Chapter 2: The Detective is on the Scene
Chapter 2: The Detective is on the Scene
"I'm glad you're here." At that very moment, sitting in the little meeting room that was once grandpa's room, I felt like I would burst into tears. I couldn't even take Charles' words and twist them around to mean something else, something more romantic.
"Please tell me the whole story." And by all means take your time, because I can't talk when my voice feels all choked up.
He nodded and began his tale. "This plot of land was sold to Fun Land a few years ago. We intended to buy the nearby town to construct an amusement park, but the locals refused to sell." That was different from my initial perception of what happened. Then again, Karen's letter had been so full of spite that I could barely interpret her message beyond the traitorous accusations. "The project was halted and eventually changed. We decided to build a sea side hotel instead and market Mineral Beach. Everything was set in place for the construction until this happened. Alice, the CEO, was attacked when she was out on a walk one evening." Charles continued, serious, grieved, and guilty. "I had thought nothing of it, the villagers were resigned, this place was peaceful and she had gone on walks to clear her head before. I wish I had been with her."
I wanted to cry out now for a different reason. He cared about this Alice girl, it was written all over his face. I thought I was over Charles, but I wasn't. I gave up a stable job along side my father in his boring yet secure business consultant firm for him after all. If not for Charles, the chain of events that turned me into a detective wouldn't have happened. It also makes me realize that if not for me, this wouldn't have happened. If I haven't sold the farm, none of this would have happened. "And?" I prompted.
"Alice always walked by the river, she was wet when the Harvest Goddess rescued her, so she must have been thrown in." Charles explained with bitterness, his perfect face marred with anger towards the unknown attacker.
"The goddess?" I questioned.
"I don't know who or what she is or claims to be. A lady with green hair and a flowing blue dress who wears flowers in her hair," Charles explained. I didn't need to hear that, I knew who the goddess was, I was just surprised. "Alice was taken to the clinic in a fragile state. Elli, the nurse there, heard something and when she went down stairs she saw the goddess who apparently disappeared soon after." I'm guessing he's interpreting 'disappeared' as 'left' but I know she could literally disappear. "I was called and rushed there. I don't know who did this, but I suspect the villagers, all of them. Detective, please avenge Alice!"
This man was not the cool, calm and collected Charles I remembered. I pushed myself to be strong because he really didn't need my weakness in the middle of his crisis. He was acknowledging me, counting on me, but it felt so bitter. "How is Alice?" I asked curiously.
"In a coma," Charles frowned.
"At the clinic?" I half assumed.
"No!" The offense was evident in his voice and I shrunk back on my chair. He took in a deep breath, he didn't mean to yell, I could tell, but he obviously didn't trust the villagers. Now he was giving me a look as if I were stupid. "Of course not, she's here, upstairs," in the second floor that wasn't there the last time I visited.
"May I see her?" Distrusting as he was, I wondered if Charles would deny my request. Yet he didn't. With a silent nod he led me upstairs and showed me the room where Alice was.
The room had fine carpets and various paintings on the walls. The furniture was of high quality and there, in the center of it all, there was an intricately carved wooden bed with pristine white sheets where sleeping beauty rested. This was Alice? This was the CEO? She was so young... Her silver hair rested on the pillow, her face serene and peaceful. She was beautiful and she must be a genius too... and rich... and perfect... unlike me.
"Are you finished?" Charles' impatient voice woke me from my thoughts and I scurried out of the room. I didn't even walk too close to the sleeping woman anyway, not that a patient stuck in a coma had anything to testify. Yet I couldn't help it but to notice how protective and territorial Charles was.
My memory jumped started and I remembered hearing about a Charles who was second in command next to Alice. Those names, I had read them, but my mind went blank as soon as I reached Mineral Town. Of course, I never thought the man in the report was this very same Charles; it was a common name after all. I had tossed theories around in my head before, wondering if the mysterious Charles could be the attacker, searching to climb the corporate ladder. There's one theory out the window.
"I need to talk to the mayor." There's a lot more that I should be asking Charles, but I'll do that later. Right now, I just want to get out of here.
xoxox xox xoxox
As I walked to the mayor's house, receiving curious looks from those who didn't recognize me and angry looks from those who did, I thought again of why I hate thieves. After I sold the farm I put the money in my bank account, naturally. Then one day, as I tried to get money from an ATM after a study session late into the night at one of my new classmates' house, an unknown man pressed cold metal against my back. I felt it through the fabric of my shirt, I felt it on my spine, I felt the gun and my life flashed before my eyes.
I had two choices, give him my debit card or be killed. He stole my purse too and with it my phone and car keys. He took my car and I was too panicked to do anything, I would have been killed if I did. He sped away in my car with my IDs, my money, my property. I ran until I found help at a gas station in another street. I later called the bank and alerted them. At that time immediately after the event it was past closing time, I didn't know what number to call and I was scared senseless. By the next morning it was too late.
