By the time that Officer Pends knocked on the door, she didn't even try to deny stealing the Sword of Tertius and went away without much controversy. This was lucky because if she were to put up a fight, the evidence was circumstantial, and she would likely be freed on a technicality, but no, she confessed. A little bit of hurt pride in how quickly she had been discovered, but not a whole lot of arguing.
And so, the white-furred fox, Vulpecula, grabbed his walking-stick and with his friends, the lizard. Lacerta and the owl Apus, he successfully solved the case behind the Sword of Tertius.
A month later, it was stolen again.
* * *
It was night time, both Apus and Lacerta had since left the museum, but Vulecula remained. He wanted to solve it, plain and simple.
A small couple of hairs could mean the difference between a criminal facing justice for their crime or getting away with it. Evildoers beware the fiendish claws of the tiniest detail with valid reasoning placed behind it! If they left behind even the smallest molecular trace pointing in their direction, then chances are that it would be found. Or at least, that's the mind-set that every good criminal should operate under.
Even still, something about finding the hairs didn't feel right to Vulpecula.
He watched the footage repeatedly, until it had become a file "Saved As" in his conscious-thought. It was a forced compulsion of his routine, but he was also looking for something.
He just didn't know what that something was.
The feeling of a case challenging him was the only thing that ever-kept Vulpecula's attention for long. It was the thrill of the chase, and there was something peculiar about this chase.
The view from the camera was obscured in the beginning of her heist.
Vulpecula didn't imagine that her methods of getting to the top of the Malane Palace were very elaborate; scaling the walls of the Malane Palace should have been easy enough. Even without the equipment that she undoubtedly had. (The footage showed that much.) The Malane Palace stood at around one-hundred and thirty-three feet in height, so it was doubtful that the dame would have taken the risk of climbing the building with her own wits alone. If she wanted to though, she probably could have.
The building had plenty of ledges, ridges, and cliffs. If somebody would have wanted to climb it, they could have. Vulpecula knew that statement to be a fact because he tried to climb the building himself.
However, he had the sheepish Officer Pends do it, and he succeeded just fine after falling only three times.
And so, she scaled up the Malane Palace with relative ease.
The rooftop didn't have anything too particular about it; there wasn't a foot-print or any dandruff. Vulpecula insisted on recreating the thievery at night because that was when the thievery had taken place. He wanted to know everything that was going through her head. He wanted to feel the cool air blowing through her fur, or for her, the sweat-shirt and the ski-mask. There was the look of the dwindling traffic reinforced by the lit lamp-posts. Once climbing the building, there were only two clear ways of getting to the down-floor.
There was a door on the north-west side of the building, it probably would have been locked, in-which case, she would have had to pick the lock. Afterward, she'd go to the rafters of the building, look down at the Sword of Tertius, and use a rope to repel herself down. This way seemed like a distinct possibility; however, there was an alarm-system that would have sounded at the very minute the door was opened.
Even still, Vulpecula made certain to inspect the route for evidence, and found nothing.
After climbing to the building, there were five windows on each side of the Malane's walls; she selected the one closest to the sword. There wasn't an alarm-system to the windows, but they were old, and therefore, they were difficult to get open. She didn't want to take the risk of scratching or clawing at it as she had worn gloves to lessen the possibilities of leaving finger-prints. She used a knife, or some other sharp-object, and pried the door open. Vulpecula hung vicariously off the ledge of the building by his cane. (It was dark-brown except for the end which curved like a scythe with a dull blade. It was a cane that had once belonged to his father.) He began eye-balling the window, making a mental-note of the slits and cuts at the center of the window where it had been opened.
She opened the window, made her way to the rafters; descended, got the sword, and then she left the same way that she entered.
Vulpecula arose back to the top of the roof, and at last, acknowledged the vibration from the pocket of his leggings. "V," he answered simply.
"It's Lacerta, they found a match for the hair found at the Malane Palace, where are you?" Vulpecula's ears pricked at hearing Lacerta's words.
"I'm at the Malane Palace, who did the hairs belong to?"
Static on the other end, Vulpecula suspected that Lacerta wrote the name down somewhere, and was now looking for the paper.
"Harriet Collins," Lacerta answered.
"What is her address, or contact information? I need to set up a meeting with her. I will need Officer Pends and preferably both you and Apus for when I go talk to her. I don't have a full-handle on how dangerous she is, but David taught more than Goliath about underestimating others, if you catch my drift." Another long silence befell them, and before long, Vulpecula was starting to wonder whether he had been hung up on. (or worse, that he hadn’t caught his drift.)
“I never do, but I’ll work on getting the address,” Lacerta responded.
The next morning, Lacerta had been courteous enough to do just as he said he would, and Officer Pends even arranged for a meeting with her. She lived only a couple of blocks away from the Malane Palace, and so, while Officer Pends offered to drive his cop-car out-there, Vulpecula assured him that it'd be less hassle simply to walk. He liked the cooling air on his fur, and the sheer simplicity of it all. It was one of the few times where he felt as if the world's loud disturbances weren't so bothersome to his conscious. As he, his friends, and Pends walked down the sidewalk, Vulpecula spent little time looking at the cars going by.
He watched the sidewalk, a blank and solid gray-color, which could act as a projector for all his thoughts to illustrate themselves. There wasn't very much information on file about Harriet Collins. She didn't have a criminal-record, and she didn't have anything else of regard.
"I know that you don't want it to be solved this easy, but you have to admit that it makes sense, right?" Lacerta said while he trekked behind Vulpecula, trying to keep up.
"Why wouldn't he want it to be solved easy, isn't that less work?" Officer Pends chimed in.
"He doesn't like it whenever a case is solved too easily, it bores him."
Officer Pends looked at Lacerta as if he couldn't grasp the thought that somebody might enjoy using their intellect for something other than twiddling their thumbs, Vulpecula thought, while walking, and ... twiddling his thumbs.
"She is a History teacher, and so, at least to a certain degree, the shoe fits. She could possibly carry the skill capable of such a heist, considering her level of education, but she hasn't shown as much as the slightest in criminal intent." Vulpecula spoke. He didn't know whether they were listening, and didn't especially care, but he found it easier to organize his thoughts when he articulated them aloud. "Why else would her hair be found at the scene of the crime? Apus checked to see if she might have volunteered at a point for the museum, but he found nothing." Lacerta pointed out.
Oh, and so he was listening.
"That's one of the problems, look at what the thief was wearing, there was no reason that so much hair should have been lost at the scene of the crime." At last, they met the drive-way leading to Harriet's abode, and Vulpecula's eyes began to frolic about it. The home was a polychrome styling in-which the dwelling stood, interconnected with several others. There was nothing too peculiar about the exterior of the home, which is something that Vulpecula's intuition had expected the thief's home to be. Rather, V led his acquaintances up the steps leading to the small, plywood porch. The wood had been painted over, poorly, with white, to match the building itself. There were clear footprints and dirt, and with that alone, Vulpecula knew that this wasn't the lady who stole the Sword of Tertius. He took a breath and readied himself to plead her case.
