AN: This chapter came out a bit more humor-infused than I intended. O_o Oh well.
Start the story from the beginning Chapter One: Rita Lauren)
Chapter Five: Rita Lauren
We continue to go around the room making small talk with people, hoping to get a better feel for what this event details. The opening speech unfortunately didn’t provide us with anything even remotely useful. So far, what we know is that this event is for some group called the Heritage Party, and they use the slogan “What cannot be erased shall not be forgotten.”
After talking with several groups of people, May and I discover a couple of important facts: the man who made the opening announcement is named Guy Jones (a rather boring name for a rather influential man; he is one of the lead organizers of the Heritage Party’s functions), and that most of the people attending this event have no effing idea what they are doing here. It seems that they have been recruited to this event in much the same way May was – through scouts lounging around in South Lake bars, parks, and other such gathering places.
I try not to jump to conclusions too early, but I think I can come up with some preliminary hypotheses based on a few facts and assumptions. First, we know the Heritage Party is relatively new. Their network is presumably still quite small based on the size and scope of the party being held in the museum, and they seem to be targeting wealthier, upper-class citizens for their initial recruiting pool. Perhaps they intend these folks to be their source of money to fund their upcoming ventures?
Next, the fact that hardly anyone here knows much about this party gives me the feeling that this party is not just “kind of new”…it must be extremely new. The fact that neither May nor I have heard of it at all before May mentioned the invitation backs this up a bit. Politics and crime come hand-in-hand. I would think we’d have heard something swirling around the station by now if the Heritage Party was a more important piece in gameplay.
It makes me wonder what this party is really trying to accomplish with this function. Are they trying to sway the minds of the more monetarily influential folks into backing up their party? Or is the Heritage Party like one, big country-club that has been exclusive to South Lake citizens in its beginning stages? The latter option interests me. If that’s the case, we could be dealing with some rich and powerful opponents in the future. Perhaps if I talk to Guy Jones, our opener, I can get a better understanding of this whole get-together.
And with that thought, it’s back to business.
In all honesty, this party is a total snoozer. But the people around me look to be having a fun enough time. Maybe I just don’t have any interest in all of this upper-class conversation and atmosphere.
I lead May around to another room to try to chat up a few more people, but I find myself becoming increasingly more annoyed with him as the night goes on. He insists on trying to hide his blindness and it’s giving me grief as I have to guide him everywhere. I know he has some weird elf magic that can help him navigate. Why doesn’t he just rely on that?
Pushing that thought aside, I enter the next room with May close behind and spot a few people talking to each other in a group. My eyes land on one man in particular.
I have to do a double-take. It couldn’t be…what the heck is he doing here?
“Oh my god. Winston, move over this way!” I shove May into a corner behind a bookshelf and move to hide next to him.
“What on earth is your problem, Lau—Charlotte dear!?” May nearly shouts, clearly agitated.
I take a peek again, hoping the man I just spotted would magically change into somebody else. He doesn’t.
“It’s my brother! Why, oh why is he attending this event? What if he’s one of them? What if he’s involved with something dangerous? Or worse…what if he recognizes us??”
May’s face scrunches up as if I said something screwy. Maybe I did. “I had no idea you and your family come from money, darling,” May says, drawing out the last word mockingly.
“We don’t! And it seems that most of these people here do, so I didn’t expect to see anyone I know here.” I glance again to where my brother is standing, making sure to keep track of his movements. “He must have accompanied someone who does. I need to find out who he is with. In the meantime, we can’t let him see us or we risk our cover being blown.”
My brother wouldn’t have attended an event like this alone, knowing him, so I look around to try and spot his date for the evening. Fortunately, I don’t have to search long as a woman approaches him, entwines his arm with hers, and then kisses him on the cheek.
Even from afar I can see the woman is a dark beauty, with lustrous, black hair, wearing a modest pink dress, and sporting enough bling on her wrist, neck and ears to light up the entire museum. She sure must be someone special, either personally, socially, or both.
I keep the image of her in my mind. Finding her identity is important, but investigating this party comes first.
May is eager to drag us out of from behind the bookshelf, and I allow him to, to at least put some distance between us and my brother. We soon find ourselves in the room they have designated for the silent auction. I’m hoping the silent auction will elucidate more details to us about this Heritage Party, as not much else has given us any good leads.
A few tables are lined along the walls of the room with items up for bid. Next to each item is a sheet displaying the current bids.
May follows along with me while I glance at the items. He is silent the whole while as if he is deep in thought. I figure it’s more of his elf tricks again, like the way he was able to “see” the remnants of the cult activity in the forest.
