DEATH OF A MORTAL
A/N: Short fic written in response to the OC Challenge. Daily updates will be given as this little mystery comes to its conclusion. Try to guess the murderer before all is revealed!
"The game's afoot, Wattson!" she called, diving into the interdimensional portal.
Hamish Wattson, Lightning Knight Detective, Third Class, followed his partner, instinctively holding his breath as he felt the portal close around him and suck him through to the other world in a flashing cyberspace tunnel. The world spun around him, and in a moment he felt himself fall onto rough ground he had never seen before.
Elementa Sherlock, Detective Second Class, was already standing there, whipcord-lean body poised for action, watching for any signs of movement.
"Hurry up," she whispered, and Hamish pried himself off the ground, wincing as he felt newly-gained bruises on his knees. With his excess flesh, one might have thought that he would be shielded from injury, but interdimensional travel hurt. This was his first real mission, and it wasn't a good start to it. Hamish brushed off the dirt that had attached itself to his uniform, and followed Elementa, trying to ignore the pain.
They walked through the forest they'd landed in—the trees were of a species Hamish had never seen before—watchful for any sign of friend or foe, but gradually relaxing as they realised they were alone for the time being.
"Sherlock here. Arrived safely. What are the coordinates of the crime scene, Lightning?" Elementa spoke into her phone. Hamish heard the other voice reply, though he couldn't hear the exact words.
"Understood. We'll report to the Thunder Tower," Elementa said. "Expect us in approximately point-oh-four Kyrilian millicycles." She flicked her phone off, and hung it back off her belt.
"What's happening?" Hamish asked.
"The mortal detectives are swarming over the crime scene," she said. "Trampling everything, no doubt, utterly ruining the evidence. We'll report to the Thunder Tower and interview our first two suspects as to the events."
"You don't think they…did it?" Hamish was shocked. "He's Ace Lightning!"
"Everyone is a suspect," Elementa said. "First rule of detection, Wattson." She sniffed. "He reported the case to us. One of the first on the scene. Called us in. He has significant involvement, whether or not he did it." Elementa sniffed again, walking briskly through the woods. Hamish followed her.
He wondered if Elementa was jealous of the other Knight; she had attended the Academy with him, graduating in a close second place. Hamish had studied her records. Yet Ace had become the most famous of the Knights, but Elementa, even after she had found the lost jewels of the Duchess of Doomsday and solved the case of the Weather-storm's Atlas and was the youngest person of her rank, remained nearly unknown. For all that, she probably wasn't jealous, Hamish decided. Elementa's one consuming passion was her job.
It had only been point-oh-three Kyrilian millicycles when they saw the medium-sized building through the trees, and Hamish, panting slightly from the exertion of the walk, looked at her.
"Is that it?" he said. "Doesn't look much like the Tower in our world."
"Yes. Let's go in. We're a little early. Maybe we'll surprise them."
She walked confidently in, Hamish behind her.
The two Knights were Ace and Sparx, Hamish knew; he'd only ever seen Ace from a distance, but Sparx had only been two years ahead of him in the Academy and he'd spoken to her once or twice. Ace was kneeling next to the transformer, pulling at some wires, while Sparx was sitting in a leather recliner, watching pictures flicker across a viewscreen. On the screen cat was trying to chase a mouse under a table, and Hamish stared as the mouse, in a sudden burst of superhuman speed and strength, gnawed through a leg of the table and imprisoned the cat under it…
"Wattson!" Elementa said, snapping her fingers. Hamish turned his attention back towards her.
"Lightning, when did you say you first realised that the crime had occurred?" Elementa said.
"Sparx and I were doing our morning exercises," Ace said, standing up. "Mark called us, and told us that Chuckdude had found the…the body. We flew over there, but there were humans around and we didn't want to go near them."
Elementa nodded. "Mark and Chuckdude. Who are they?"
"Human sidekicks," Sparx said. She was still watching the viewscreen. "They're good kids."
"Yes. They've been helping us," Ace said.
"We'll have to question them. Especially this Chuckdude. You said he discovered the body?"
"He worked for the victim. He came in that morning and found him dead, and called the mortal police."
"Why didn't he call you first?" Elementa said sharply. "This is under our jurisdiction."
"He was a human, and this is the human world," Ace said, rather defensively. "You were called in to assist…"
"Because the humans poking around are something we can't afford. Meaning we must solve this case as soon as possible." Elementa shut off her recording device. "Thank you for your testimony," she said. "We will interview you separately later. Where are the humans?"
"As far as I know, they're still with the human police," Ace said.
"Very well. Location coordinates?"
"Forty, sixty-three, one-oh-eight. It should still be busy. The humans take this sort of thing very seriously."
"Then Hamish will investigate. Let's go." Elementa turned back to the door.
In the area just outside the crime scene, Hamish saw a lot of humans in blue uniforms bustling around a mortal dwelling adorned with a bright red sign.