"There isn't a criminal-record to be found, no sign of wrongdoings, which surely wouldn't render Harriet as innocent. In-fact, the video-tape that we have seen details somebody, perhaps cunning enough to evade the law for all of this time. However, those footprints entail a hippopotamus, which is impossible. The frame of the thief's body described somebody much smaller." Vulpecula tried very hard to contain some of the intrigue that bumbled inside of him like the regular every-day bee, but he questioned his effectiveness.
"Are you saying that we're back to square-one?" Lacerta asked. He didn't have nearly the same enthusiasm that Vulpecula had.
If Vulpecula didn't know any better, he'd think Lacerta would much rather be sipping sparkling liquid in one of Italina's finest hotels with a view of the Tower of Sanchi.
"No," Vulpecula replied firmly, and without elaboration, he knocked on the red slab door and waited for a response. "Hold on, hold on," a high-pitch voice cried from the inside. Vulpecula rifled with the fur on his chin as habit commanded and tilted his nose to the ground. There was a loose-nail sticking out from the wooden-porch, and it admittedly bothered him to no ends. He didn't wear boots and was liable to step on it on the way out.
The door swung open, and Harriet Collins greeted them all with a smile. "Whoever you are, can we make this quick, my hair is an absolute mess!"
If Vulpecula were to go to the Watergate, a small book-store in Italina, then go to the "Mom” section, grab the first book about soccer, and look at the cover, he had no doubts that he would have seen Harriet Collins.
He was right in assuming her species, but hadn't anticipated her appearance, which only further proved that she wasn't the culprit. She had a silver complexion complemented by a blonde beehive-shaped head of hair, as well as a heavy amount of make-up. As far as her ensemble, she wore what looked to be an Italinian Blazers shirt; unfortunately, the several necklaces that she was wearing kept V from confirming that assumption. Besides that, she was also wearing yellow shorts that didn't do her tree-trunk legs very many favors. In-response, Vulpecula gave a face that would hopefully be misinterpreted as polite and not disgusted. There was also a strong smell of perfume radiating off her.
"Hello, Mrs. Collins, my name is Officer Pends, and this is Detective Vulpecula Noel, and his accompanying party is Apus Yields and Lacerta Kerrick. You may recall that I called you," Officer Pends began, a sound of ... shear ... professionalism in his voice that Vulpecula found to be pretty flocking dumb. (A baaaad pun.) Vulpecula never really appreciated the necessity of procedural introductions. "He called you because we thought you stole the Sword of Tertius on-account of evidence found at the Malane Palace linking you to the crime. However, at last your size and the clumsiness of your species has worked to your good fortune, and your name has been cleared," Vulpecula explained. "Congratulations."
Vulpecula's eyes dwindled away from Harriet long enough to see the look of terror in the eyes of his helpers, but he couldn't decipher why they seemed so afraid. His eyes returned to Harriet once more only to see the door slammed before him.
Vulpecula smiled dryly, and let out a sigh, the rudeness of the world was always lost on him.
"I will never understand how you are Hensley's son," Lacerta admitted with a smirk.
"Pshaw," V started up. "The lady didn't have the wits to keep loose-nails off her porch, let alone assist in solving this case, and yet, I do believe that she has."
Hours later, Vulpecula, Apus, and Lacerta all found themselves inside of Ollie's Abil, each having ordered their usual meal, and sitting in their usual spot. Neither Lacerta nor Apus cared very much when it came to the seating arrangements, but perhaps compulsively, Vulpecula found it pivotal to them enjoying their meal as much as the last time they ate there.
"Do you care to let us in on how exactly Harriet helped you further the investigation?" Lacerta asked with a startling amount of irritation in his voice.
Vulpecula noticed that Apus didn't seem as bothered with him withholding the information for as long as he had. Part of him couldn't help but wonder whether Apus was biting his tongue, and had, in-fact, figured out as much as he had. "There were seven strands of hair at around fifteen inches in length," Vulpecula began while Apus and Lacerta both sat at the table and stared at him, curious to see where he may be going with this. They hadn't even begun to touch their food, both with a delectable helping of spaghetti resting upon fancy-looking porcelain plates that complimented it nicely. Ollie's Abil was a restaurant mostly visited by tourists for the novelty of it all, but it also made some of the finest food in all Italina. Vulpecula himself had opted for a simple assortment of rice and sushi.
He didn't want to take the chance of some of the spaghetti getting on his fur.
Vulpecula waited for what he believed to have been an ample amount of time for his comrades to digest the statement and found himself bewildered when they didn't respond. He began to fidget around with his fork, stabbing at a piece of sushi until he could withstand himself no longer and looked up at them.
"So," Lacerta blurted out. "All this tells us is that you have a photographic memory whenever it comes to details."
Vulpecula let out a sigh of disappointment before he decided to continue. "My memory is more comparable to a blank chalkboard, as if to say I can roll my eyes in the back of my head and see data that I had deemed important. For example, I can't very well describe to you the face of Harriet Collins from memory, but I can tell you her age, blood-type, and a variety of details. Once this case is solved, I will erase the writings from my mind, and will create space for the next case," he explained.
Lacerta never really seemed the type to strain himself intellectually for the benefit of a case, he was keener whenever it came to companionship, talking to people, and articulating the latest trends.
Pity, however, while it might not seem it, all three of those things had already helped them on several occasions. He watched as Apus made a peck at his spaghetti before carrying on. "Lacerta, in-fact, this tells us much more than my capabilities because we had clearly seen from Harriett, her hair couldn't have been longer than eight-inches at most, and, not to mention, Harriet's hair was blonde. The hair that we found at the Malane Palace was brown, but did you notice the smell, a different scent entirely, both perfumes, potentially of the same brand, but not the same. So, to see what is learned, let's recite."
"We already knew that Harriet Collins' heavier stature made it impossible for her to have been the one who stole the Sword of Tertius. However, this doesn't explain why her hair would be found at the scene of the crime. While, she is a history teacher, none of the records indicate her ever being in a position where she would have authorization to be so close to the artifacts. How could her hair have possibly gotten there, well, now, we know that the hair found at the crime-scene isn't particularly fresh. The hair was brown, while her current hair-color is blonde; she could have dyed it recently, and most likely did, but had no reason to.
And so, the question remains as to why her hair could have possibly been left there. I believe that the thief that stole the Sword of Tertius left her hair there to throw off the investigation, and/or to frame Harriet Collins' for the crime. Harriet's occupation as a history teacher merely assisted in condemning Collins." Vulpecula took in a breath of air, the rapid-fire speaking had taken the wind out of him, but he noticed that he had the full attention of both Apus and Lacerta.
"The next question in solving this whodunnit would be to ask how the thief got Harriet's hair in the first-place. Now, one theory would be that she snuck into her house, found it on a brush, and that was the end of that, but the thief demonstrated in the video carried a prowess much too careful and meticulous to take such a risk. And besides, the amount of hair could only be received from plucking it right off from her head. There would be something more unorthodox and diabolical, and with that, it brings us to the fact that the hair was longer than Mrs. Collins' hair. I am suggesting that Harriet Collins' hair was trimmed, approximately four or five inches, and then dyed from brown to blonde. Along the way, seven full-length strands of hair found themselves at the bottom of the barbershop floor. They were sprayed with a fragrance, to be more likely discovered, and that fragrance was from the same place that Harriet usually buys her perfume, the closest salon in Italina, - Miss Marion's Barbershop."
