. “May! Good afternoon! What did you find?”
He jumps a bit from being woken up abruptly. “Lauren. Afternoon. I found nothing.”
“I looked through everything you left me so stop fuming. And who says I can’t take a short nap while you traipse around, chatting up the entire building?”
Damn it. He’s got me there.
“Well, I found something, though I’m not sure how much it is related to this particular case. I’m going to actually need your help with that part.” I look at May to make sure he’s listening before I continue. “I found a report from 150 years ago. It includes a statement given by you of having witnessed a cult of some sort in an abandoned warehouse–”
“Old news,” May cuts me off short. “And most likely unrelated to what we’re solving. Cults were a dime-a-dozen back in those days.”
“Come on, man. We’re partners. You need to be up front and honest with me about these details. They’re important,” I reason.
May looks reluctant, but continues in a light tone as he reminisces the moment it all happened.
“The report of the cult sighting that you are holding was not my first such incident. In fact, the only reason it was reported at all was because I had a run in with authorities during my escape. Unfortunately, while I was snooping around some of the cult members found me and threatened to kill me. As you can see I made it out alive which was a relief, but the endeavor was worthless. The cult was not doing anything magical, much to my distress. Because, you see, for years up to that point, I had taken an interest in magical cults and spent much time looking for them.
“As a child, I chanced upon what I believe was a magical cult. I was young and did not know the significance at the time. I think I saw them performing summoning magic, but I ran off before I saw much else. Some years later, I learned just how rare magic is and how highly illegal such acts of magic I witnessed are, and I took a keen interest in trying to track down that group again or at least another similar to it. I came across various cults of the “God-of-this” or the “Angel-of-that” but I never found another magical group again.
“The report you hold is the last of such of my ventures. After nearly losing my life, I decided to give the sneaking-around-by-myself a rest and just join the police force. The date of the report is true. This indeed occurred 150 years ago. I am considered an old man to you humans, but my elf blood allows me to live much longer, so actually, I am still quite youthful and spry!”
I can’t help but smirk as I take the folder and lightly smack him on the shoulder. “Don’t get too ahead of yourself, you geezer. You might pop your hip if you’re not careful,” I jest.
Just then, the door to the MIU office opens and in walks two detectives I recognize as being from the Drug and Trafficking Unit, a human and an orc. I mainly recognize the human by the fedora hat he is wearing with a guilded emblem on it of what I assume to be his family crest. The orc just looks like he wants to beat someone’s face in. They are an odd looking pair indeed, and they both have smug looks on their faces as they walk toward me. I feel myself tensing up but try not to show it.
“Something I can help you two with?” I ask.
The human guy with the ridiculous hat speaks. “I’m Detective Shaw and this is my partner Detective Morg. We’re here to get details from you about the recent forest circle case. We will be taking it over from now on.”
“We believe this case to be related to a cult known to be trafficking illegal potions by hiding them in wooden or stone statuettes,” explains Morg, his voice impossibly deep.
May speaks up, sounding a bit miffed.
“While I don’t question that this cult-like group may be involved in a trafficking scheme, that is not the main focus of this investigation. The main focus, which Lauren and I are working on, is this group’s involvement in summoning magic, which is strictly prohibited here in the town of Four Lakes and in this entire country.”
Shaw doesn’t bat an eye at the information. “Think what you like you two, but we have been handed this case by the Chief. If you don’t believe me, ask Captain Rhymer.”
“What? This is ridiculous,” I mutter mostly to myself.
I stomp over to Captain Rhymer’s office and open the office door so harshly that the blinds rattle loudly against the glass panel. “Sir, why has this case been handed over to DTU? This should be under our jurisdiction.”
Captain Rhymer is none too pleased that I barged into his office unannounced. But he owes us an explanation big time. Even though I’ll probably be reprimanded for this later, I feel very strongly about how we’ve been basically set up to look like fools.
