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Husband, father, and writer working on a short story project and submitting my novel, The Windsmith, to agents.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Report

“I’m getting too old for this shit,” Gerald said.

He’d been walking this beat for fifteen years now, had worked his way up from a foot cop to a detective, and still mostly kept to the same beat. In all that time, though, he had never seen anything like this.

“What do we have here, Sergeant?” he said to the duty officer.

“Looks like a dragon attack, sir,” he said.

Gerald had already figured that part out. There were red dragon scales all over the place, and the building they were looking at had been burned on one side. It had to be a dragon. But that didn’t explain the dead troll, the dead human in a lab coat and the fact that the place was just crawling with brownies. Gerald hated the fae, and brownies the most. The little suckers trashed his car last week. ‘We just want to clean your windshield,’ they had said. The worst part was that his insurance refused to cover fairy attacks. He had to pay an extra two hundred a month if he wanted that kind of coverage.

“I got that much,” he sighed, lowering his sunglasses to stare at the duty officer, “I mean what do you have for information on the specifics and maybe on the reason behind the attack.”

“Not much, sir,” said the duty officer. “Just this.”

He handed Gerald a manila folder with a plastic tab on it. A little bit of paper in the tab had some writing on it, but all it said was ‘Report.’ No number, no idea of what the report was on, nothing. Gerald opened the report and gave it a brief scan. Mystical drawings and arcane formula were side by side with scientific formula, and it looked like two different hand writings for both sets of notes. The odd formula looked like they were being combined in some way, but Gerald was neither a mystic nor a scientist, and so none of it made sense to him.

“This is just gobblygook,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” the Sergeant said. “We found it hidden in a wall safe. It was behind some pretty heavy duty magical protections, on the side of the building that was burnt.”

“We got a staff wizard here, then?” Gerald asked, surprised but grateful. Maybe the mage could tell him what this report meant.

“Yes, sir, Detective Armstrong is right over there,” he pointed. “He’s been trying to contain the brownies. We’re not sure yet if they’re just scavenging like normal or if they’re part of the crime. There’s an awful lot of them here. Also, he’s been casting the standard lot of forensic spells.”

“Fantastic,” Gerald said. “When he’s done, tell him to come see me. I want him to look this report over.”

The Sergeant nodded. Gerald opened the report again and looked it over. It just didn’t make any sense. Why would you want to combine magic formulas with science formulas? People have tried combining science and magic before, and it always ends in a big boom. Sure, you could enchant scientific items, like magical flash lights that don’t need batteries, cell phones that floated by your ear or flying trains, but no one had been able to find a way to truly blend science and magic. The two disciplines were just too different. It was like mixing water and oil. Or maybe more like mixing nitro and fire.

He looked over the building remains before him. It was obviously a lab. It had all the good, stereotypical, movie set lab stuff, like Bunsen burners, glass beakers, something that looked like a television sized magnifying glass and a round piece of metal machinery with several glass beakers hanging off of it like a miniature circus ride. Nothing here that would indicate magic being used, this was a purely science zone. Then, Gerald looked over at the troll again. Trolls weren’t known for their devotion to science. Sure, they used modern day conveniences, like everyone else, but they weren’t particularly talented when it came to the scientific arts. As with any stereotype, there were exceptions, but still…

Narrowing his eyes, he went over to look. Trolls were notoriously hard to kill, but dragon fire is one of the few things capable of doing the job, so Gerald wasn’t really surprised to see the large, stony looking creature partially burned, particularly in the head and left shoulder area. That did leave a significant portion of the troll to examine, though. First glance didn’t seem in indicate anything out of the ordinary, though. The remains of a Cash for Katie tee-shirt, jeans, hard leather wallet connected by a chain to the hard leather belt. All pretty normal for a troll.

So, he decided to look for something that wasn’t normal. He pulled a pen out of his pocket and gently used it to lift up the tee-shirt for the large, round belly. There it was, just like he thought it would be. He smiled. Normally, Gerald didn’t get this lucky.

“Sergeant,” he called, and the uniformed officer was at his side in a matter of seconds. He bent down to look at the belly of the troll next to Gerald. “What do you see here?”

The man’s eyes opened wide when he looked. “Is that a…?”

