Ch3.33 The Pearl

In the basement, Sky knocks on the doorframe to the lab. “Syron?”

“Yes?!” comes the sharp reply.

Sky enters the lab, looking around curiously. The scientist is pouring something from a small beaker into a larger one over the sink. “Syron? How is your research coming along?”

The larger beaker slips out of Syron’s hand and shatters in the sink. He angrily hurls the smaller one down on the floor, sending slivers of glass everywhere. “How is it coming along?? How is anything supposed to ‘come along’ with these incessant interruptions?! Science takes time and focus! This is a lab, not a carnival fortune-teller booth! If I could just draw cards and tell you what they say, don’t you think I would have given you an answer by now?!” The mortal glares at the inspector, shaking with fury, then slumps against the counter and sinks down until he is sitting on the floor, looking worn out.

“Syron...you look exhausted. Did you drink the water?”

“I don’t know,” Syron says. “I had to taste it, after all. Or maybe it was when I boiled it and breathed in the steam. Or when I threw a sample of it into the acid bath to see if it caused any reactions.” He trails off, his head nodding. He begins to lean over, getting ready to curl up on the glass-strewn floor like a housecat in a sunny spot.

Sky sighs and stops him, getting an arm under an armpit and lifting him. “Let’s get you to bed, Syron,” he says.


Ch3.32 The Pearl

The station is quiet – hardly anyone is present, though through the silence Mayumi’s keen ears can pick up the sound of people in the bar out back, Cherry and Merri, Kori too, excited about something. Mayumi approaches Inspector Tuma-Sukai’s door, a file in hand. She raises her hand to knock, but hears a soft snore, and pauses. He is always guarded, she thinks, always hiding who he is, except for moments here and there. And then the thought comes to her, And it is in those moments I like him most. She tries the knob – unlocked – opens the door quietly, and enters the dark office.

He had been working with them in the records room, but he kept drooping until Sage finally convinced him to go lie down. His jacket is now hanging on the back of a chair, his hat on a hook on the wall. He is lying on his back on the sofa, his body too long for it, legs hanging off one end, shoes on the floor beside the sofa, head on a pillow against the arm of the sofa. One arm trails on the floor, the other across his belly. His flowered shirt is gone; he is sleeping in trousers and a white sleeveless undershirt, his legs draped carelessly with a blanket. Layered over the Inspector’s smell – a smell that evokes in her images of dark ocean waves whitecapped by the wind, even though she has never seen an ocean, in her dream-life or in reality – she detects Alma’s scent, as familiar to her as her own skin, the complex perfume of nature in both life and death. She realizes it is coming from the blanket, and from the pillow.

Were they lovers? No – she would smell that easily. Then why did Alma sleep here? Strange. She wonders if Sky noticed the smell before falling asleep.

Mayumi looks at his brown face, relaxed in sleep. The scar that split his upper lip on the left side is nearly healed, but the one on his right cheek will take awhile yet. She shudders at the memory of seeing his face for the first time after the fight. Rosemary had warned her it was bad, so she was able to keep most of her shock out of her expression, but the memory of that cheek that had been torn open and stitched closed, the obviously broken cheekbone as well – and yet he acted as if nothing had happened beyond a mild bangup. Still, she could see the pain.

The stitches are gone, the bones realigned, and at this rate she imagines that all trace of the fight will be gone in less than a week. She sees him at peace. She sees the stubble on his cheek – wonders why a god even grows stubble. Could he not decide to have smooth skin, not have to shave every day? She flashes back to that day, out in the City, when they first spoke, when they danced at the café, and she hurt her foot, and he healed her at the fountain. His touch was gentle, and when he reached into her to heal her small wound, a memory came with the mana, of his awakening to the touch of a woman…

Suddenly his eyes are open, paralyzing her as if she were pinned by a spotlight in the dark. She is shocked to see that her fingers are lightly touching his cheek – she realizes she has reached out without thinking and stroked him in the same way as the woman in her memory. But his eyes momentarily freeze her blood. They are a solid, dark grey-blue, the very color of those waves evoked by his scent, waves created by storm winds. And she can smell the storm, and feel the charged air on her skin. His body, though it has not moved, is like steel, ready to strike. He seems to be exerting all his will not to move. Then she sees recognition dawn in his eyes, as they soften and return to normal, the sclera a very pale blue, the irises a rich brown with a bar of green in the left one. His muscles unlock and he smoothly sits up, taking the hand that is touching his cheek into his own.

