En route to Ammon Park
“You doin’ all right, Van den Broeke?” Rathdrum asked out of the blue, both hands clasped on the steering wheel.
Amy glanced at him and exhaled a contemplative frown marking her face. “I’ll survive. About what happened in the hospital…” She trailed off peering at him out of the corner of her eyes.
“Is none of my business,” he finished for her. “If you want to tell me about it I’ll listen, but I wouldn’t think any less of you either way.”
Amelia nodded and cast him a grateful smile. She eyed him, trying to get a better read on the agent, but Rathdrum was a hard one to understand. What must he think? He must have noted the resemblance between her and her mother and put two and two together.
“You know, we never talked about what happened in the police station,” she said eager to change the subject.
“No.” He peered at her frowning. “You get thrown across the room like a rag doll by a magic sword and walk away without a single bruise or scratch and we’ve barely even discussed it.”
“Magic sword? Didn’t you say yesterday that this case was someone’s idea of a bad joke?” She asked, almost smirking at the memory.
“Given recent events that particular theory needs some revision.” He winked and cleared his throat. “In all seriousness, did you get a read on the thing? I assume that’s why you touched it.”
Amy bowed her head and massaged her temple. Psychometric retrocognizance, that was the name AEGIS scientists had given her ability, but no one understood it least of all herself. She knew what her powers did, but if there existed a scientific explanation for how it worked she’d yet to hear it. There seemed to be residual energy imprinted on items present during certain events, the stronger the emotions tied to the events the stronger the imprint. She intuited that much herself, but there was no way in which they’d been able to measure or otherwise detect the energy she sensed.
Something triggered her power when she touched the sword, but she had not summoned it and that puzzled her. It could mean one of two things, either there was something strange about the weapon which, judging from the vision, was at least partially true, or her powers were evolving. She shivered at the very prospect. It would not be at all unprecedented. She knew of several cases where an exemplar had grown more powerful for no detectable reason. Was the same thing happening to her? Was that how she’d walked away uninjured?
She nodded, turning to regard him. Rathdrum didn’t need to know of her suspicions just yet. “What I saw didn’t make a lot of sense. It was so distorted, but there were armies clashing, and anthropomorphic lions fighting figures in robes with melee weapons. It looked like something out of some old fantasy movie, but with better special effects.”
“Shit, lion-people? This gets weirder and weirder,” he said. “Maybe you’ll be able to sense something helpful at the park.”
Their conversation died away, and Amy swallowed hard as his last statement sank in. What if she used her ability and was again tossed away like a rag doll? She’d come away unscathed the first time, but there was nothing to say it would be the case if it were to happen again. Could she risk endangering her child a second time?
Until that moment, she had not once given a second consideration to putting herself in dangerous situations. It had been for the greater good, but this time around she wasn’t just putting her life in danger. She bit her lip, sighed and closed her eyes. Why did her life have to be so complicated?
Amy peered about, awash in a flood of memories. She’d walked past Ammon Park almost everyday on her way home from school and in her early years had climbed about the big toy and swung across the jungle gym. Her eyes stopped studying a familiar patch of ground recalling a family picnic. There had only been four of them in those days, though Erica and David weren’t born yet, those were happier times for Amelia. Her father, hadn’t yet taken to beating her and… he was even pleasant… at times.
It took her several moments to spot the burn mark. It rested near the center of the park and while it was in direct line-of-site to where she stood, the shadow of an old shade tree obscured it. Even with the caution tape around the outside it was difficult to spot. She made a beeline for it, not bothering to check if Rathdrum followed.
She stopped outside the outer perimeter, ducked under the tape and knelt down to get a better look. Shanderly’s assessment had been more or less accurate. The grass was scorched in a three and a half foot radius, the old shade tree’s trunk rose from the ground intersecting the circle of burnt grass along the outer perimeter across and to the right from her. A pair of spring-mounted animals, a seahorse and a panda sat within the ring.
Neither the tree trunk, nor the spring riders showed even the slightest bit damage from the fire. She bit her lip and studied the charred ground. The burns formed a near-perfect circle. Whoever set it must have used a chemical accelerant, it was the only way the burns would be so uniform, but the grass was all that was damaged.
“Damned odd.” Rathdrum knelt beside her, his hands sifting through the scorched earth.
“You can say that again,” a voice spoke and both agents turned in tandem to meet the newcomer, an older man wearing worker’s overalls, and a well-worn leather tool belt packed with a spade and other gardening implements.
“Now, why don’t you tell me what in tarnation you think you’re doing?” The old man asked planting both hands on his hips.
Amy rose to her feet, Rathdrum tailing her, and produced her badge. “Special Agent in Charge Amelia van den Broeke with AEGIS, we’re just taking a look around.”
“The hell? Didn’t expect that. Name’s Jerry Norham I work for the city,” He dropped his arms and shook his head. “Ain’t never expect to see AEGIS agents show up in lil’ old Tondzaosha. Might I inquire as to your interest in this here patch of ground?”
“We’re here investigating some strange occurrences here in town, we think what happened in the park may be related,” Amelia answered slipping her badge back into her blazer. “I don’t suppose you can tell us anything about it, can you?”
“Hell.” Jerry scratched the back of his neck. “Not a lot, there was some talk of a fire and some lunatic wanderin’ about in a robe, but I ain’t never seen no fire that could burn grass and leave everythin’ else untouched.”
“Pretty damned odd,” Rathdrum said from beside Amelia. She turned to regard him between pursed lips, but didn’t speak up as he continued. “You mind if we take a sample?”
“I trust you won’t take long. I’m already behind schedule, I don’t need you dillydallying about and wasting my time.”
“Uh, should only take a few minutes.” Rathdrum smiled, glancing over his shoulder.
“In that case knock yourself out.” The old man shrugged and gestured over his shoulder. “I’m just gonna tear it all out anyway. I’ll be fetching some supplies from my truck if you need anythin’.”
Jerry traipsed off, disappearing from behind a copse of trees. A moment later Amy turned to regard Rathdrum with an upraised eyebrow. “Soil samples?”
“It’s easier than trying to explain your powers,” he smirked and shrugged. “Besides.” He produced an evidence bag from within his suit coat. “A soil sample’s not such a bad idea.”
Amy nodded, regarding him for a moment longer, then knelt once again on the outer edge of the circle, slipped a hand into the charred soil, and closed her eyes. The memory of the incident with the sword still vivid in her mind, she hesitated for the barest moment, then opened her senses. Her surroundings faded away and the vision came.