“Yup,” Gerald said. “A sigil. The magical tattoo all registered wizards are required to have. This troll was a magic slinger.”

“Why would a troll wizard be hanging out in a science lab?” the sergeant asked.

“More importantly,” Gerald said, “who would want to kill them both? And why?”

Whatever was going on here, the death of these two was just the beginning of things. Gerald stood up and sighed. He had a big job ahead of him, he could tell.

“Sergeant,” he said to the duty officer, “get me some coffee. This is going to be a long night.”

******

About an hour later, Gerald was on his second cup of coffee and the tent working as the headquarters for the investigation. He was reviewing the preliminary and secondary investigation reports of the scene. The scene had been cleaned of distractions, such as the brownies, which had been captured and gathered in a special holding cell. It was still undetermined if they were witness or scavenging, and a translator was on the way, as all of them refused to talk to the detective. The bodies had also been moved and replaced with outlines made of white tape. In a few hours, he would be heading to the coroner’s office to find out the results of the autopsies of the bodies, though he thought he already knew what the results would be. Death by dragon breath was pretty obvious.

He was reviewing what was going on right then, including which uniformed cops were out questioning potential witnesses, when he heard a person behind him clearing his throat. He turned around and saw a plainclothes officer standing at attention. He was an older man, with a neatly trimmed gray beard and round, wire rimmed glasses. Gerald recognized the man as being Detective Armstrong, the magician that was responsible for containing all the brownies.

“Ah, Detective Armstrong,” Gerald said, “I take it you’re done with your initial magical forensic investigation?”

“Yes, sir,” the older man said, “I was told that you wanted me to report to you? I assume you want my report.”

Gerald waved the older man to a seat. “Please, have a seat and come coffee,” he said. “and you can stop with the ‘sir’ thing. I checked your record, and you have at least five years seniority on me.”

Armstrong gratefully sat and took the offered hot drink. “Yes, sir,” he said between sips, “but you’re the officer in charge of this investigation, and therefore, I technically report to you.”

“You can still cut out the sir bit,” Gerald said. “Makes me uncomfortable for another detective to refer to me as such. Gerald, please.”

Gerald held out his hand and the other man shook it. “Jon,” Armstrong said.

“Great,” Gerald said, nodding. “Now that the formalities are out of the way, let’s get down to business. I do want to hear your initial report, so let’s start with that.”

“Well,” Jon started, “outside of the dragon fire and the expected traces of dragon magical energies that were used to break through the building’s defenses, the only thing out of the ordinary was the brownies.”

“Magical defenses?” Gerald said, writing something down in a note book. “The building actually had magical defenses around it?”

“Well, yeah,” Jon said, “but nothing out of the ordinary. All over the shelf magic.”

“Okay,” Gerald said, still writing, “now what about the brownies? Were they witnesses or scavenging like normal?”

“Honestly, I’d say they were victims,” Jon said, “but I won’t know for sure until we can question them with a translator.”

“Victims?” Gerald said. “How does that work?”

“Hard to say at this point, for sure,” Jon said. “There were the remains of little cages that have the auras of Brownie traps on them around the building. I’d say they were being experimented on. Plus, and here’s the big one, they had all their magic stripped from them. That’s why they can’t talk. I’m stumped, though, as to how that happened, and why we need a translator.”

“Stripped of magic?” Gerald said, raising an eyebrow. “I’ve heard of that happening with wizards, but never with innately magical creatures, like a brownie.”

Jon only nodded. Gerald turned around to the piles of papers on the plastic picnic table that had been set up in the tent and found the report. He handed it to Jon.

“That leads nicely in the second reason I wanted you here,” he said. “Take a look at this and tell me what you think.”

Jon read over the report. It was only a few pages long, all of it hand written, and obviously by two different hands with different pens. Not only were there the formulas, but there were notes and arrows pointing to them, along with diagrams and pictographs. It was a jumbled mess, to be sure, but Gerald was convinced that this was the key to the whole case.

“Well,” Jon said. “Off the top of my head, most of the magical formula here are pretty basic. Bigby’s Law of Extra-planar Motion, Nicodimus’ Three Laws of Magical Energy, stuff like that. Things wizards learn when we’re ten.”