“Mayumi? What is it?” He blinks, clearing away the befuddlement of sleep.

For a moment she cannot speak. Her heart is pounding so hard she thinks it must be visible even through her tunic. Am I frightened? Am I...what am I feeling? She thrills to the feel of her hand trapped in his.

“I-I brought you this.” She holds up the file with her free hand. He looks, then looks at the hand still holding hers. There is a moment, a long, slow heartbeat, in which he continues to hold it as if it were the most natural thing he could do. But then he releases it – or she does, Mayumi is not sure which – and that moment is over as if it had never happened.

He takes the file, glancing at her. She can feel her face burning, and is sure he can see her blush in the gloom. He holds her look and says in Japanese, “I’m sorry. Did I look… strange, when you woke me up?”

She nods, beginning to relax.

He grimaces. “I, uh…” He pauses and scratches his head, then rubs his hand over his face. “The thing is, I’ve spent a lot of my life in...enemy territory, as a soldier, or undercover. So, waking up ready to fight...that became normal for me. Lifesaving, even. I’ve woken up with a gun or a blade in my face more than once.”

“I thought you were about to strike me,” she says quietly.

“I’m sorry. But...I didn’t, right?” He gives her a wry grin. “That’s an improvement.” The smile fades as the joke falls flat. “You know I would never hurt you, or let anyone hurt you, or your siblings.”

“I know,” she says, feeling the truth of it, wanting to hold his hand again. Wanting to pull his head to her, hold it to her chest. Stroke his hair. Stop this! she commands herself. Where is this stupid schoolgirl crush coming from? He’s your boss! He’s a god! Centuries old! He doesn’t need you!

“But,” he continues, “it’s probably better if you don’t wake me like that again. I might not know it’s you next time.” He smiles again, then opens the folder. “So what is this? Um, could you turn up the gaslight?”

She steps over to the wall, relieved to move away from him, and turns the gascock so the lamp becomes brighter. “It’s a report on what Sage and I discovered, sir.”

She turns to see him watching her, his eyes flicking back down to the report too late. He pretends to focus on it. But soon the pretense is replaced by reality. He reads the several pages intently, then looks up at her. “Are you sure about this?”

She shakes her head, her ears drooping. “No, with the names expunged we can’t be entirely sure. But the evidence points toward it. I hope we’re wrong…”

He looks at the report again and sighs. “You’re not wrong. Keep this to yourselves, you and Sage. These crimes that Corporal Kaur committed with this mysterious woman – well, girl at the time – they were kept out of her record, and for a good reason, I’m sure.”

“Did you see the name of the arresting officer, sir?”

He simply nods. “Constable Edison Machado. It’s a small neighborhood, isn’t it?”

“Will Aliyah get into trouble, sir?”

“I don’t see why. She was hardly more than a child.” He looks at Mayumi. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. But don’t worry.” He looks again at the report, flipping to the final pages. “And this report from Little Falls? About a crossbow-wielding assassin, presumed dead along with her whole gang…”

“Presumed killed by the Dukaines, sir.”

“It seems they missed her.” He shuts the folder. “Good job. Please let Sage know from me. And Mayumi…”

She waits as he closes his eyes, thinking. “I think we’re going to need more help with distributing the water. We simply do not have enough cops. There are some people I want to approach, after Alma returns.” He opens his eyes and looks at her. “I need someone to run messages for me between the Copper Pot and here, and maybe a couple of other places. Someone fast.”