"Tell me, Vulpecula, do you have any wild ideas or hunches about, well, whoever could possibly be responsible for this?" Officer Pends, literally a sheep of the law, asked with curiosity in his voice that he couldn't disguise.
There was the distinctive smell of chocolate beneath the officer's breath, which only fueled the stereotypes regarding police-officers and their unhealthy infatuation with donuts. Thankfully, stereotypes weren't always negative, and a love for donuts was practical for anybody with a working brain. Speaking of donuts, Vulpecula recalled passing a stand earlier that looked to have been selling pastries. Alas, 'twas not the time for forbidden delicacies, but the time for work, which was something that Vulpecula enjoyed even more than sweets.
"What were you saying?" Vulpecula eventually inquired while pulling at some of the white fur on his chin. For better or worse, there were always a lot of fox-things bumbling about in his mind, and surprisingly, this included more than simply an unwavering desire to eat floor-roaming critters or birds.
That would be an example of a stereotype with negative connotations.
Vulpecula didn't have any problem whatsoever when it came to birds, in-fact, his dear friend Apus just so happened to be an owl that often helped him out on his cases.
"I was just asking whether or not you think you'll be able to figure out who stole it?"
Vulpecula commenced biting the nail of his thumb for a moment; he did not look forward to having to ask Officer Pends to repeat his question a third time. It wasn't Vulpecula's fault; he was a victim of his own imagination, for better or worse, things of such little importance generally failed at keeping his interest for very long. "I'm sorry, I swear that this time I'll listen, run that by me one more time," he said with an innocence that thankfully kept the officer from ignoring him out of shear (Get it?) spite. (Forget it.)
"Do you have anything?"
Vulpecula looked at him earnestly for a second, and then frowned. "No, that's not what you said," he retorted before beginning to walk forward toward where the sword once resided. There was a glass-case that once contained the Sword of Tertius. The sword got its name from Charles Tertius, a famous figure in Maharris history.
"Did you ever get a hold of Apus or Lacerta?" Vulpecula only waited for a moment or two for an answer prior to letting his eyes scan the area of the crime-scene.
The Malane Palace is amongst the artsiest places in all Maharris, and the go-to place for the country's history. If you are a tourist visiting Italina, you are usually there because you want to experience one or a mixture of three things.
There's the illustrious and beautiful Sanchi Tower that looks down at the rest of the city, which is arguably one of the most coveted landmarks in all Maharris. Then, there's the delicious rice, spaghetti, and aquatic foods, but other-wise, tourists came to Italina because they wanted to see the Malane Palace. Vulpecula, however, as he has grown accustom to being, was the exception to that rule, because he was a tourist exploring the city, but wasn't there to experience any of those things. Although, that's not exactly true because he was there on official business.
He was a consultant for some of the most bizarre criminal investigations across the globe, and in so, Vulpecula supposed that he was wrong, and was in-fact another example to that theory. He looked over to see the police-officer, who looked a tad haggard and, ahem, sheepish. If only he knew of the self-discovery Vulpecula experienced merely seconds ago. All Vulpecula knew for sure was that Officer Pends never answered his question, and so, Vulpecula decided to put his mind at ease, "No worries, I am sure that they'll find a way of getting a hold of me."
Vulpecula could see that his words didn't do very much to settle the police-officer's nerves, and he had no interest in making further attempts. He could only imagine the extreme amount of stress that must have come with the job. Then again, Vulpecula didn't find his job to be particularly easy either and so; the officer shouldn't have been pawning his negative energy off on him. "Please leave while I am working," Vulpecula blurted out at once.
"What?" The officer asked, as if he expected his constant annoyances to go unnoticed.
"You are being a distraction."
The officer's face sagged into an even greater frown, which reminded V of what it looked like when a grape was left under the sun for too long. However, to his credit, Officer Pends left without argument.
"Hey, wait," Vulpecula called out urgently. "I am assuming that the rules of no flash photography don't apply during the routine in my investigation?"
Ah, there wasn't even as much as a smile, what a party-pooper. Vulpecula couldn't say he wasn't at least a bit disappointed they couldn't end up as friends.
He could have used the company.
There wasn't anything in the world that he found to be more tedious than museums. If it wasn't a caffeine addiction that killed V, it would be disinterest and boredom. (or somebody choking him, ... V's vendettas were already becoming notorious in his long career.)
He had a very severe case of attention defi....
Vulpecula walked over to where a medallion laid comfortably inside of a glass case, below it was an excerpt explaining its historical relevance.
Vulpecula did not read it.
There was no challenge in history; it was a subject that had been studied repeatedly by historians. There was seldom something to discover for yourself, but you could certainly go where man has gone thousands of times before. (History: The Eternal Frontier)
All the other subjects carried the same basic principle, but at least they were a challenge. Vulpecula was a private investigator and was a good enough detective, but the reasoning behind studying things which have already been thoroughly studied was lost on him. The only thing worth studying to him was the latest past, and that's what they paid him for.
Italina's finest brought Vulpecula and his friends here because somebody broke into the Malane Palace at approximately two in the morning and stole a sword once belonging to Charles Tertius, not to lollygag and look at dumb necklaces.
The cameras successfully filmed the happening as it occurred but because the incompetence of the security guards, the culprit was able to make the escape. The immediate deductive analysis is that it was a ruse conspired between the two security guards and an unnamed third-party, perhaps even a co-worker. This theory could be backed when you consider the amount of knowledge that the thief seemed to have. The thief easily dodged all the lasers while repelling down where the sword lay dormant.
There was no part of Vulpecula that wanted the case to be solved so easily though.
The idea of conspiring co-workers wasn't worth the vivacious Acerian adventurer, and quite frankly, it wasn't very original. Thankfully, Italina's head-honchos were friendly enough to send him a clip of the thievery as it took place, as well as give him access to all the faculty information. The camera fully captured video of somebody repelling down to the sword, however, didn't capture footage on the perpetrator's entry into the building. The wiry frame, feminine stature, and the way that the culprit's hair was hugged by the ski-mask did all but imply the culprit was female.
There are only six security guards employed for the Malane Palace and not one of them is female. One other thing that may or may not be worth noting is that the thievery also fell on the "Night of the Dead," a Maharris holiday that is commonly celebrated by dressing up as a deceased figure in history. This, like most holidays, had lost its meaning, and had become merely an excuse for birds to defecate on vehicles as a "prank," chickens to egg houses, and for the heavy consumption of alcohol. After looking at both profiles for the fine, upstanding gentleman on-duty, V decided that it was reasonable to assume their negligence.
He didn't have the evidence to fully support that, but he had learned not to go against his intuition.
The only question is how the perpetrator could have known about the museum's short-comings.
Once again, there was an immediate answer, and it's that the lady was in cahoots with one of the guards and was thereby enabled means to get the "scoop" on security. The thorough (albeit brief) research that was done on each of the two security guards on-duty revealed that only one of them was married. He was married to a waitress at Ollie's which is open at all-hours of the day, and she just so happened to work on that night. In other-words, the dame had an alibi. As far as other family-members go, the athleticism and acrobatics applied by the thief suggested a female of youth, and as far as siblings went, the only one that had a sister was also a turtle, and there was no sign whatsoever of the female having a shell or bulky exterior.