“Ten?” Gerald said. “I mean, I’ve heard of these things, but are you telling me this is the ABC’s of magic?”

Jon laughs softly. “No,” he says. “It’s more like the basic magical laws and theories that describe how the universe works. They’re more like the magical equivalent of Newton’s Laws of Motion and Gravity, or Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Which, by the way, are also in here.”

“What?” Gerald said. Jon turns the report around and points to some of the scientific formula’s interspersed among the magical ones.

“See that?” he points to one of the simpler formulas. “That is Newton’s Second Law of Motion.”

“Okay,” Gerald says. “First, how do you know all this? And second, why does Newton’s Second Law look like it’s trying to use arcane symbols as the variables.”

“First,” Jon says, “all magicians are taught some basic science. It’s good for us to know exactly what laws of physics we’re breaking when we break them. I’m not saying I’m a physicists by any means, but I probably know more than the average person on the street. I’ve been told the same is true for scientists and magic.”

“Second,” he continues, “I have no idea. It looks like the two people who wrote this report were trying to use the magical formulas to solve for scientific problems and vice versa. For what purpose, I have no idea. This is an old idea, the melding of science and magic, but it’s never been done.”

Gerald nodded. Then, something occurred to him. He looked up at Jon with a sly grin on his face.

“Jon,” he said, “what’s your current assignment?”

Jon blinked, taken aback by the question. “CSI, magical division.”

“How would you like to get out from behind the desk and do some real detective work?” Gerald asked.

“What?” Jon asked in shock. He didn’t look to pleased with the idea.

“I need a partner on this, Jon,” Gerald said. “I now next to nothing about science and even less about magic. And with the perp being a dragon, I could use a wizard at my side. Plus, you already know the case as well as I do. The captain owes me a favor. I’ll put in the request to have you transferred to homicide, and it’s a done deal.”

Jon paused, looking terrified.

“Jon,” Gerald said, looking the older man straight in the eye. “I need your help. Two men were killed, a human scientist and a troll wizard, but a dragon, and we need to figure out why, find the dragon and throw him behind bars. I can’t do this without you.”

There was another pause, but finally, Jon nodded. “I haven’t done more than forensics in such a long time, I’m not sure what good I’ll be. But, I’ll do it.”

“Good,” John said, slapping his new partner on the shoulder. Then, he reaches for his cell phone. “I’ll call the captain, then we’ll head to the coroner and see what our bodies have to tell us.”

******

Gerald and Jon walked down the stairs to the County Coroner’s office. Gerald didn’t even notice, he’d been here so often in his career, but Jon wondered briefly if the smell was the bodies, or some chemical to prevent one from smelling the bodies. The walked down a long hall, through a set of double doors and into a large, cold room. There were tables everywhere, most of them on wheels, and two large examination tables in the center of the room. One of those tables had a body on it that was currently covered in a plain, gray cloth. The other table had the remains of a dead, naked troll on it. Peering at the dead troll with some kind of eye peace was a surprisingly young looking woman with flowing blond hair barely kept in check in a series of intricate knots and braids. When she looked up, Jon saw that she had long, delicate, pointed ears. An elf.

“Gerald,” she said warmly as the two men entered the room. “It’s been so long. I didn’t know you were working on this case.”

Gerald and the elf woman hugged. “Lyssia,” Gerald said, giving her the traditional elvin kiss of close friendship on her cheek. “It has been a long time. Two years, in fact. I thought you had retired and moved onto a new profession. It was your five hundredth birthday, after all.”

“True,” she said. “And I did take up auto racing for a while. Never quite got the hang of it, sadly, and after one major crash during a race, I decided I wanted to go back to work as a coroner. So, here I am.”

“Well, I for one, am grateful that you are here,” Gerald said.

“Are you going to introduce me to your handsome friend there?” Lyssia asked, looking over Gerald’s shoulder to Jon. Jon blushed at the intensity of the stare.

“Oh, of course,” Gerald said. “Doctor Lyssia Greentree, this is Detective Jon Armstrong, Wizard… er…”

“Master Wizard, Second class, Blackstaff,” Jon corrected. He reached out to take the elf’s offered hand, and kissed it gently before returning it.

“Master Wizard?” she said. “And Blackstaff, nonetheless. I’m impressed. Not many humans make Master in Blackstaff.”