“I’ll do it!” she blurts out.

He laughs. “I had a feeling you would like to get outside. All right, but I have to ask Alma.”

Mayumi hesitates. “How will we explain that I know the way to the Copper Pot?”

“I’ll tell Alma that I’m teaching you the way today.”

Her ears lie flat along the back of her skull. “I am sorry that you have to lie for me again.”

He waves this off. “Just don’t step on glass again. Or get hurt in any other way. You have to promise me you’ll be careful. I don’t want to think what Alma would do to me if you come to harm.”

She nods. “Of course. And thank you.”


Ch3.31 The Pearl

Back at the station, Cala watches in silence as Nataniel prepares the corpse of the demigoddess for autopsy. Standing by the door, her eyes linger on the blueish skin of the female, her skin made pale by the bloodless livor of death.

“Do you ever talk to them?” the Constable finally asks, her arms crossed over her chest as if to keep the touch and scent of death in the room from reaching her hands.

“Do I ever do what?” Nate asks back in absent tones, the focus of his attention remaining on his current task.

“Talk to the people you autopsy,” Cala explains, her voice solemn and restrained.

Nate looks up at Cala, his eyes unfocused for a moment as if doesn’t even recognize her. As her words sink in, his gaze once again moves down to the cadaver. "I don’t autopsy people," he says flatly. "I autopsy dead bodies."

Cala rolls her eyes at this. “All right, then. Do you ever talk to the dead bodies?”

“No.” Nate shakes his head. “I don’t talk to di dead, di dead don’t talk to me.” He looks up at Cala once more, smiles and winks. “We have a deal.”

The Constable quickly looks away, hoping her cheeks don’t look quite as red as they feel. A quick glance back at Nataniel and she sees he is again focusing on the corpse. “They just look so… exposed, lying naked on the table like that,” she notes. “Like, they’re not entitled to dignity anymore.”

The doctor merely shrugs. “Están muertos, cariño. They don’t even care if I defile di bodies.” His head shoots up at her, his brows furrowing. “And I don’t defile di bodies. I just try to find out how dey died.” He pokes the cadaver’s shoulder lightly. “Muerta, de qué moriste?”

Sighing, Cala watches Nataniel working for a minute, whispering a short prayer for the demigoddess’ soul as she does so. “Bye, Nate,” she says, once the prayer is over.

Hasta, bella,” the doctor replies, raising his head for a moment to watch her leave.

Now alone again, Nate leans over the body and starts inspecting the roof of the corpse's mouth, looking at the crossbow bolt sticking out and thinking of a way to remove it. A wandering glance catches the demigoddess’ still-open eyes and Nate straightens up, feeling somewhat uncomfortable around a cadaver for the first time in a long time. He hesitates for a moment.

“So…” he half stutters. “Que tal? How are you doing?” He thinks about it for a moment. “I mean… besides being dead.”

Only silence answers his queries. “Imbécil, Nataniel!” he admonishes himself,shaking his head at his own silliness. “La chica está muerta, no te va a responder.”

Resuming silence he works on removing the bolt. It takes half an hour to do so, mostly due to the absolute need to avoid the deadly, poison-laced tip. When the corpse finally relents and lets him have his prize, he smiles contentedly, examining the bolt under a lamp.

“Did you know that a handmade crossbow bolt can be as unique as a fingerprint?” he comments to the dead demigoddess, satisfaction at his accomplishment almost making him feel comfortable with the one-sided conversation.

“What are you doing?” Syro’s voice rings all of a sudden, startling the good doctor and almost making him drop the bolt.

It takes Nataniel a couple of deep breaths before he can explain, “Well, I’m just… having a little chat with di body. So it doesn’t feel so…” he gestures vaguely, bolt in hand. “Strange.”

“That’s just stupid!” Syro exclaims. “It’s a dead body, Nataniel. It doesn’t feel at all.”

“I know that!” Nataniel retorts. “Shouldn’t you be analysing some water, or something?”

