Here is another part of the latest August and Minerva story arc. I intended to complete this earlier in the week, but I found myself having trouble. I started out wanting to do a mystery story, and as such the story developed accordingly. Yet, as I was working on it, I found that I didn’t like excluding the “evil-doer’s” side. I found that, generally, I enjoy getting into the villian’s mind. I like showing how depraved he/she is, and I like developing his/her character.
In this approach, I’m trying to lead up to a big reveal. As such, I’ve found that the story is much bigger than I ever anticipated. So, here’s part 2…
Tobias and August arrived at the City Morgue early the next evening. Despite Minerva’s protests, Tobias decided he would join the investigation. A part of him felt that the murder was an affront to his community; any violence perpetrated near were-folk was easily blamed on were-folk. Speaking with the coroner, they discovered that her heart was the most damaged organ.
“It seemed like a single, strong thrust to her chest is what did it. From the fractures in her sternum, I’d say the attacker had an immense amount of power behind the strike. As far as strange damage, there is a burn on the heart.” announced the coroner, producing the small organ on a stainless steel dish. Looking at the light pink tissue, both August and Tobias saw a many-pointed star. It was the Star of Bodon, the symbol of King Bodon, a powerful devil. The two grimaced at each other, and each began to think of their next course of action.
“Tobias, I would like it if you accompanied Minerva to question Lana. In the meantime, have someone else to question. Tobias watched as August left. The coroner looked at Tobias, a puzzled look on his face.
“What’s going on?” asked the coroner shyly.
“It’s just a potential end of world crisis. No worries; we’ve dealt with this kind of stuff before.” said Tobias reassuringly.
Tobias and August rode along in an uncomfortable silence. The car rolled along, happily oblivious of anything the matter. For a moment, August found himself envious of the utter lack of concern that inanimate things had. Of course, that brought him back to thinking about the body of the Elf.
“I don’t like King Bodon’s involvement in this one bit.” announced August. He felt like he had to say something to break the silence; Tobias had been brooding since they left the morgue. “I’m still stumped as to why an Elf would be around here.”
“You didn’t like Lana’s answer much either, huh?” said Tobias grumpily. “That dragon-lady is hiding something, and its big. If King Bodon is really involved, then this is really big. So far, his involvement in this is textbook. The victim is a woman, and unless I miss my guess, so is the perpetrator.”
“Could Lana actually be that deeply involved?” asked August.
“Like a knife in a murder.” quipped Tobias. “She might not even know that she’s being used, then again, she might.” Tobias’ voice was marred with aggravation. “Her kind are revolting. Back in the day, The Haven was a place where us were-folk would hide from prying eyes. It was the only place where we could be safe from the Esoteric Order’s witch hunters.
“Nightly, they’d comb the streets, looking for anyone that was strong enough to defy their rule. A tightly knit group like ours was a threat to their grasp on society. Now, it’s a lifestyle choice. People like Lana market themselves as something special, and kids just eat it up. Next thing you know, they’re buying cat ears, then fur suits, and ultimately getting surgery. They’d give their souls to be something more than human.” Tobias’ eyes lit up with the shine of revelation.
“That might just be it. What if the Otherkin are taking an even more drastic step; making deals with King Bodon. He gets their eternal servitude, they get to become more than human.” raved Tobias. His excitement over his theory lifted the gloomy shroud off of his emotions. “But we need more proof, and I bet that Lana has it.”
Walking into The Haven, Minerva was assaulted by the stench of bleach. Three workers had been cleaning the floor as thoroughly as possible. A lithe, reptilian woman was overseeing the process. Her arms were crossed and her stance was confrontational, as though her disgust could burn stains away. Watching her glimmering aura, Minerva could tell that the woman felt out of control, and that her posture was a reflection of her trying to regain it.
The woman’s orange eyes turned to Minerva, their pupils widening in the dark.
“Minerva Krieg, yes?” asked the woman. Minerva was astonished that Lana knew who she was, and presumed that she knew why Minerva had come. Lana’s aura settled, and Minerva immediately realized that this would be a difficult interview. Somehow, the dragon-lady had learned about Minerva’s skills. The two spoke at length, though it revealed nothing new to Minerva. Lana was evasive, which inclined Minerva to think that Lana was hiding something.
“If we are concluded, I have much work to do. This is where the Elf was found; the detective has all ready given us clearance to clean the floors, and if we‘re going to open tonight, we need to be rid of any traces of this heinous crime.” Lana announced, guiding Minerva away from the spot. Minerva felt that Lana had a fear about her. Minerva wondered: Could she be hiding something, or perhaps she is hiding from something?
“Do you have any leads yet? We’re all very eager to hear some news.” said Lana, opening the club‘s door and ushering Minerva out.
“We’re considering some things, but there’s nothing concrete yet.” Minerva said.
