Tondzaosha Police Station
“Van den Broeke?” Rathdrum asked, turning to regard his superior with an arched eyebrow a moment after the car came to a stop. “You sure you’re okay?”
She didn’t answer at once, instead studying the interior of the Durant Santa Monica, the rental which AEGIS provided them. It wasn’t much to look at, the all-black interior was as basic as they came. The only premium feature it seemed to possess was the in-dash GPS, but it would suit their purposes just fine.
Rathdrum walked almost a mile to retrieve it, as the hotel didn’t have any kind of shuttle service, but he was a fit guy and from what she remembered of the area the walk wouldn’t have been a difficult one.
“Amelia?!” He asked, this time a little more forceful.
Amy sighed, glancing down at her belly where her hand had been resting throughout the car ride and turned back to regard him with wide eyes. She’d been debating whether to tell him the truth for most of the morning. An agent was duty bound to report a pregnancy to her superior as it was a condition that could affect the performance of her duties, but while Amy possessed all the verification she needed, AEGIS required confirmation by a medical professional and she’d yet to make an appointment. Though he was not her superior, he might get suspicious if she kept running off to the bathroom.
She swallowed hard and turned to meet his gaze with her emerald eyes. “Carter, there’s something I should tell you.”
He switched off the ignition and the car shuddered to a stop. His eyes, mirrored his concern, but otherwise his face showed nothing of what he was thinking. For the longest time the pair peered at one another neither speaking.
“I-I’m pregnant,” she said finally managing a response.
Rathdrum blinked, and gripped the steering wheel so tight, his knuckles turned white. “Pregnant?! How far along are you?”
“A few weeks. I-I haven’t even reported it yet, I only just puzzled it out before we left and—” She met Rathdrum’s gaze and froze. There was something in those eyes she didn’t expect, relief.
“For a second there, I thought you were going to tell me you were terminally ill,” he said with a shake of his head a soft chuckle escaping his lips.
“So morning sickness?” He asked nodding toward her peppermint tea, nestled in the cupholder.
Amy nodded, snaking a hand out to retrieve her beverage. “Some days are worse than others. This morning was one of the bad ones.”
“I suppose that means the rumors are true about what happened that day.” He peered at her out of the corner of his eyes.
She took a sip and shook her head. She knew, without being told, of which incident he spoke. “A lot of strange things happened that day.”
He pressed his lips together, but didn’t say a word. Amelia was being taciturn for good reason. Rathdrum took part in the Battle of the Downing Building, fighting alongside other AEGIS personnel outside while Agent Van den Broeke and a small group of exemplars fought within. Though he was part of the team that stormed the building in the aftermath, he knew precious little of what transpired when Amelia and Psyren confronted the entity known as Chemosh.
Director Malcolm ordered that all material concerning Chemosh and the incident be classified as top secret and only be shared on a need to know basis. Amy was being tight-lipped because she had no choice. Though Rathdrum took part in those events, he had no reason to be apprised of the specifics and so they left him in the dark.
“Let’s get this over with Rathdrum. The sooner we can figure this thing out the sooner we can get the hell out of Tondzaosha.” She popped the door open and slipped out of the car, moving toward the police station without glancing back.
Rathdrum, followed lurching out of the vehicle with only a second delay and sprinted to catch up. Van den Broeke was really pounding the pavement. Though much older, Rathdrum kept in shape and the effort didn’t wind him much even after his morning jaunt.
Their destination was a nondescript red-brick building with a glass facade. Dull orange embossed lettering on the glass above the entrance identified the structure as the “City of Tondzaosha Police Department”. It was once a small locally-owned grocery store, Amy recalled. She used to pass it on the way home from school and often stopped in to purchase Hee-Haw bars. After the shop closed, the building had been vacant for many years and remained that way for at least as long as she lived in town. Why the city chose to change the location, least of all into an old market, was beyond her.