“Yes, about that…” Syro looks down at the vial in his hand and reaches forward, offering it, the clear liquid it contains sloshing slightly inside. “Do you mind drinking this?”

“Is that di evil water?!” Nate inquires.

“Oh, come on, Nataniel!” Syron waves him off with his free hand. “Water is not evil! A bit bland at times, but not evil per se. Besides, I boiled it.”

“Vete de aqui con la agua mala!” Nate yells at him. “I’m not drinking that!”

Syro looks at his friend with sincere disappointment. “I thought you were a man of science, Nataniel. We who are educated need to sacrifice for knowledge.”

He offers the vial again.

“I give already at di church! Go sacrifice your own body!” Nate shoos him.

Syro stares at the doctor for awhile but eventually relents and leaves.

Waiting to hear the door to Syro’s workshop close, Nate then returns to the task at hand and whispers to the corpse, “Don’t pay attention to him. He’s a bit loco en la cabeza.”


Ch3.30 The Pearl

“Cala! Thank the gods you’re here!” shouts Aliyah. “Hey Nate! How’s it hanging?”

As he moves to check on the bodies that lie scattered across the floor of the warehouse, Nataniel complains, “Did you touch these? Look at that lividity! Ay, Nuestra Señora de la Aparición! How many times have I told you not to touch the bodies?! I can always tell!”

“I did not touch them! I swear!” Aliyah shouts back with the easy familiarity of long friendship. “Hey, watch out for that crossbow bolt! It’s poisoned!”

Mira, chica, I am a Doc-tor! I know poisons better than you know your own culo!”

Aliyah slaps her ass and points at the doctor. “Ha! You just stop thinking about meu cú and keep your mind on that poison, Nate!”

Cala sighs. “Do I have to get between the two of you?”

“Sorry, Cala...hey, um, I need to tell you something…” Aliyah grabs Cala’s elbow and pulls her away from the grumbling doctor as he examines the bodies, taking her around the corner of a pile of old boxes.

“Yeah. You really do need to tell me,” Cala whispers, then hisses, “what you’ve just gotten us both into, Allie!”

Aliyah looks at her sheepishly. “Oh, did Inspector Sky tell you, then?”

“You can bet he did! And you can also bet he’s going to find out about her soon enough!” Cala rubs her temple. “By the Prophet’s long beard, Aliyah! We’re not kids playing in the street anymore!”

“I know, Callie! But this is Saira! We thought she was dead...and now,” Aliyah pauses. “She needs our help!”

Cala stares at her in disbelief. “Our help, Allie? She didn’t just steal a loaf of bread! She’s killing people with steel and poison!”

Aliyah bends slightly to look imploringly into her best friend’s eyes. “Callie...she needs us! She’s in over her head again. Remember all the times she helped us? Remember how we swore to always be friends? Now she has this pearl thingy and she probably has no idea what to do with it.”

“Oh, stop looking at me like a soaked puppy! Wanna start whimpering too, while you’re at it?” Cala fumes.

In response, Aliyah pouts out her lower lip and whimpers like a dog, before bursting into laughter.

Cala puts a hand to her forehead as if she has a skull-splitting headache. “Who’d ever think I’ve raised nine brothers and sisters without learning to resist a pleading child?” she mutters. Looking back at Aliyah, she whispers, “What am I gonna do with you, Allie? Why won’t you see that Saira doesn’t want help from anyone?”

Aliyah drops the pouting and looks honestly sad. “She’d never say it, but you know she wants help. She needs it. And we can give it to her, but not with the other cops getting in our way. Come on, Callie…”

“Allah be merciful on me for not knowing to say no to this child… Oh, all right! I’ll help!”

Aliyah brightens and throws her arms around her best friend. “Oh, I knew you would! Thank you!”

“BUT!” Cala interrupts, stoically enduring the hug. “At the first sign of trouble, I’m going to Inspector Tuma-Sukai! There’s no way I’m gonna end up on the wrong side of one of those bolts!”