Jon only nodded. Gerald looked back and forth between the two. “I have no idea what Blackstaff means, but a Master, eh? I’m beginning to believe that my new partner may be more than I initially believed.”

Jon blushed again, and lowered his head, embarrassed by all the attention. Gerald smirked and Lyssia smacked him on the arm.

“So,” Gerald said. “Let’s get back to business. What do you have for us on our poor dragon victims, here?”

Lyssia walked over to the cadaver under the blanket first, laying her hands on it’s stomach.

“Well,” she said taking in a deep breath. “Not much. Pretty straight forward, really, at least on this guy. You are looking at the remains of one Doctor Richard Worthy, noted physicist. He was killed instantly by the dragon’s breath. Nothing special about his corpse, except the only slightly odd fact that he had no protection spells or items on him. Not entirely unusual.”

“And our troll?” Gerald asked.

“Ah, now here’s where things get interesting,” the elf said, and Jon swore he saw her ears twitch. “Here we have one Svergold Yarlson, a Master Wizard, Fourth Class, Mjolnier. I was also able to find out that, not long after reaching first class master status, he studied the sciences. Physics, to be specific. He had a PhD in the subject, in fact, a rarity both for a troll and a wizard. Smart guy was our Doctor Yarlson.”

She paused for a moment for effect, looking back and forth between Jon and Gerald, making sure that they were paying attention.

“Now here comes the truly interesting stuff,” she said one she had it. “Just like our human friend over there, our troll wizard here had no magical protection, either in the form of spells or devices.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Gerald said.

“Not only does it not make sense,” Jon said, “It’s impossible.”

Jon suddenly un-tucked and rolled up his shirt, turning around so that Lyssia and Gerald could look at his back. There was the wizard tattoo, very similar to the one the troll wore on his stomach.

“See this?” he said. “It’s the standard tattoo all registered wizards are required to wear. It’s also magical ward, protecting wizards from most forms of harm outside the most advanced weaponry and magic.”

“So, wait,” Gerald said. “Lyssia, your saying that, despite the physical presence of this tattoo, Mr. Yarlson did not benefit from its protective magics?”

“That’s exactly what I am saying,” she said.

“How?” Gerald asked.

“I have no idea,” Lyssia replied. “That’s why you guys are the detectives and I’m the coroner.

******

Gerald slammed the door shut on his car as Jon sat down next to him. Jon looked over at his new partner. He didn’t look angry.

“What was that about?” he asked.

“What?” Gerald said, looking distracted. He was searching for something in his pockets.

“The slamming he car door,” Jon said.

“Oh,” Gerald said. “Nothing. I just do that out of habit. My old car had a sticky door. I’ll try to stop.”

With that, Gerald pulled out a semi-crushed packet of cigarettes, pulled one of the only non-broken ones out, and put it up to his lips. He had the lighter opened and ready to click it when he turned and saw the look on Jon’s face.

“Do you mind if I smoke?” Gerald asked slowly.

“Do I really have a choice in the mater?” Jon said, looking at the cigarette.

“Right now, you do not,” Gerald said.

“Then I guess I don’t mind,” Jon said, and Gerald immediately lit the end of the paper and tobacco stick and took a deep inhale.

“That’s better,” Gerald said. Just then, his phone rang. He reached down to his belt pouch, pulled it out and flipped it open. “This is Detective Dabrowski,” he said. “Yeah? He’s there now? Great, we’re on our way.”

He turned to look at Jon. “The translator just arrived. We can go talk to the brownies now.”

“Great,” Jon said. “I love talking to the fae.”

Gerald looked over at the older man and smiled around his cigarette. “For a moment there, I almost believed you,” he said, then started his car and drove away.

A few moments later, they were in the precinct interrogation observation room. On one side of the two-way mirror sat a rather frightened brownie. In the observation room with Jon and Gerald was Captain Perkins, a man pushing fifty but in far better shape physically than either Jon or Gerald, which made Jon self conscious. Hovering in the air right next to the captain was a pixy. She was about three inches tall, with lustrous blond hair that was bound back in black ribbons. She wore a miniature power suit that reminded Gerald of his sister’s doll collection from when he was a kid.