“Well, hopefully the person that did this will be caught soon.” said Lana, the intense expression on her narrow, angular face unchanging as she closed the door. Minerva walked out of the alleyway where The Haven was hidden. Although it was daylight, she walked cautiously; she felt like eyes were fixed on her until she stepped on the sidewalk and was back in the flowing river of humanity. Only when she was a block away from The Haven did Minerva allow herself to smile.
Lana had put up a strong front, but there was a single fact that she could not hide. Confident, Minerva flipped open her cell phone, intending to call August. Leaning against the cold, brick exterior of a tea bar, she waited for August to pick up. She knew that he loathed using a cell phone, but hoped that he would pick up. As the phone rang, she watched the crowd pass by like a confused army of ants. People of all sorts were out; shopping, eating, or going to see a movie, yet her glance was pulled towards a homeless man that crouched on the stoop of a store that had been closed for over two years.
The building might have been a home once, and the business that had resided there specialized in all things metaphysical. The former owner, a tall, lean red headed woman with a mask of constant anguish, had given up on the store. She was convinced that the gods abandoned her, and so she dumped the store and off she went.
“Hello Minnie. What did you find out?” asked August, a sense of urgency in his voice.
“I didn’t get much off of Lana, but the visit wasn’t fruitless. I found out something very interesting. Lana was-”
“Not here. Not now!” raved the homeless man; his eyes, small, cold, and grey, searched about crazily. Pointing a finger at Minerva, he repeated his warning, but more softly.
“What was that?” asked August.
“Someone on the street. Why don’t you and Tobias meet me by the tea bar and we’ll discuss everything.” Minerva’s manner was brief, and she closed the phone without saying good bye. She approached the homeless man as closely as she dared. His rags were dirty, and concealed his boney body. His face startled Minerva; on closer inspection, his face was not that of a man, but that of a pig.
“No one ever listens. Why did you?” he asked, his voice weak and sleepy sounding.
“I suppose its because I needed to. Why did you yell like that?” asked Minerva.
“His spies are everywhere today. He needs to keep an eye on you people. He knows that you know. They’d have grabbed the voice right out of your throat and used it as they liked. Across the street, one of his is hiding in the coffee shop. Others are under the city, writhing and crawling, and waiting. They need more sacrifices, and they’ll get them if you aren’t careful. Don’t go alone. He told everyone you were coming.”
The man’s small eyes had fire in them as he spoke zealously. Minerva glanced around, wondering if someone was actually watching her, or if the man was insane. For a moment, she considered how much confidence she could have in the man. Quickly searching his aura, she saw signs of despair mingled with a strain of paranoia. It was what she expected from a street person. He seemed mostly harmless, so she decided to heed his warning.
On a whim, she asked the man if he knew anything about The Haven.
“Yeah. I know the place.” he said, “When I was younger, I went there a lot. It was better than a mission, ’cause we could be around other people like us.” An uncomfortable, toothless grin bent his snout. “Uh, people like me, I mean.” he said apologetically. Minerva began to feel sympathetic for the man’s plight, but she remained fully on her guard.
“Well, when it started being a hang out spot for rich kids looking for a weird kick, I got scared. They didn’t care too much for the unfortunates; you know, the ones that aren’t something strong like a werewolf or sleek like one of the catfolk. They’d tolerate us for a while, but soon the ones that were pretending to be part animal outnumbered those that actually were. That’s when the game started.” with a quiver in his voice, he described how the youths would stalk their prey.
“They’d put collars and leashes on the ones pretending to be like dogs, or wolves. They’d track us by sight, pretending it was by smell. Then, when they came across a little cardboard hut or a relatively safe dumpster, they’d howl. That’s how you knew a beating would start. It would start and never stop until there were broken bones and blood.” He pulled back the sleeve of his coat, revealing his curving forearm; it had been broken, and never set properly.
Minerva’s heart sank, yet she would not allow the sorrowful emotions appear on her face. She became quite aware of the eyes that were on her, and began having the sensation that she was being surrounded. She glanced from side to side, and caught a glimpse of a crow faced man that was trying to seem inconspicuous behind a newspaper. Across the street, a small mob of girls wearing cat ears giggled in unison. One that walked behind the clowder wasn’t laughing; in fact she looked grim and brooding.
Minerva thanked the man with a forced smile and started away. She glanced behind her and saw that the crow faced man was following her. The grim cat girl jaywalked across the street, daintily dodging between cars. Minerva picked up her pace; the sidewalks were crawling with people, which made her feel safer, yet caution was still her priority. She wasn’t certain of how it happened, but in a moment, the crow faced man was next to her.
His black eyes belied a terrible seeming intelligence. Minerva was considering courses of action: Should I run? Should I yell? Should I fight? Should I go into a store? Her options whirred in her head, but before she could make a move, the crow faced man spoke in a soft voice.
“We aren’t here to hurt you. We know what you are trying to do, and we are with you.”
Have you noticed what Minerva noticed?