Aliyah looks wide-eyed at Cala. “Gosh, do you think he really would do that? Wait, can Inspector Sky even shoot lightning bolts? Is that something all gods can–”

“Aliyah Yashmin Kaur!” Cala snaps, invoking the Coporal’s rarely used middle name. “Will you focus?! And I was talking about crossbow bolts!”

“Ohhhhh, sorry…” Aliyah looks mildly embarrassed at her confusion. “Anyway...I’m gonna go explore our old hideouts. I bet I can find out where Saira’s holing up. And then...well…” Aliyah looks confused over what to do next.

“Then you leave her a message to meet us at the old place, and leave!” Cala rolls her eyes.

“Yeah...that sounds about right. But if she’s there...well I know I can’t talk her into turning herself in, but I know you and me together could talk her into giving us the pearl. When she knows how it’s hurting the neighborhood and all.”

“Aliyah...” Cala sounds worn out.

“Cala, she’s a good person at heart! You know that! Remember? That time she saved your life? Down at the waterfall?”

“I remember, I remember… Just… Don’t play hero.”

Aliyah looks down. “I know she went bad, Cala. And I know...I would’ve gone with her if it hadn’t been for you.” She touches Cala’s arm. “And I know how much it hurt when you couldn’t get her to turn away from her path. But maybe...this is a second chance?”

Cala shakes her head. “You can’t save them all, Allie.”

“I know...but we have to try. We promised, after all.”

Cala sighs. “OK, OK. I’ll stay with Nate while he does his thing. Go! I’ll cover for you.”

Aliyah grins broadly, her freckled brown face instantly transformed from plain to pretty by her smile. “Thank you, Callie. I’ll find her.”


Ch3.29 The Pearl

Sky leaves Aliyah to watch over the bodies at the death-filled warehouse. Orienting himself, he realizes that the violent favela where his apartment is located is much closer than the Guardia Station, so he heads for Chowringhee Road. He moves swiftly through the twisting, mismatched streets, the crumbling buildings, ignoring the few local residents he sees, who at this time of morning are mostly ordinary citizens just trying to live their lives, too poor to live in a better neighborhood, too weak to challenge the motley assortment of small gangs that struggle for dominance. Sky knows that his presence is disrupting their shifting alliances and rivalries, and he plans to begin paying visits to the leaders in the coming weeks, after he has established his reputation more firmly, and encouraging them to reform or move on.

He notes how slowly people move, the few he sees, how exhausted they seem. The water, he thinks. Could it actually kill them? The answer, he realizes is that it very well could, or worse. Hell-tainted water...hard to predict the effects, but it could mutate unborn children, cause brain damage, cancer. What the Dukaines have done is unconscionable. He feels fury building in him.

He reaches his building without incident, but the rickety stairway up to his second-floor apartment has two young mortals sitting on the bottom steps, kissing, blocking his way. They are startled to see him, and separate. He realizes his anger at the Dukaines is showing, making them think he is a threat. At first he thinks it is a boy and a girl, teenagers, but then he realizes they are both male, one dressed in gang colors, the other – a year or two younger, perhaps – dressed in the uniform of the local school, hair long. The gang member is reaching for something, a knife perhaps.

Sky forces himself to relax and smile, and he says to them, “Com licença” in the local parlance. Continuing in Urbia, he says, “I live here. I need to get past you, that’s all.” He takes note of the empty bottles of beer on the bottom step, and realizes that while they might be somewhat drunk, and sleepy from staying up all night, at least they haven’t been affected by the tainted water.

The pair rise and begin to move off without a word, the gang member glaring an unspoken Do not fuck with me message at Sky, the younger looking more curious, perhaps recognizing that the deep indigo of Sky’s uniform means he is an immortal. Sky calls out to them, “Hey, what are your names?” He tries to sound more like a neighbor than a cop, but they still look at him with suspicion.