“Who do you think you are Lauren, to just come into my office like that and demand that I tell you everything?” Captain Rhymer exclaims fiercely as he stands from his office chair. He makes his way to stand in front of me, using his taller height as a way to appear more threatening in front of me. “It was given to me as a direct order, and now I am giving it to you as one. This case is no longer ours. Shut the door,” he commands. I do.
His gaze becomes less stern once the entire office is not listening. “Look, Lauren, I believe this case to be as involved in magic as you and May claim. But it’s hard to prove that for certain, and there are strong links between this case and one that DTU is currently working on. According to the Chief, it is best that they take it from here.”
Everything in my gut tells me to shut up before I dig myself into a deeper hole but my emotions are churning so violently that I can’t just let this sit. “Sir, why was the MIU created, if not to investigate the use, or misuse, of magic? This case just screams magic all over it. May and I have only just scratched the surface so far, but I know we’ll find something big if we keep at it. So why the sudden switch in focus?”
I have worked with him long enough that I know he would be kind enough to offer me some sort of explanation, even if he will be angry with me later. But all I get from him is refusal and no other reasons.
In the end, we handed the case over to Shaw and Morg, but I kept the information I found out about May that morning out of their hands. May didn’t seem to think it was related anyways, and I don’t want or need them to go snooping into details about my partner.
The end of the workday approaches quicker than I know, but my mood has not changed at all since the afternoon. I step outside and notice it has started raining. I curse my luck as I grudgingly make my way down the street without an umbrella. I had spent so much time last night going through the old files that I had not bothered to check the weather forecast.
I look around for an open shop that might have umbrellas in stock, shivering a little as the cold rain hits my skin. As I walk by the front of the General Store, I see some umbrellas out for sale. Perfect.
But hold on. I spot someone else walking through the store, talking to the seller behind the counter. I’d recognize that awful hat anywhere. It’s Detective Shaw!
I don’t want him to notice I’ve entered the shop. Luckily, he’s facing away from me. In a panic, I try not to make a show as I look for a shelf or something I can hide behind. I dart to the aisle to my left and act like I’m shopping for (what is on the shelf?)…Prunes. I try to pretend I’m browsing for prunes.
My back is facing him but I can hear him begin to whisper something to the cashier. I feel as if much of my time is spent sneaking around and listening in on others’ conversations these days.
“It’s been set,” Shaw whispers. “Now just to let it play out.” I hear the jingle of coins being deposited on the counter before Shaw speaks again, louder this time. “Thanks for the gummy bears.”
Shaw then leaves the shop. I quickly grab the nearest bag of prunes and an umbrella and pay the shopkeeper, hoping he hasn’t realized I was spying on Shaw. If he does realize, he doesn’t show it. I take a good look at his face while I pay for my items. He is an older man, balding, and harbors a dangerous gleam in his eye, like someone who has been doing treacherous business and errs on the side of caution.
I leave the shop and look around but I find no hint of Shaw anywhere. I feel no need to chase him around just yet. He will be at the police station tomorrow working on my and May’s case. It is not as if he is going to run off just yet.
My interest at the moment is who the guy in the shop is and what connection he has to Shaw. Their brief encounter I just witnessed could be taken any number of ways. Even though it felt shady, it may have been nothing of importance at all. However, my unnerving gut feeling tells me that the moment in the shop and the events of today all connect somehow, and not in a pleasant way.
For example: for the department to just blow over a possible magical case of untold proportions off suddenly because it possibly relates to some trafficking case? I know neither May nor I skimped on the details of what we saw in the forest that afternoon. For even Captain Rhymer to play it off as some kind of “oh well, what can you do” moment makes me angry and want to look into it further.
Unless this whole fiasco was just a meaningless distraction from the bigger picture. The Chief (the Chief, of all people!) gave Drug and Trafficking Unit jurisdiction over the case, making it seem like another cult instead of something more outstanding. Something is not right here. I know it in my head, and I can feel it in the chills tingling along my skin, like the unsettling anticipation of knowing something predatory lies in wait, and we are the prey.