"Use this," Elementa said, handing him a recording device. "Try not to disturb anything. I'll wait here and observe conditions."
"Yes, ma'am!" Hamish said, saluting. Elementa didn't pay much attention to formalities, but it was usually best to keep within the terms of the Knight bureaucracy.
Hamish screwed up his eyes, concentrating, and his rather pudgy form flickered silver for an instant, then disappeared completely.
"On it. See you soon," Hamish's voice came from thin air, fading away as he made his way towards the mortal building.
"Victim died at between ten pm and three am according to my scans; between nine and six-thirty am according to the humans," Hamish said softly into his phone. "No visible markings, but wasn't natural causes either. Reminds me of the eighty-eight plague case; I read up on that one while I was at the Academy…"
"Save the speculation for later, Wattson," Elementa said briskly. "Continue."
"The owner of Jack's Pizza Slices next door, who verifiably went home at nine-thirty, reports hearing something of an argument last night at approximately nine between the victim and a woman, who slammed the door as she left."
"Who was the woman?"
"Lavinia LeGrande. Ex-wife."
"Any other visitors?"
"Apparently there was considerable movement around this area, but most of the nearby shops closed or were not paying attention."
"Interesting. Find out more. Lavinia will be a suspect."
"They mention investigating the carnival."
"Then this matter is as serious as we expected. Return here as soon as you can. We have no time to waste."
"Yes, ma'am," Hamish said, turning his attention back to the humans bustling around the area.
"…And is there anything missing?" one of the human officials said to another human, a slightly overweight boy a few years younger than Hamish.
He shook his head. "No, nothing's been stolen," he said. His voice was shaky. "Can I go home now? Please?"
The official shook his head. "It's a serious investigation, kid. Gwen will take you to the station in the squad car, we need to talk to you a bit more."
A human woman walked up, jingling a set of keys in her hand. "Yeah, come with me, kid. You don't need to be around here any longer. How do you feel?"
"I feel sick. You have a bucket anywhere?"
Invisible, Hamish passed through the police station, drifting through the hallways, staying close to the human boy and his escort. A cleaner up ahead spilled some slippery-looking substance on the floor, and Hamish nearly tripped on it, but gathered himself just in time.
"C'mon, kid. We'll take your statement and then you can go," the mortal called Gwen said. She patted him on the shoulder gently. "Do you want a snack? A drink?"
"I think I want a lawyer," the kid muttered. "Is my mother coming?"
"Don't you touch my son! I'll be suing for this!" a large woman dressed in a business suit yelled as she marched into the room. "You leave him alone and tell me what's going on!"
"Your son discovered a murder, ma'am," Gwen said. "We need to take a statement from him."
"I'm a lawyer. I know my son's rights."
"Yes, ma'am. Believe me, though, your son isn't under any suspicion. We just want…"
"That's enough from you, young woman. I'm filing a report on police brutality."
Gwen took a step back from the young mortal. "Yes, ma'am. I understand your feelings completely. I've two of my own. The phone's through there."
The woman sniffed. "About time."
"The boy was employed by the victim," Hamish whispered. The boy had finally finished making his statement to Gwen, and was sitting with a large milkshake in the station's staff room, his mother bustling around him. "He reported for work at nine in the morning that Saturday and found him dead, nothing stolen. The police were notified at nine-thirty and immediately came over there. I'm not sure what time Chuckdude would've called the Knights; the mortal police don't know about that fact.
"We'll find out," Elementa said. "Have they called anyone else in for questioning?"
"They're still trying to track down the ex-wife," Hamish said. "She lives out of town, so they expect it'll be some time."
"In from the labs in a week or so."
"It's unlikely they'll know more than us."
"Have you got the full scan results computed?" Hamish asked.
"Yes. Victim died from unnatural causes, probably as a result of electrical or magical energy. Unknown type, but of course powers differ. It was either one of us who killed him…unless impressive technology was used. And the time of death would have been some time after whatever was done to him; delayed-action effects are likely to have occurred. The victim was some sort of scientist, was he not, by the way? With access to technology comparable to that of our world?"
"Yes. So you think one of his own machines could have killed him?"
"I think that is an entirely plausible theory, and broadens the field to include those humans reasonably intimate with him," Elementa said. "We will see. When we interview the boy, we will ask him about the victim's tech."
"How well did you know the victim?" Elementa asked. She was sitting next to Hamish across from Ace in the attic of the Thunder Tower; it was a dingy room, piled with old human books, and with a rickety table that Elementa had used for her equipment and notes.
"Not well. I saved him once or twice. He called himself the Master Programmer. He…" Ace paused. "He tried to help the evils, until they turned against him."
"Interesting," Elementa said. "And the first you knew of the murder was when Mark called you?"
"Yes. We were doing our morning exercises when we got the call."
"Where did you go on your flight the previous evening?"
"We flew over the Carnival once or twice, just to see if trouble was brewing."
"Did you encounter anything?"