These are the elements that are known about the case, and in that, with the attributes of the thief, there isn't too much to go on except that the perpetrator was a young, smaller-framed, and well-educated female. She'd need to be well-educated to pull off such a heist, even when considering the museum's short-comings.
There were so many questions, and with such little answers, Vulpecula realized these questions were the only thing getting him out of the bed in the morning. There was nothing that he envied more than the eternal sunshine of a thoughtless mind because for the life of him, he couldn't stop his eccentricities.
He didn't even know the species of the thief because there was no sign of a tail or other characteristics on her body. The mannerisms demonstrated cat-like abilities, but that was intuition more than fact. V had to credit this as being a commendable tool, and one that he used often during his cases. Somebody once said that hunches mustn’t be allotted if they aren't fueled by logic. If an individual doesn't have the facts, then they'll find themselves distorting the initial truths in such a way that pieces together their theory. He took few inspirations from others, but those were examples of things that fitted into his self-implored guidelines.
The way of solving a case isn't through theorizing but through comprehension of occurrences and finding a mistake in what would perhaps other-wise appear to be a utopia of antics. Vulpecula inspected the case which had once confined the sword, it once rested inside of a black case with red-fabric lining the bottom. There was also an impression in the fabric showing where the sword had been. The black-case laid upon a chrome-podium that stood at approximately five-feet, and much like the medallion that V had looked at earlier, there was a small excerpt explaining the sword's history.
This time, Vulpecula admittedly skimmed through the paragraph, not because he needed to polish his knowledge over the famous sword, but because he deemed it as worthy to the case.
Next, Vulpecula looked upon the glass-lid over the case, looking for any signs of smudging. He knew he wasn't going to find anything because the video showed that the thief wore gloves, but it was a habit. Also, it was a long-shot, but if he found a lot of finger-prints from another individual, maybe a security guard, (excessive prints not seen on the other cases) that could imply there was interest in the item. "Not to be," belched the cruel hand of reality as it almost always did.
Wiped clean, but Vulpecula doubted it was done to erase evidence, more likely as something routine for the employees to do. Well, barnacles, thought V to himself, and not out-loud, because such harsh language wasn't to be spoken aloud!
Even still, there was a strong smell that kept entering his nostrils. An aroma smelling very reminiscent of perfume, could it have somehow belonged to the woman of the hour or was it simply the residue of a past tourist?
There was the distinctive sound of a door-latching from afar in the museum, but V heard it, and unsurprisingly enough, he found it to be inexplicably disruptive to his thought-process. He anticipated hearing the loud and unsettling sound of the police-officer's voice. He knew it was him as he recognized the pitter-patter from his furry feet with every step. Officer Pends carried himself like a lurch and dragged his feet as if they were especially heavy for him. Truth be told, they probably were, it was uncharacteristic for a sheep to be put in such a physical job, and the uniform and boots that came with it couldn't have been lenient to his small-stature. V felt for him, for he too, as a fox, was forced to endure his inefficient strength for a considerable number of tasks, but, then again, he was a private investigator, and didn't often need much more than his brain.
He tried to come off polite as to hide his admitted irritation. There was nothing he hated more profoundly than sounds while he was trying to think but didn't want him to take it personally. Other foot-steps soon followed, clearly not belonging to the uncharacteristically loud sheep. Vulpecula easily identified them as belonging to Apus and Lacerta. "Good evening," Vulpecula called out.
"My friends! May I ask what kept you?"
He turned around curiously, and sure-enough, his hypothesis stood ground and could now be deemed as fact, it was them!
"It's raining cats and dogs out there," Lacerta answered at once which immediately drew a firm stare from Vulpecula. "Not literally," Lacerta assured.
And so, Vulpecula went back to looking at the empty-case, doing hand gestures welcoming them to come and make their own inspection.
"I haven't discovered any specific pieces of evidence. If we can't find anything to go on, we'll need to interview each of the employees to get a better read on them."
Apus and Lacerta both walked over to where Vulpecula had been conducting his inspections, ducking beneath the red-velvet rope that kept civilians from getting too close.
"Do you really think that any of the guards are actually capable of a heist of this magnitude?" Lacerta asked.
Apus, Lacerta, and Vulpecula had all three divided the work-load of conducting information regarding the employees. Vulpecula had admittedly done less than his fair-share, hence why Lacerta and Apus were just arriving. Perhaps humorously, Lacerta had been the only one imploring the hunt and peck technique to his laptop.
"Looks can be deceiving, if you decide a book on its cover, there are so many library books that are going to be ignored on the shelves, but that doesn't mean they're bad books. In all honesty, if the individual only took advantage of flaws and happenstance in the system, it wouldn't have required very much, which is reason enough to believe that the guards are a possible candidate."
Vulpecula scratched at his nose. The scent of perfume felt aggravating and uncanny, but he couldn't seem to pinpoint its origins.
"However," Vulpecula began again. "I assume that this is not the case, but still, that doesn't mean there isn't a possible lead. Maybe they were asked a lot of questions by one of the visitors, in-fact, doesn't the Malane Palace conduct tours over the museum?"
Vulpecula's mind was racing with thoughts faster than a deer from a lion, but like the lion, until he caught his prey, he had nothing to sink his teeth into. (The heinousness of lions is also an unfair stereotype, but they are very proud animals, and gotta eat.)
There were so many routine questions of making something out of nothing. Really, it was a process of throwing things at the wall and hoping that one of them sticks. "I will ask Pends about the employees, maybe you're right and there are interns or volunteers," Apus answered.
There was always an uncanny metallic sound to Apus' voice that made him sound raspy and robotic. Vulpecula didn't know whether he liked or disliked that about him, but he was used to it. He was very intelligent, which Vulpecula knew was an asset, and was very computer-savvy. Apus just didn't much care for people, or the socialization that went along with it. That was the exact opposite of Lacerta, who was more of the loud-mouth and arrogant variety. He wasn't really the greatest fit for the mysterious incorporated style that they paid abidance to, but every once in a while, he provided a way to earn his keep.
More importantly, they were Vulpecula's dearest friends; their company was one of the only things that kept his sanity intact.
"That's a pretty aroma," Apus whispered beneath his breath, not particularly saying it to either of them, but Vulpecula heard it. Apus smelled it too, and at that realization, his eyes became transfixed on the multiple hairs to the left of where he was standing. They didn't need to be drenched in perfume for V to smell them, but Apus being able to smell them proved that they were. They were inside of the "No Trespassing" portion of the museum and too abundant to be coincidental.
"This doesn't belong to the guards," Vulpecula said before dropping to one knee and picking up the strands of hair with his paws. Eventually, after breathing in the aroma of the scent, he had them placed into a zip-lock baggie for safe-keepings. "Seven strands, lavender, about fifteen inches in length, it's inside the red-rope barricading the sword." His eyes went up to Apus and Lacerta. "This hair most likely belongs to our girl."
The Precinct wasn't much grander than Barker's small office quarters. Matter of fact, it was colder and more unwelcoming with its concrete floors and windowless rooms. Barker shivered thinking about being stuck behind those bars.