The smaller, long-haired boy glances at his companion, then says, “I’m Sundar. This is Paolo.”

“Thank you. I’m Tumai-Sukai, of Three Rats Station. It’s good to meet you.” He pauses, looking them over. “Listen, don’t drink the water. There is something in it, making people ill. You know the Copper Pot? Dona Kyri’s place? Tell your friends and family, go there. We’ll be distributing safe water there soon.”

The older boy looks worried at that, while the younger nods and says, “Obrigado.” They move off.

Sky climbs the stairs to his apartment, automatically skipping the steps that creak. He unlocks the door and enters, glad to see no one has yet broken into the place, strides past his unused furniture, thinking he really ought to dust it to make it look like someone actually lives here, and touches his hand to the far wall, forming a sigil in his mind. A large patch of wall glows briefly in the shape of a door, and he steps through into another universe.

He steps into the small kitchen – more of a food-preparation corner, really – and opens a rune-covered icebox that, for a trickle of mana, keeps things cold without actually needing ice or electricity. He takes out a large bottle of water and drinks it down without pause, draining it, then refills it from the sink, which is simply connected by a hose behind the walls to the bath. He sniffs the water, but it bears no hellish taint, not that he really thought it might. He has no idea where the water comes from or goes, just that it is constantly, slowly replaced, but he knows it would be too much of a coincidence for the water to have originated here in Three Rats.

He pauses and corrects that thought. I’m not in Three Rats, he reminds himself. I’m not even in the City. I am alone in a universe of one.

He shakes his head, too tired to be thinking thoughts like that, and puts the refilled bottle in the icebox. He returns to the same patch of wall as before and puts his hand on it, silently forming a different sigil in his mind this time. The door shape glows yellow and he steps through into his office in the Three Rats Guardia Station.

Just as he steps through, he curses himself for a fool, remembering that he had left Alma sleeping on his sofa. What if she wakes up? What if she sees me? She’ll know about my secret home. His shoulders slump with relief when he sees that Alma is not there. She must have woken and left. He cannot help but smile when he sees that she has folded the blanket he spread over her, the edges precisely aligned, and set the pillow on top of it.

He almost puts them away in his locker, but then thinks again. He hasn’t slept in over a day, and though he can put off sleep for several days more if necessary, doing so puts a constant, increasing drain on his mana. He has been doing that too much lately, ever since taking up this assignment as commanding officer of the station. And he is still healing as well, which in itself drains his energy. There is no telling how long this crisis will last. He decides he must pace himself, and catch some shut-eye, soon.

But not yet. He opens the door and steps out into chaos. Sgt Machado is shouting orders, but pauses when he sees Sky. The Inspector approaches him.

“Sir,” says Machado, looking confused. “I thought you were out.”

“I was. Corporal Kaur is at a warehouse, keeping guard over a crime scene.” Sky rattles off the address. “We need to send Doctor Velasquez there to examine the scene. And I would like Constable Lamore to accompany him.”

Machado looks at Sky a bit strangely, but the Inspector’s expression does not encourage questions. Instead he shouts across the room, “Lamore! Go find Doc Nate and bring him here!”

A minute later, Constable Lamore is standing at attention before them, with a sleepy, grumpy-looking Nataniel. “Doctor,” says Sky, “while you are checking the scene, I want you to be very careful. There is at least one crossbow bolt, embedded in the skull of a deceased demigoddess, that has demonblood ichor coating the arrowhead. If you are not familiar with it–”

“Oh, I am familiar, señor. But how did you know…?”

“I’ve encountered it before. The smell is quite distinctive. Just be careful with it. Even a small amount in a wound can kill a mortal very painfully.” Sky turns to Cala. “Constable Lamore...I need to speak with you privately.”

He takes her into his office, much to the surprise of Sgt Machado, who looks as if he might protest before Sky shuts the door behind them. Cala also looks worried. “Sir? What–”

“Corporal Kaur made a very unusual request. Our murderer seems to be someone she knows. She wants a chance to contact this assassin and bring in the pearl, which we assume she stole from the Dukaine thugs, which they had stolen from the Oracle.”