Amy reached the door first, only pausing long enough to hold it open for Carter before slipping inside. The interior was much different from what she remembered, the checkout stands and the beverage refrigerators near the front were gone, and save for a reception desk and a door in the back corner of the room, the remaining portion of the building was walled off. Instead of tiles, a dull gray carpet now covered the floors.
“Hello!” A wide-eyed young woman seated at the desk greeted them rising to her feet and planting both hands atop the desktop. “Can I help you?”
Amy reached inside her blazer, producing her badge, flipped it open, and held it in front of her. “I’m Amelia Van den Broeke with AEGIS, and this,” she paused holding a hand out to her companion, “is Agent Carter Rathdrum my subordinate.”
“Oh, oh!” The girl lurched sideways, navigating around the desk and jerked toward them extending both hands and rounding on Amelia. “Tom’s told me all about you I can’t believe we have real live AEGIS agents in town. That is soooo cool.”
Rathdrum fought and failed to hide the grin that found its way onto his face and shook his head. Amelia took the young woman’s hand allowing her to shake it, a bit too vigorously, and then withdrew it looking back at her with wide eyes. Amy cleared her throat smiling. “Might we speak with Shanderly?”
“Uh, well,” the young woman scratched the back of her neck. “He went out on an errand, but the chief said she wanted to speak with you.”
“Well, please lead the way.” Amy replied holding a hand out.
The girl glanced down at Amy’s outstretched hand, nodded and waved them toward a door at the back of the room.
“By the way” Rathdrum said as the girl was about to open the door. “I didn’t catch your name.”
“Oh,” she paused holding her lips in an ‘o’-shape. “The name’s Daisy, Daisy Fischer.”
Amy’s stopped, shaking her head. She’d gone to school with a David Fischer, the girl could be a relative. The other two eyed her, but didn’t say a word as she stepped back into sync with them.
The area beyond the front desk was larger than Amy would have guessed, but not by much. They came out of a door on the north wall, a row of desks stood before them and along the opposite wall. An illuminated office, with the shades drawn took up about a quarter of the east wall, along with a row of seats, and a heavy steel door which Amy guessed housed the evidence locker. The west wall housed a men’s and a women’s bathroom and an unmarked set of steel doors. She doubted there were the usual locker rooms or break rooms Tondzaosha wasn’t big enough to justify the expense.
Daisy led them to the office, where she invited them to sit and disappeared inside. When the door closed behind her Rathdrum sighed, leaned back and shook his head. “Cute kid. I have a daughter about her age.”
Amy nodded, turning to regard the man with a single raised eyebrow. Rathdrum didn’t talk much about his family least of all with her, but then again they weren’t what you call close friends. “I have a younger brother who’d be about the same age. Sometimes I wonder if he even remembers me. He wasn’t even four when I left.”
“Must be hard,” he replied. “I grew up in a big Mormon family can’t imagine what my life would’ve been like if we’d all been split up.”
“You’re Mormon?” Amy blinked, surprised by the admission. Tondzaosha’s LDS population was large and she grew up with more than a few of their faith, but had only met a handful since moving to California.
“Nah.” He waved it off. “Stopped going when I was about sixteen. Have an older sister who’s gay, didn’t much like the way they treated her. The wife’s Episcopalian, once in a while she drags me along to church with her, but truth be told I’m not much of a churchgoer.”
“Uh, Agents?” Daisy peered out the door at them her big blue eyes as wide as saucers. “The chief’s ready for you.”
After some shuffling about, she ushered Amelia and Rathdrum into the office and Daisy closed the door behind them presumably returning to her post at the front door.
Upon entering Amelia regarded the woman behind the desk recognition mirrored in her eyes. She was quite attractive in her youth, Amy recalled, but it had long since faded away. Her cold steel-blue eyes regarded the pair without a hint of emotion displayed on her face.
Gwyneth Avery, was a deputy when Amy first met her and back then, she’d already developed a reputation as a bit of a hard ass. Slender and slight of build, she somehow intimidated any who crossed her even men twice her size.