“Gentlemen, this is Dame Lavorna,” the captain said, waiving to the pixie, “of the Summer Queen’s Court. She has graciously volunteered her time here to help with the translations of these brownies.”

Jon raised an eyebrow and was about to ask a question when Gerald interrupted him.

“A pleasure, Lady,” Gerald said and bowed. Lavorna ignored him, however, and fluttered over to Jon. It was obvious to the wizard that the dimunitive woman was reading his aura.

“You are a wizard?” she asked. He nodded. “then you no doubt wonder what a fairy of my standing is doing here working as a translator?”

“The thought had crossed my mind,” Jon said.

“Simple,” she replied. “For the past few months, fae have begun disappearing in Arcadia. At first, it was the minor races, especially the violent races, like redcaps or goblins. Then, it was noticeable among Summer Court races, like leprechauns and even pixies. And, of course, brownies. Lots of brownies. We had a recent break in our investigations into the disappearances when a brownie witness described the perpetrator. Someone from outside Arcadia. A troll.”

“Let me guess,” Gerald said. “Svergold Yarlson.”

“Yes,” Lavorna nodded. “That was the name that came up in our database when we ran the description through it. Thus why I am here.”

“So,” Jon said, “our troll victim was kidnapping fairies and, what, selling them to the physicist? What for?”

Gerald smiled. “Let’s go talk to the brownies and see if we can’t find out.”

******

“Say that again?” Gerald asked.

“He said that he and his friends had all been experimented on,” Lavorna said. “A machine was attached to their heads and all their magic was sucked out of them, including their translator magic that allowed them to speak with humans.”

“How is that even possible?” Gerald said.

“I don’t know,” Jon said, “but it matches the story of the other three brownies. And my magic indicates that they’re all telling the truth.”

“I concur,” Lavorna said.

“The problem with this,” Gerald said, “is that there was no such machine at the scene. And nothing appeared to be missing.”

“Well,” Jon said, “obviously something was that we didn’t notice.”

The brownie spoke up then, uttering a string of noises that sounded to Gerald like the crunching of leaves combined with someone gargling. Lavorna listened and then turned to the two humans.

“He says he has information on the dragon that freed them,” she said.

“He does?” Gerald brightened at this prospect. “All of his buddies clamped up on this subject.”

“He says that he will offer this information only if I can promise the Queen’s protection,” she replied.

Gerald sat upright in his chair, looking from the pixy to the brownie and back again. “You’ve got my attention,” he said to the brownie, uncaring if the creature understood him. Then he turned back to the pixy, “are you willing to extend such protection?”

“I have been authorized to do so if such information became available,” the fae knight said. “I’ll make the offer now.”

She returned back to the brownie and the two of them held a conversation for some time. Gerald and Jon occasionally asked questions, and in a matter of an hour, they received the information they needed.

“The dragon was there to liberate them?” Gerald said.

“No, to steal the machine,” Jon reminded him. “He swore the brownies to secrecy on pain of death, remember?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Gerald said, thinking. He knew the dragon was the perp from the beginning, but he wasn’t sure he liked the idea of facing a dragon, even with magical support. But now he was talking about facing a dragon with a device that could take magic away from creatures. Not a fun idea.

“We just need to find the dragon,” Jon said. “What about those dragon scales left on the scene?”

“No,” Jon said. “I called about those earlier. The lab ran tests on them, but the scales don’t match any of our records. Whoever this dragon is, he doesn’t have any priors, or is even registered with the government.”

“Maybe the brownie knows something?” Jon suggested.

Lavorna turned and spoke to the brownie some more. When she returned to the two men, her look was not very encouraging.

“He doesn’t know much,” she said. “The dragon didn’t speak a lot, except to threaten the brownies. Apparently, the dragon was only interested in the machine. He did mention a name, though, but it’s obviously a alias, for it is no dragon name.”

“What is it?” Gerald said.

“Ondalaka,” she said. “I am unfamiliar with the word, but as I said, it is obviously no dragon name.”

“No,” Gerald said, smiling. “But it is a name I know.”

The other two looked at him, confused.

“It’s the name of an old night club, closed down a few years ago due to some questionable business practices,” Gerald said. “They were trying to make a human’s only club that featured... er… exotic entertainment from the fairy realms. Ondalaka was the name of the wizard that built the place.”