Cala goes pale. “You mentioned a crossbow bolt to Doc Nate...”

Sky looks at her grimly. “Three people...two mortals and a demigoddess. Killed by someone supremely skilled with a crossbow.”

Cala looks sick. “Sir...I…”

“Cala, I decided to trust Aliyah. I gave her a day. But she is going to need your help. And I need you to tell me right now...am I right to trust her? I appreciate her loyalty to her friend, but that is none of my business. I want to get this pearl back. Lady Doria says it is extremely important. Is this the best way to go about it?”

Cala looks back at him for a long time, struggling, and the moment of her decision is clear on her face. “Sir...Aliyah is right. She and I...we can find this person, speak to her. We can get this pearl back. I-I’m sure of it.”

Sky notes the quaver in her voice. He says very soberly, “You understand, if I trust you both, and it backfires… There is a great deal at stake here. Thousands of lives, potentially.”

Cala swallows. “Yes sir. I understand.”

He opens the door for her. “Very well, Constable. Go to it, then. You have one day.”

As Cala and Nate leave, Machado approaches Sky. “Inspector,” he says stiffly, “is there something I should know concerning GC Lamore?”

Fighting off another wave of exhaustion, Sky snaps in a low voice, “Sergeant, we are in a crisis. This is not the time to be asking me to explain myself, assuming there is any appropriate time for that!” Machado balks and takes a step back, and Sky cuts him off as he opens his mouth. “This is a Dei situation, but it affects the mortal population far more than the immortal one. As you know, we’re organizing distribution of safe water at the Copper Pot. I want at least four experienced Guardia there, keeping things orderly, and the rest spreading through the ward, telling people to go to the Copper Pot for safe water and checking on anyone who may need medical care. There may be looters, as well, outsiders coming in, or Dukaine scions who know not to drink the water, taking advantage of the situation.” He stops and takes a breath, and puts a hand on Machado’s shoulder. “Meanwhile, yes, Kaur and Lamore are taking care of something else while the Dei are handling the mystical side of things. Three Rats is in trouble. We all need to pull together now, and not worry about protocol.” Sky is heartened to see the resentment melt away on Machado’s face, followed by the man’s sober nod. “Good. Now I trust you to take care of deploying our forces. I need to check on something else.” Machado straightens and salutes, and Sky returns it.

As Machado begins giving orders, Sky heads downstairs to the records room. Like many things at the station, it is barely large enough to suffice in its purpose. He finds Mayumi and Sage standing at the desk that is squeezed into a corner, boxes of records pulled from the shelves, and folders from them on the desk. He notes how carefully the folders are organized so that nothing will end up out of place when it comes time to put everything away, and wonders absently which of the Bunnies is more responsible for that.

They both turn as he enters. “Inspector!” says Mayumi. “We know the demigoddess’ name! Gewyra...not sure if I’m pronouncing it right, but she’s been arrested before, in Little Falls, and is suspected in enforcement-style crimes for various organizations. And we think we know who the wizard and the muscle are, as well…” She trails off as Sky leans heavily against the frame of the door.

Sage asks, “Are you all right, sir? You look very tired.”

Sky straightens and shakes his head. “Sorry. Good work. Unfortunately all three of the suspects are dead.” He pauses as they take this in. “We believe the pearl is in the hands of their killer. So what I want to focus on now is finding connections between these three, and a female killer who uses a crossbow, possibly with poisoned bolts.” He wants to make sure he has all the information he needs to pursue the investigation in case Aliyah and Cala fail. And the Bunnies may well discover information about Kaur and Lamore’s old friend that they themselves do not know.

Sage breathes, “She killed a demigoddess?”

Sky nods as he moves between them and sits in the desk chair, bringing his head roughly level with theirs. “It’s not easy, but even gods can be killed. Now, take me through everything you know so far.”