My account had been all but completely drained. They cancelled my card to prevent further purchases, but what was taken from the ATMs was gone. It was a trying process afterwards. I had to secure my identity, get a new license and start getting used to taking the bus. What little of the money that came from selling the farm I could salvage went to pay for my degree later on. Father said he'd gift me my education, yet he was so upset at my stupidity, lowering my guard and keeping all my money in a single account so easily accessible through a card, that he took it back. Maybe he was just shaken that I my life was in danger, yet I still wanted to be a detective.
I suppose I should have made a separate account, a certified account, and made it so that no cards were attached to it, keeping only a portion in my checking account for easy access. But I didn't think of that, and it was too late. I was just glad to be alive anyway, though the loss of the money, more so because it was grandpa's final gift, still hurt, a lot. I decided then that I hated thieves and for the first time I really wanted to be a detective. I wanted revenge. Maybe, if I jailed enough criminals I would one day, even without realizing it, catch the one that did that to me. I never saw his face, but if I had, I would pound it in if I ever saw it again.
I knock at the door to the mayor's office and the familiar chubby short man opens it. He's balder than I remember and smaller, but that's just because I'm a fully grown woman now, no longer a child. "Mayor, I'm the detective assigned to the case of miss Alice." I showed him my badge.
"Yes," he fidgeted nervously at the door before stepping aside. "Please come in."
xoxox xox xoxox
Talking to the mayor was not productive; all he did was attest to the innocence of all the villagers. I interrogated them too. They weren't happy and sometimes, when they realized who I was, they tried to turn the interrogation around, asking me about why I sold the farm. They claimed not to know anything about the attack, of course. It was all too predictable.
As I sit here at the first floor of the inn where I'm staying, staring into my glass at the bar, my theory is that one of them is guilty. I saw them as trust worthy people as a child and don't like to think this way, but what else am I supposed to think? They all testified that aside from Alice, Charles, Renton and the construction crew that has since left, no one else was here save the local residents. Charles isn't the killer. It's unlikely that anyone from the construction crew could possibly harbor a motive. Renton seemed to care about Alice perhaps as a niece or daughter even if they're not actually related. That leaves the locals... my childhood friends, the people I once felt such appreciation for.
I sigh and down my glass, paying the tab and leaving. Ann, the inn keeper's daughter, has been avoiding me after my questioning. I was going to greet her with something other than an interrogation, but she greeted me with an accusation so I decided to get down to business.
I leave the inn, walking around town. It is almost evening by now and I don't think Charles will appreciate me interrogating him this late. I'll do that later, maybe in the morning, or when I feel brave enough to face him again. For now I just want to clear my head and forget about the hostility in town. They were looking at me as if I was the killer. I sold the farm, I brought Fun Land and Fun Land's CEO brought disaster. But she was the victim and she had, still has, legal rights over that stretch of land that was once my grandfather's farm.
My feet carry me further away from town, past the halted construction site and towards the river, the scene of the crime. The distance must have been greater than I remembered. I'm at the river, but the sun is now setting. I thought I could make it here, look around and go back before sundown, but I was wrong, very wrong. If my memory failed to judge the distance, maybe I shouldn't trust myself to find my way back in the darkness of the night. Yet a figure at the bridge catches my attention.
I approach the man standing there curiously. He has silver hair and blue eyes. "Hey beautiful," he smiles and I'm taken aback.
Beautiful? I chuckle bitterly, for a moment wondering if he was speaking to his reflection in the waters below, but he was looking at me. After a long ferry ride and an exhausting day with little to no sleep the previous night, I'm sure I look like a wreck. "Would you mind if I ask you a few questions?" I try to push his obvious charm to the back of my head and go into detective mode.
He smiles, apparently amused. "My name is Skye, the Phantom Thief," he winks and I blush. I hate thieves, but took his statement as a metaphor. What real thief called himself a thief outright?
In return for his introduction I stated my own name and showed him my badge. He took a seemingly involuntary step back when he saw it. I assume he was surprised to realize that I wasn't trying to flirt, but rather, conducting an investigation. Then his eyes met mine. For a short second I thought something, I'm not sure what, would happen. But he seemed to reconsider whatever it was he intended to do and smiled once more. He suddenly took my hand and kissed it, "a pleasure to meet you."
It took me a moment too long to pull my hand away from his gentle grasp. My face was rosy and I was acutely aware of the feel of his lips on my hand even after they had been removed. This was going to be a long interrogation.
To be Continued
And so the detective and the thief meet in a peculiar evening that will mark the start of their game of cat and mouse...