“Is this club building still around?” Lavorna asked.

“It is,” Gerald said. “No one bought the location after it was closed down.”

“Well, then let’s go,” Jon said.

“I wish to come with you,” Lavorna said. “This dragon possesses a weapon that is very dangerous to my queen.”

“It would be my pleasure,” Gerald said, bowing low to the diminutive knight. The fae then left the room first and Gerald started following behind. Jon, however, grabbed his partners by the shoulder and pulled him aside.

“Gerald,” Jon said, “I’m sure how to put this, so I’ll just say it. You do realize that our fine knight there is only three inches tall, right?”

“Yeah,” Gerald smiled, “but pixies have the power to shrink humans to their size.”

“She’s a knight,” Jon said, “in the direct service of the Queen of the Summer Court.”

“So,” Gerald said, “out of my league?”

“Out of your league,” Jon said.

“Can’t blame a guy for trying,” Gerald said, and the two laughed and followed after the pixie.

******
Less than two hours later, the three of them, plus a large SWAT team, had a small, boarded up building surrounded. The remains of a few signs still proclaimed the building to be Ondalaka. There were reports from the sharp shooters on the roofs of nearby buildings that the roof to the roof to Ondalaka had a massive hole in it, large enough for a dragon to get in and out, for sure, but they couldn’t see anything inside. Jon confirmed that it was a magical darkness. His magical scans indicated that the dragon was, in fact, home, and it was likely that the dragon knew they were all outside.

“Attention Dragon inside the Ondalaka building,” Gerald said into a loud speaker, “This is the police. You are under arrest for the murders of Doctor Richard Worthy and Master Wizard Svergold Yarlson. Come quietly, and you won’t be harmed.”

There was only silence. Gerald let it drag out for a few minutes before lifting the loud speaker back to his mouth.

“We have you surrounded,” he said. “My men are armed with Dragonhide shells, and a few of them have been magically enchanted to seek you out specifically, thanks to the dragon scales you left behind at the scene of the crime. I don’t want to send my men in after you, but I will if you leave me with no other choice.”

There was more silence, and Gerald began to suspect that the dragon wasn’t really in there. He sent a questioning glare at Jon, who only nodded his head. Gerald turned to the officer in charge of the SWAT and nodded. The other man started yelling commands into his walkie-talkie, and in a matter of seconds, the whole SWAT team had descended on Ondalaka.

No shots were fired, which made Gerald suspicious. The men reported nothing but darkness, and so switched to magical goggles that allowed them to see through illusions. They reported what appeared to be bullet holes and other signs of a fight. Then, they spotted the dragon. He was lying down on the ground, apparently unconscious.

“I think he’s dead, sir,” a SWAT officer reported over the walkie-talkie. The SWAT lieutenant looked over to Gerald, who shrugged. He nodded over to Jon and Lavorna, and the three of them went into the building. There was definitely a firefight here, with emphasis on fire. Whatever it was that happened here, the dragon fought back. A brief exanimation of the room also indicated that the machine was missing. Someone had not only known about the machine, but that this dragon with no identity had it. And on top of it all, they had beaten the police to the punch in getting it.

There was a complete examination of the Ondalaka building, but there wasn’t much to indicate what happened. Whoever attacked the dragon was able to get close to the beast before the attack happened. And they weren’t alone, either. But who they were remained a mystery.

******

Jon sat in his office a few days latter, reviewing the case. He knew that whomever it was that took the machine was going to try and weaponize it. Imagine, a machine that could steal the magical energy of a living being. He also knew they weren’t going to have a lot of luck with that. It took him most of the day searching through the building, and another two days to organize the papers once he had them. But now, he had an almost complete report in front of him. It was far bigger than just the few pages Gerald had at the beginning of the investigation, and went into far deeper and more advanced formulas. And sure, some pages were missing, but Jon had enough that he figured he could fill in the blanks once he’d studied it more. He hadn’t told Gerald about it yet, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to.

Jon knew that whoever had the machine didn’t know how to use it. They needed this report. And that meant they would come looking for it one day and, by virtue of him having it, him too. Jon looked over the report again and smiled.

When they came looking for him, he would be ready.

The End

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