Confined spaces never settled well inside his mind. He needed space and no clutter to work. He needed pastures to roam.
That is why he tried his best to always avoid these rooms. Lucky had been the interrogator. He had been horrible at it, but he did it without complaints. Usually, by the time Lucky was even needed, Barker had already solved the case, so Lucky could just do the paperwork and go home.
Today, Lucky wouldn't be here to do the cleanup work. Today, Barker would have to dirty his paws on the cold concrete floors.
"Good afternoon, Detective Barker," said the young street patrol, Barker couldn't remember his name. Which was odd because Barker was great with names. "Mane is ready in the third room," the patrol was eager. Barker could see it in his eyes, he would make detective one day, but he wouldn't be a good one.
Barker walked towards the third door. He wanted to steel his nerves a bit. Mane was a massive fellow. He was big enough to slay Barker without breaking a sweat. Barker reminded himself that Mane would be chained to the table and the table bolted to the floor.
The knob was cold. Barker was told as a rookie that the cold made people uneasy. The cold would make people talk faster. Barker figured it out later that the department was just too poor to run the heater down here.
The door squeaked as he pressed it open. Mane was sitting in shackles behind the small table. The rest of the room was bare. This was no fancy room. There was no two-way glass, the district couldn't afford those wonders.
That meant it was just Mane and Barker alone inside the concrete prison.
Mane lifted his head and showed his sharp teeth. In the cafe, Barker would have trembled at the sight, here it was as pathetic a scene as a broken man could get.
"Put them away," Barker stepped in and slammed his writing material on the table. "You are already beaten," Barker pressed the wrinkles from his jacket and sat down. "This whole scene won't take but a minute or two," Barker flipped open the book.
Nothing was written there, nothing of import anyhow. Scribbles and list of nothing. It was for show. A scare tactic.
"I won't be talking," Mane said.
Barker looked up, "Oh, but you already have," he closed the book, pretending to have read what was of worth.
The table wasn't all barren as it seemed at first glance. On the corner was a small recording machine. The machine would be all Barker needed to catch the killer of Lucky. He hit the record button.
"Did you kill Detective Lucky?" Barker traced the record button and clicked it off. Mane didn't seem to notice.
Mane lifted his head, "You think I killed the little rat?"
"He wasn't actually a rat," Barker smiled, sarcasm was his friend as long as Mane stayed in those chains. He didn't want to imagine what would become of him if those chains broke.
"I don't give a hoot what he was, I didn't kill the man," Mane was adamant, convincing even. It was a good thing Barker didn't really care.
"I see," Barker hovered his finger over the record button again. "But you do admit to hitting me in the cafe?"
Barker was already sure of the answer. Admit the lesser and deny the greater. It was to show the truth could be told. Barker hit the record button,
"Yes, I did do that..." Barker hovered over the button. He had his back to back answers. Machines were really easy. A full confession in a matter of minutes.
"Why?" Mane looked at Barker for a moment. Barker hoped the question would prompt the right answer.
"Because I was angry," Barker flipped the record button off. That was a wrap. Admissible in court and with his own testimony Mane was as good as sentenced. Sometimes it was a good thing to die young and loved, it meant the people really wanted to avenge you.
Unlucky for Mane, however, "Well, thank you, Mane," Barker grabbed his notebook from the table.
"Wait, where are you going?" Funny how the ones who don't want to talk always have something more to say.
"Oh, I have what I need, Major," Barker grabbed that cold handle and opened the door. "Have a pleasant time," Barker wanted to add the jibe. It was classless, but Mane had tried to kill him. He straightened his tie, even with a low blow one must look their best.
In the end, Mane was sentenced to life without parole. Barker was the key witness and did as he may say an impeccable job on the witness stand.
Mane roared and pleaded his defense, but you can't beat those who die young. After all, was said and done, Lucky was avenged, well, sort of.
Barker found himself in a small quiet cafe. He usually ate at Sins Eatery, but today he had other things on his plate. It wasn't about the food in this subpar little joint. It was about the cook. Major Bane, a stand out in the armed forces, had been dishonorably discharged three years back. Going from Major too short order.
It seemed Mr. Mane had a thing for gambling. Gambling was always an easy fall back for the poor who became suddenly rich. Barker knew many of the same types. There were many gambling rings inside the city, you could find one just about anywhere, but there were only a select few worth noticing.
Mane had found himself a top-tier service, it was just too bad that the authority also found them. Now, Mane stood behind a greasy stove and flipped burgers, not the noblest of endings.
"What can I get you to drink, sweetie?" said the waitress.
Barker tapped on the menu with his claw. There in the fine print under was the word coffee. "You take any sugar or cream?" the woman wrote down the order on a small paper card. It was pitiful that she couldn't remember a single drink.
"I will take it black," Barker was in no mood for frivolities. He had a mission to achieve this morning. "Also, who mind you is the cook today?"
The woman stopped her scratching on the pad. "I believe we have Mr. Mane," she looked back as if she could peer through the walls. "He is an excellent cook, makes the best little burgers in town," she said.
Mane was here today, that meant all Barker had to do was wait for the man's morning break.
"That is great," Barker flipped the menu over. "Then I will take one of those," he said.
The woman paused a moment, "You don't want a moment to look over the menu while I grab you your drink?"
"No, I will take the burger, thank you,"
The woman looked disgruntled. As if no one had ever ordered food before their drink before. "If you insist, sir," she grabbed the menu that Barker pressed into her palm.
"Make sure the coffee is quite strong,"
The woman nodded and moved away, glancing over her shoulder as if he would change his mind before she made it to the counter.
The cafe wasn't overly busy. Barker could count ten people aside from him enjoying the services. He evaluated them each individually and made up his mind that each lived a rather boring and mundane life.
Most probably worked around the area, which was mostly a low-income suburb. Another one or two were from out of town, and no one had bothered to inform them of the better cafes in the city.
"Here is your coffee, sir," it looked lukewarm as the steam was not roiling over the lip. Barker thought to complain but changed his mind. It was of no matter, it was merely a stall tactic anyhow. He had his morning coffee before he had visited Dotton. The poor Captain who was probably at the moment swimming in a sea of vomit. Barker needed a shower after that hole, but first, he needed to speak with Mane and maybe Plancer, but first Mane, better to stay on track. "You sure you don't want to glance at that menu one more time?"
She was persistent. "I am fine," Barker looked up towards the order window. There was his ticket on the ledge, not on the spinning wheel. She had really expected him to change his mind.
She stood there at his table a moment longer waiting for him to say anything else, but he was silent. She finally moved off in the direction of another table.
Barker sat patiently, at least as patiently as he could, waiting for Mane to step away from the grill. Just a small conversation was all he needed. The only glimpse of the former Major was of his golden brown paw. The paw, however, was enough to inform Barker that Mane was no poodle.
His burger came out long before Mane showed his face. It tasted like grease. Barker could have floated the patty in the saucer. He barely finished the first bite. He would not be sending his compliments to the chef.
Barker pushed the plate away from him. This cafe was growing worse by the minute. He needed a way to hurry the process. If he still needed to talk with General Plancer today then he was running short on time.