"No, it was quiet. Sparx wanted to go in closer, but I decided to play things safe and we stuck together. Later, we got back here, recharged, played chess, and got the phone call from Mark in the morning at about quarter to ten." Ace absent-mindedly ran a hand through his hair as he spoke.
"What were the times involved?" Elementa turned a dial on her recorder.
"The flying…probably from seven to around nine-thirty. We were in the Thunder Tower all night, though we're the only ones who can back each other up."
Elementa nodded. "Plausible, though unfortunate for you. You both slept?"
"Yes. I really couldn't tell you the exact times, but the alarm goes off at seven in the morning."
"So, one of you could have snuck out at the appropriate moment," Elementa said. "Or, of course, you're simply each other's alibi."
"Possible. But false." Ace stood up. He didn't look as offended as he might have been; Hamish supposed he was used to Elementa's bluntness after spending four years in the Academy with her.
"Send Sparx in," she said.
"I'll fly and get her. She'll tell you what I've told you," Ace said, and left, not bothering to be careful closing the attic trapdoor, which banged shut behind him.
"How well did you know him?" Hamish asked Elementa, who was staring thoughtfully at her recording device. "You were at the Academy with him; I looked up your public bio."
"Colleagues," she said. "He struck me as possessing a very professional attitude. More sociable than I was, and not in the same circles. I never knew him especially well."
Hamish wasn't surprised; he'd never seen Elementa talk to anyone outside of her job.
"You knew Sparx?" Elementa asked. "She went through…" Elementa ran up a viewscreen for details. "Two years ago."
"She had a reputation for a fiery temper," Hamish said. "A little tactless. But she was…nice, from what I knew of her, though she was two years ahead of me." He'd seen her around, of course; she was almost the complete opposite of him in terms of talents, brilliant at the practical-focused exercises, but insubordinate and struggling with the theory and memorisation components. She'd been lucky—or possibly unlucky, depending on how you saw it—enough to get Ace as a mentor, and been transported to this dimension as one of the Knights' final hopes against the triumph of evil…
"It's professional to treat them as suspects, but we'll get these interviews over as soon as we can," Elementa said. She shut down the viewscreen as they heard footsteps running up the observatory's steep steps. "And here comes our second interviewee," she said.
"Yeah, what Ace said," Sparx said, flinging herself into the chair across from Hamish and Elementa. "Flew over the Carnival, came back here, powered up, went to sleep, and got a phone call from Mark in the morning. That all?"
"What times were involved?" Elementa said sharply.
"Oh…seven to about nine-fifteen, I guess, flying, and we played a game of chess after we'd powered up. Went to sleep at around ten-thirty." Sparx shrugged. "I can't give you the exact details. Got the phone call at nine-thirty the next morning."
"Were you together the entire time?"
"No, not really…we separated for a bit, just doing surveillance, and…well, we didn't keep our eyes on each other the whole time. Nobody would. Anyway, nothing happened. Can I go now? This is just a formality. You'd do better going after the real bunch of criminals at the Carnival."
"There was nothing going on there last night. You believe the evils are responsible for the death?"
"Yeah. Guess that's what they did last night. Who else could it be? I mean, it wasn't a human kind of death and we all know what those freaks are like. I know Ace had to notify Command and all that and they sent you in to help things along, but we don't need you."
"How well did you know the victim?"
"He was just a human," Sparx said. "Ace rescued him once, I think. I never met him."
"And did the evils know him?"
Sparx shrugged. "He was just another mortal to them. I think Kilobyte was the only one who'd bother with him. Unless he sent Lady Illusion or something."
"And you think Kilobyte was responsible, directly or indirectly?"
"Yeah, well, who else?"
"Then why did he choose this method? The human's body has been noticed. Unless the mortal police find some reasonable explanation for the death, we are all doomed."
"You think he should've disposed of the body or boasted about it or whatever?" Sparx rolled her eyes. "Look, he was evil, all right? They're not known as Mr. Logic here. The case is closed." She stood up. "I'd say I had a world to save, but because of everything that's happened we can't attract attention, so I'm just going to sit around and watch soap operas while I wait for you people to finish your job." She left, slamming the door behind her.
"Interesting," Elementa muttered.
"Yes. Slight inconsistencies with the times, but I think that's understandable. What's significant is that she said they separated over the Carnival," Hamish said. "I suppose Ace could just have forgotten to mention that. Or they could have just covered different areas—not separated, but not in direct view of each other either. Normal enough. But the contradiction's interesting."
"Not a bad summation, Wattson," Elementa said. "Yes. That was interesting. Also interesting was that she attempted to fix the crime on Kilobyte."
"And Lady Illusion," Hamish added.
"Yes." Elementa stood up. " Tell me, Wattson, what happens if it turns out that a human is guilty?"
"The human police are satisfied and we get left alone."
"And if not?"
"Then we have a problem on our hands."
"Precisely." Elementa put her recording device back on her belt and walked towards the door at a swift pace. "Come, Wattson. We have more interviews to conduct."A/N: To be continued...