“Lauren, look there. Is that one of the statues similar to what we encountered in the forest? I feel a strange pulse coming from it.”
I look at the wooden statue that depicts a man with his hands open in front of him. “It does look similar. It’s a smaller version though. “Strange” you say…strange, as in how?”
“It’s hard to describe. It’s almost as if there are small surges of electrical energy coming from it, but the feeling is not like that of a superficial shock. Rather, it pierces right through you, quickly and precisely. It is most unsettling.”
Now I’m afraid to touch it, much less go near the thing. “Now who would want this creepy piece of junk in his house?” I take a glance at who has left bids for the statue. Three names are on the list, and I read them out to May. “Jordan Longsman. Kyra Truffle. Streel Yck..sjen…qin. Streel Ycksjenqin.” I have difficulty sounding the last name out. I’m pretty sure I butchered it beyond repair.
“Alright, I shall record that in my memory for later,” May pronounces.
“’Record in your memory?’” I repeat, a little disbelieving. “So you’re a machine now. That explains everything.”
May elbows me for good measure. “Oh hush. Anyway I’ll keep those names in mind. One of them could become important later.”
“Perhaps.” A thought suddenly hits me. “Wait a second. Don’t you remember Shaw and Morg mentioning that a cult case they’re working on that traffics drugs through statues like these?”
“Yes, I do. In that case, these names could be very important indeed. One of them may be directly linked to the cult, or at least related to its business dealings.”
“I’m suddenly becoming very hopeful. Let’s look around a bit more and see what else we find here.”
As we walk around, I keep an eye on my brother (who is on the opposite side of the room) to make sure he and the woman he is with are still a good distance away from us. I still haven’t found her name out, but I hope to do so before we leave this party.
Most of the other items that are being auctioned aren’t particularly interesting, just some paintings, antiques and such. At one point my eyes landed on an amethyst necklace, and I so wished I could have placed a bid on it. However, it is best that May and I do not get too involved in the party for now. Or, at least that was what I told myself as I reluctantly peeled myself away from the necklace and stuck myself back to the case.
Oh? What is this?
“Winston!” I whisper in May’s elf ear. “It’s a painting with the design of the God of Light. Also like what we saw in the forest.”
“Fantastic. Is it beautiful?”
“Oh, come on! You’re starting to creep me out.” I pull away from him to look at the bid list. “Ah hah!”
May leans in toward me. “What have you found?”
I shove him away. Roughly. “Distance, May. I mean Winston. The names on this list…Carl and Naomi Hamburg, Gewoeri Bewer (goddamn why do elves and ogres give the hardest to pronounce names?), and Bobby Lauren and Gertrude Yumshire.”
“Bobby is your brother I presume?” May inquires.
I feel like I have to hurl a little. “Her name is Gertrude Yumshire? Well, keep that one in your “records” Winston ‘cause I am for sure looking more into her.”
“We’re here for our once-case, Charlotte, not for personal business. Or have you forgotten?” May sighs admonishingly.
I turn to face him, though I know it doesn’t matter since he cannot see me. “I’m just as invested in this is as you. Make no mistake. But this girl is way too blinged out for her own good. And, she and my brother just recently put in a bid for this picture, which may be related to that magical cult we saw in the forest that day. That makes them potential leads. As much as I hate it, this case may have just gotten a bit personal.” I turn back around to face the room. “Speaking of which…where did those two head off to?”
May flaunts his super-powers again. “They left the room five minutes ago to the painting hall next door.”
“Okay, please tell me at some point how you are able to do that…thing where you can see or know things like that.”
May grins impishly. “Oh, but I love knowing how it makes you squirm to not know what I’m doing.”
“Oh, what? Ew!” I exclaim maybe a bit too loudly. I make an effort to continue with hushed tones. “That’s it. You and I are never posing as a couple again. You’re way too creepy and way too old for me.”
May snickers to himself like he’s won the battle. I really want to deck him one but it would be unbecoming to do so here and now, at this party in front of these people. I vow to get him back later.
Soon we leave the auction room, since the rest of the items we deemed unrelated to our investigation. Before we leave this wonderful party, though, I have one last task on my errand list.
“May. I need you to go solo for a bit. I want to go and try to talk to one Mr. Guy Jones but I don’t want you around when I do.”
“Why?” May grumbles. “It’d be helpful to have me around to help question him I think.”
I chuckle a bit, a devious plan whirling in my thoughts. “Not with what I have in mind. Too bad you’re blind, otherwise you might understand a bit better. With this dress and these heels I’m wearing tonight? He doesn’t stand a chance against me.”