Barker looked around the cafe again. Still the same people, an older gentleman had joined the counter group, but nothing seemed to be overly pressing for a cook. The waitress was lazily wiping down tables adjacent to him.
Barker looked back at the burger. The bun was soggy now with the juices, and his fries looked like tiny boats in an ocean.
"Waitress," Barker turned his shoulder to wave over the woman. She looked thankful to be done with the act of cleaning.
"What can I do for you, sir?" she glanced at the table, "more coffee?" she would busy herself with guessing if Barker allowed her the choice, but he did not plan to allow that.
"Actually, I would like to compliment the chef,"
Again, her eyes glanced at the table. She could clearly see that he had no more than touched the burger.
"I see," she glanced back at the pick-up window. "It is awfully busy at the moment," she said.
It wasn't busy. Barker counted ten people when he entered. Eight received their food before him and two moments later. Only the old man sitting at the counter was without a plate and Barker was aware that he had only ordered a cup of coffee.
"I will just be a moment," he could press the obvious lack of customers, but this type of person reacted better to a different manner. "I am amazed by the work you and he have done. I can tell you face to face and so it is only fair he receive the same," flattery. Barker wasn't fond of the tactic, but again he didn't have the time to fiddle with the ego of this woman.
She paused a moment. Barker supposed it was hard for this woman to process information. If she couldn't scratch it out on her notepad it probably was lost in the messy swamps of her addled mind. She finally came to a conclusion, however, "Seems like it would be fair," she pranced off towards the kitchen.
Barker thought about hiding the burger in the trashcan before Mane showed up. He could pretend he had devoured the remaining portion, but he decided he didn't care that much to keep up this facade. Instead, he straightened his tie and sat back staring out the window.
The scenery in this part of the city was drab. Gray steel, gray roads, gray sidewalks, gray suits, and it just so happened this on this afternoon there were also gray skies.
"You had something to tell me?" Barker turned from his drab thoughts.
Mane stood a good foot taller than Barker was ever comfortable with. His surname fits him to a T as his mane circled his entire face. Today, it was in disarray. His meaty hands were pressed against the table and his claws were longer than Barker's canines.
"Well," Barker started, but a lump caught in his throat. So, instead of talking he had himself a coughing fit and then tried to wash it away with the brown cup of coffee before him. It was wretched and cold, so he had to put all concentration into not spitting it into the massive Mane's face.
The concentration turned out to be a good thing, as he ceased his coughing fit.
"Well?" Mane didn't seem like the kind of man you kept waiting for long periods of time.
Barker straightened his tie. He may have lost his dignity for a moment, but he wouldn't be seen doing so without a presentable appearance.
"Would you care to have a seat a moment," Barker flipped his paw out with as much grace as he could muster.
"I am working," Mane said, clearly with no intention of keeping Barker company.
"Yes, I know. However, I have some questions for you," Barker drew the small Polaroid picture from his coat pocket. The same picture that had brought Dotton into a vile state of mind, did nothing to Mane. Not even a flicker of emotion.
"Can't say I am too worried about this," Mane turned to walk away, clearly tired of the situation at hand.
"I know you were his Major for some time," Mane stopped, Barker wondered how much his military days still chafed him.
"So, what?" Mane's head drew a little higher, but he didn't bother to meet Barker's eyes.
"Just a few quick questions," Barker hoped the questions didn't turn into broken bones as well.
Mane turned and took two long strides for the table. Barker was ready to flinch, but Mane just sat down hard across from him.
"You have ten minutes," Mane's face was anything but sociable.
"Fair enough," Barker slid the picture to the middle of the table. No effect was the sign Barker was looking for. If he cared nothing for the man and the scene didn't bother him, then it was likely he could be the killer. Just as likely as anyone.
"You ever saw a thing such as this?" Barker asked. Mane looked to be a man who went to gruesome scenes for a stroll to clear his mind.
"I was a Major in the armed forces," that was explanation enough for Mane.
"Indeed, you were. Actually, as it falls you were the Major to one Captain Lucky," Barker pulled the picture away. There was no need to continue staring down the face of death. "What do you recall of the man?"
Mane scoffed, "Imbecile is what he was, looked at his feet more than the battle. How he got to be captain I couldn't tell you," he said.
These words rang true in Barker's ears. This was the Lucky he knew. Not a valiant helper of the weak. Lucky was weak. He was powerless. He had been the whipping boy of Psitticus, and yet the people loved him. People tend to forget your flaws when you died early enough.
"What else can you tell me about him?"
Mane's claws retracted and his paws curled. Barker decided he never wanted to be on the other end of a swing from Mane. If Mane was to be arrested, then the patrol would be doing the honors.
"His rise to Captain wasn't by an act of valor. Matter of fact, I never covered him after he attained the rank. Because I was kicked out on my hindquarters. Transferred to another squad, because Lucky had reported me for gambling with the cadets," Mane curled his fist even tighter.
"Was this true?" Barker was nervous, but he felt pressing was his best chance at this.
"Of course, it was bloody true!" Mane was ready to come up from his seat with the rage building inside him. "And something else, that little goody good was there the day I lost my Major stripes. He wasn't a Captain anymore, no, he was one of you," Mane uncurled a single fist and pointed a sharp claw at the chest of Barker.
Barker looked around. He and ten other customers. They would never pull Mane from his corpse before he was devoured whole.
"Lucky walked up in his fancy pressed suit. It was the first time I had ever seen his beady little eyes. He turned to his feet quickly enough as I got really angry, but he was there as they stripped me and took me into the squad car," Mane's hand dropped, but his anger did not subside.
"Lucky was the arresting detective?" Barker could not remember the case, it must have been too boring of a case.
"The entire gambling circle was rocked that day, but only I was able to be taken in," Mane had grabbed the edge of the table.
The entire gambling circle was rocked? Barker would have to look into those case files. He knew gambling circles, and he wondered what simple little Lucky had found.
"I went away for three years."
Mane had given Barker all the ammo he needed. Mane would be going away for far longer after Barker was finished today.
"Well, that is all I need," Barker stood from the table. It wasn't soon enough as the metal rim struck him in the chest. Mane had ripped the table from its tie-downs and threw it forward. Barker stumbled and fell, thinking the entire time not of hurting himself, but instead about that small stain of ketchup he would never get from his white dress shirt.
Mane was over him in a mere second. The patrons were screaming all around him. Ten distinct high pitched screams. Not a one willing to save him from sure death.
Mane leaned down, grabbing Barker around the throat. He expected his life to flash before his eyes, but nothing cliché happened at all.
Instead, Barker waited a moment longer to really let the witness's feel the rage. Barker was lifted to his feet, but he refused to squirm, that was undignified.
Mane lifted him higher into the air. It was a good vantage point. Barker could see the crowd forming behind Mane. They would watch his murder. They would maybe be murdered themselves. If not, most of them would get the details wrong. Eyewitness testimony was a horrible thing to have to depend on.
Mane growled and started to squeeze harder. Barker wouldn't be able to take much more, so he acted fast.
His paw darted into his front pocket and he pulled the small device from his breast. With ten thousand volts under the arm, Mane's grip weakened.