The night Amy’s father beat her half to death, it was Officer Avery who tackled the man, somehow wrangling him to the ground though he had almost a hundred pounds on her. Afterward, when Amy thanked her, she shrugged and said she was “just doing her job.” She hadn’t said a single word to her after or since, but Amy would never forget the role she played in saving her from that hellhole. She did not indicate that she recognized the Agent, but she hadn’t yet transitioned when last they met, so it didn’t come as much of a surprise.
“Van den Broeke, and Rathdrum, I take it?” She asked watching each of them a frown creasing her lips and held a hand out to a pair of chairs opposite her. “Sit down.”
The agents exchanged glances, but did as instructed. “I admit, I don’t much like the thought of you two nosing about town, but the mayor’s is all up in my ass to figure this thing out. The last time, we had a case this strange, someone blew the goddamned police station to shit and we still don’t know what the hell happened.”
Well, that explained why they relocated the police station, Amy thought ruefully.
“Someone blew the police station up?” Rathdrum asked, surprised mirrored on his features.
She shrugged. “It was maybe thirteen years ago. We had some reports of a weirdo walking around with a staff which wouldn’t have been so noteworthy if there weren’t a trail of bodies everywhere he went. Never found any evidence that he murdered anyone, and the coroner couldn’t even determine a cause of death. The last time we heard anything on him, we got a tip he was wandering around in Ammon Park, the chief at the time sent me and another officer out to talk with him, but it was a wild goose chase. When we returned, the station had been blown to smithereens and everyone inside was dead. Damned odd considering they didn’t find any explosive devices or evidence of gas leaks. After that, staff-boy disappeared into thin air and so did any leads we had on him. ”
“And now you have a girl turn up all these years later, dragging a sword around and babbling on about sorceresses and kings?” Amy added, emerald eyes trained on the Sheriff. “I could see why that’d make some people nervous.”
“I am curious why, this wasn’t included in any of the reports Shanderly gave us. He didn’t even mention anything about it when we asked him about similar occurrences.” Amy leaned forward, surprised at such an obvious omission. She’d had time to browse the files while Rathdrum was retrieving their rental.
“Because everything we had on the man with the staff, including the detective working the case, was destroyed along with the old police station. Shanderly’s family moved to town, several years after it was over, I doubt he knows anything about it.”
Amy sighed, shaking her head in frustration. She had no idea whether the two events were related, but it sounded like a good lead. Too bad it was a dead-end.
“Right, well if there’s nothing else—” Amy started, but Avery pounded her fist down on the desk.
“I just want to make one thing clear. I don’t care for secretive government agencies, least of all one that’s nosing around in my town. Tom filled me in on the details of your conversation last night and I don’t much like the sounds of it. I’m willing to play ball for now, but if you hold back anything regarding this case that puts Shanderly or any of my people in danger, you’ll find out just how uncooperative we can be, you understand?”
“Of course.” Amelia nodded putting on her best reassuring smile. “AEGIS’s primary concern has always been preserving lives.”
Avery frowned again and leaned back in her chair. “Riiight, well I suppose you’ll be wanting to look at the sword. Shanderly can get you into the evidence locker when he gets back in a few minutes.”
Amelia rose to her feet, but paused her hand still poised over the back of the chair, remembering a mystery from the night before. “On the report of the incident with the girl, the witness’s name had been blacked out. Any reason why?”
“What? No, I know nothing about that. Must have been on your end,” she looked up at Amy, eyebrows shooting up past her bangs. “We wouldn’t have any reason to hold something like that back.”
Amy eyed the chief of police, furrowing her brows. She didn’t believe the chief was lying, but what reason would anyone with AEGIS have to keep that information secret? Then a thought occurred to Amy and a cold chill worked its way down her spine. “You wouldn’t know the witnesses name off the top of your head, would you?”
When the Chief spoke the name, Amy gasped.