Barker was impressed, terrified, but still impressed as Mane did not fall. Barker hit him again, another ten thousand volts. Mane stumbled and Barker was free. Barker hit him a third time and added a dress shoe to the chest. Mane stumbled backward, tripped over the table and slammed his head off the bench.
Barker placed the taser back into his pocket. He straightened his tie and jacket. Then, turned to the waitress.
"If you could kindly call the detective office and tell that mindless parrot I caught the man who killed Detective Lucky then that would be great,"
Barker stepped over the table and checked Mane's pulse. He was still alive, but there was no telling for how long he would be knocked out. Barker pulled cuffs from another pocket, they would never fit around his wrist.
Barker settled for using the waitress' apron string. It wasn't his first choice, but if Mane woke up Barker needed at least a moment to pull the volts from his pocket.
Unlike Lucky, luck was on Barker's side. Psitticus and the patrol squad arrived after only about ten minutes. They loaded Mane into the car and drove him straight to jail, not passing go as they went.
Barker left the cafe as well. They could clean up the mess themselves, it had not been entirely his fault anyhow.
He had one last thing to do with Mane. Then, he could go home and relax, and shower that smell of Dotton from his clothes.
Barker imagined most Captains in the armed forces would have lived luxurious lives after the army. Spending their youth and prime fending off the bad guys. However, Captain Dotton lived as far from luxury as one possibly could and still actually live. Dotton opened the door with what seemed to be five years in-between shaves and maybe bathing.
His clothes were almost non-existent due to the holes and streaming strings of white thread hanging from every crevice. That at least was the clothes he did wear. What he was missing was socks, shoes, a shirt, and any sense of pride.
Dotton was a billy goat and he was definitely quite gruff.
"What do you want?" he asked as if that was a correct and proper greeting to a man at his door.
Barker fished into his front pocket. No reason for moves to maintain a friendship, it was straight to the formal. He pulled out his detective star. It was really just a gold overlaid piece of metal, not even real gold.
Dotton sighed, "what did I forget I did this time?" the door opened a little further, but it was reluctantly. Dotton poked his head out and his eyes were lit by the sun, turning his pupils into small rectangular boxes. "Forget the trash cans again?" he was looking towards the curb, but Barker had cased the place already, there was nothing on the curbs. "There ain't even anything there this time," Dotton's breath smelt like strong liquor, which was quite prevalent with the army folk.
"No trash cans, Captain Dotton," Barker shoved the star back into his front lapel. Then he straightened his tie. No need to look shabby, not even in a place like this. "I am here about a former charge of yours in the army," Dotton nodded.
"Those folk always be getting themselves into some type of trouble," he replied. The door opened further and Dotton even took a step back. It was almost an invitation but not quite, he was still waiting for the flavor of the visit.
"Nothing of trouble in that sense, Captain, I am here about a murder, or a purposed murder, nothing specific yet."
The invitation was almost rescinded, Barker talked quickly before he lost the man for good. "It is about a man named Lucky, you may know him better as Captain Lucky, but I suppose when you knew him he was nothing more than a private first class," Barker said.
The door opened fully, "Oh no Lucky kill someone?" Dotton had real emotion on his face. A show of real friendship, he wasn't the one Barker needed. "On the contrary, he was himself a victim," Dotton's eyes sagged.
If the war didn't kill you and the reception didn't dampen your spirits when you returned, then life would hunt you again until it found you alone and cold. Here was Dotton alone and cold and life still grasped for his throat, ready to squeeze the last vestal of life from his lungs.
"I can't believe it, he was something," Dotton stepped away from the door. "You want a drink?" he asked. Barker could see this was going to be a waste of time. Dotton would provide him nothing in terms of a murderer. Maybe he could provide a path to someone who would be more viable.
"I will take water," Barker said and stepped up onto the small overhang.
The inside of the apartment matched the tenant to a tee. It was covered in old stains, presumably from the vomiting the alcohol induced. Barker was able to deduct this from the smell permeating the small enclosure. Sometimes it was a disadvantage to have such a keen sense of smell.
"Never mind on the water," Barker pulled a harmless looking seat over towards the door. The seat was bereft of a cushion and so Barker found it hard to believe that the vomit could have soaked into its metal frame. "Bring me the bottle of alcohol, do not bother with a glass."
The glasses Barker had seen were littered across the floor in various places and states. Some were covered in a green moss-like substance, others were half full of cigarette butts, and others were questionable even to the scrutinizing of the world's best detective.
Dotton fumbled over to the table and grabbed the brown liquor and took a long draught, before handing the bottle off to Barker.
Barker himself had no intention of partaking in the beverage, instead, he dipped his finger into the neck of the bottle and let the alcohol soak into his fur. Then he ran the dripping finger across the bottom of his nose. Alcohol wasn't the most pleasant of smells, but it sure beat the smell of old vomit.
Dotton didn't seem to notice the methods of Barker or if he did then he showed indifference to them.
"So, old Lucky is dead then?" Dotton sat down on the couch and Barker noticed a puff of dust trail behind him.
Barker pulled a picture from his coat pocket. He probably didn't need the gory details, but Barker was going to share them anyhow.
Dotton flinched at the scene of the crime. The picture landed a mere foot away from him on a small cluttered coffee table.
"Seems to me that such a gruesome death had to have harbored quite a hate," Barker let his nail trace the outline of the scene. "Don't reckon you are familiar with brake systems?" Barker could see that the vomit collection was seconds away from being added to. Dotton shook his head, even after the gruesomeness of war, seeing a friend dead still did something to people. "I didn't think so, but then again what do you have to know, more than where to snip the line."
Dotton recovered a little and shook his head, "Nope, not me Detective, I was the reason Lucky got that promotion to Captain," Dotton ran his hoofs together in a nervous fashion. He took his eyes from the picture but glanced back quickly with the sides of his eyes.
It was the fascination with death that had drawn Barker into the agency as well. Dotton was just showing normal behavior.
"I don't suppose you can fathom anyone capable of doing such a thing to poor Detective Lucky?" Barker had a list of names. He was bound to find one that fit the bill, but if Dotton could spew off a name or two it would surely cut his workload.
"I know of one or two who didn't like Lucky," Dotton grabbed the bottle from the floor and took another swig, and then glanced at the picture again.
Barker leaned forward and grabbed the picture placing it in his coat pocket. "Who?" just a simple answer could lead to such great things, Barker knew that all he needed was the name of one man to fit the deed.
"Major Blake Mane and General Plancer," Dotton shook his head as if the names hurt him to speak them aloud.
Maybe they did, maybe anything from that time in his life hurt him. If he hadn't planned to get drunk enough to spew this morning, after Barker's visit he was surely going to add to his planner.
"I do have both on my list," Barker tapped the side of his head. It was where he kept all important articles and details.
Dotton grabbed the bottle and cradled it to his chest, he would be of no further use.
"I will see myself out," Barker stopped at a dingy and dusty mirror and straightened his tie. It was back to the world.
It didn't happen often, but there he was, sitting amongst the stuffy high bred folk. Barker walked past the twentieth mirror he had noticed in the place. It seemed to suit him well though. There was never enough time to casually glance at your own appearance. He straightened his tie. Powder blue, he had gone with. It was a symbol of respect for the armed forces.
Barker turned away from the mirror. There would be more. For now, he had to make all appearances of a concerned and appalled spectator. After all, it was the banquet dinner to commemorate the life of his fellow detective, Lucky.
Lucky had passed on to a better life. At least the speaker had the room convinced this was the case. His car had mysteriously lost all four tires and crashed into an oncoming pole. Lucky had no chance to brake or swerve.
Sad for Lucky, who didn't seem to quite live up to the name in the end. Barker looked around, snapping out of his own thoughts. The people were clapping, the long-winded speaker must have been done. He put his paws together in a slow clap as well. Barker was not only a detective, but he was also a Canine. A very special kind of dog called a Doberman.
Barker checked the schedule for the events of the night. He really hoped eating was up next. However, at a glance, he quickly found it was anything but eating time. There highlighted in red marker was his own name, he remembered now, keynote speaker. Why had they chosen him?
Barker straightened his tie and looked in the twenty-first mirror of the night. He wasn't even great friends with Lucky. They weren't even good friends. They had merely been co-workers. Matter of fact, Barker recalled not even liking Lucky at all. The smug little bird. Always nudging up to Psitticus. He was what you would call the perpetual brown noser. Loved everything that squawking parrot of a boss had to say.
Barker stepped up behind the podium. He had notes, he always had notes. He fidgeted around in his pocket for them. He had originally started the speech off very simply,
I could not be prouder that Lucky is finally gone. No longer do I have to grin and nod at his stupid pandering. No longer must I play the third detective in an office of three. No longer do I have to listen to his pointless dribble.
Although that was the way Barker really felt about the situation. He thought it classier to start like this instead...
"Today we celebrate the life of a fellow detective, a soldier, and a great man. There are many things I could say about Lucky to those gathered here, but we all know he touched each of our lives. We know that he was charismatic, determined, and always ready to prove his worth. "Barker hated to lie, but appearances were everything. Anyone who told you differently was a liar.
"I could sit here and spew a few jokes about how the man was always ready to make you laugh. I could sit behind this wooden podium and tell you a tearjerker of a surefire lead detective gone too soon. What a great boss he would have made."
Better than Psitticus at least, but that didn't make him nearly as good as Barker. Barker held back the bile that was forming from these sickening words. His paw moved up to his neckline and straightened his tie again.
"I, however, will not be doing that tonight. Instead of making you laugh or making you cry. I decided to just say thank you to the man we have all gathered here to mourn. Thank him for his service to the country, to the city, and to the people. A friend is what he was first and foremost to us all. Remember him with his beak shaped in a smile and his wings spread in flight, for tonight he has risen above us all. We as those left behind can only hope that one day we too can join him in paradise," Barker took a drink of water. The words needed to be washed out from his pallet. Why did he write this crap?
Barker smiled and held his hand up for the applause. He then stepped down from the stage. The group gathered to shake his hand. Some even offered congratulations on the promotion to the second detective. These were the idiots of the group. There was no promotion. There was no second detective position. Barker had solved more cases than Lucky had ever dreamed of solving. It was only the constant sucking up that made people assume he was somehow more important than Barker.
Barker didn't inform the imbeciles. Instead, he nodded and smiled, continuing his way to the back of the hall. Behind him, he heard the call for dinner. At least if he had to be with these people he could get a nice meal from it.
Lucky was well liked in the community. He was a decorated soldier, a beloved detective, and a major donating force to the local charities. In short, the meal was overdone but downright delicious.
By his third plate, Barker started to feel that maybe he should slow down. By his forth, he was sure it was time to slow down. Then again, he had dessert to worry about. And what a dessert it was. A massive chunk of cheesecake covered in nuts, Barker devoured it like he was a starving child.
Then, he leaned back looking down at his belly. It was starting to show the signs of aging. His pant line was growing older with him, but that didn't bother him. Many distinguished men had a little something extra in the belly.
Barker straightened his tie and looked up at the ceiling, which just so happened to be the twenty-third mirror of the night. Even with a belly, he was the most tasteful man in the room.
"Barker that was a hell of a speech," the claws dug a little too deep into his jacket.
Psitticus bent down to Barker's ear level. "I know most of it was drivel coming from you, but you keep on a show like this and maybe you do have a shot at taking my place,"
Psitticus laughed as if he had just told a hilarious joke. Barker chuckled to play along. It was all a game, it was always a facade.
The fun part of the night was over with. The food was cleared away by men in white coats. Barker wasn't sure if they expected a tip for their service, but he figured if they did the other rich type folks would cover it for him.
Barker maneuvered through the hallway ready to press for the doors. He would be the first to leave, gather a taxi and make it home. The evening wasn't quite over for Barker, he still had a few details he had to work out in the current case.
You see it was known that Lucky not only crashed without the use of his steering wheel but also that, try as he might, his breaks did not work either. This fact was already known to Barker far before the forensic type had gathered the information and saw fit to pass it along to the real detectives.
Barker stopped by the mirror on the wall and readjusted his tie for the last time of the night.
When he arrived home he would be pressing those combat papers of Lucky. Delving deep into his backstory. Finding the plaster that held up those walls around his life. He would find the holes and dig his snout into them. Barker had an uncanny ability to sniff out things.
The men and women gathered at the doors, peering into the night. Some patted Barker on the back and congratulated him on his assent. Others commented on his speech. Each would forget about him in the morning. He did not donate to their balls or attend their dinner parties. Barker did not fancy a sit down with any one of these people. It was just appearance that brought him here in the first place.
He was entirely content to have sat at home alone. Alone with his notes at least. Those notes that would help him solve the case of the unlucky crash of Detective Lucky; the rising star of the detective force dead so young. Psitticus's handpicked predecessor dead in his thirties. Barker wasn't upset by the fact, he would have hated to work for the idiot.
Barker was more than happy the crash occurred to be quite honest. This meant that when he solved the case he would skyrocket even higher into the annals of great detectives. He was already known, by the people who mattered, to be the best detective in Maharris. Maybe even in the world.
Barker hailed a taxi. "Take me to the corner of Watson and Holmes," Barker was loath to ever be dropped off directly at his apartment complex. He had a fear of people knowing where he lived. People were fickle creatures. They would stalk, destroy, and kill for the most whimsical reasons.
The trip home was unrelenting. The cab driver took it upon himself to assume that Barker cared one iota what he had to say. The truth could not have been further from the speculation. Barker hated conversations with people, especially cab drivers. They had made their lot in life and it was to be a boring, smelly driver. They had nothing of interest to say to him.
So, when the cab stopped Barker was quick to remove himself from the man's presence. He refused to leave him a tip, the man had made the ride most un-enjoyable by filling the cab with his useless banter.
Barker stayed planted on the corner until he could see the tail lights blink out of sight. Then he turned down Holmes street. The street lights in the neighborhood left something to be desired, but perhaps that was why Barker had chosen to live down here. The people weren't always honest and friendly, but neither was anyone else. It was just that this group chose not to put up the fake image of hospitality. It was much easier to see the danger if there were no hidden agendas.
Barker passed with no excitement to 228A Holmes Street. He fished his key from his pocket and entered his small hub. Papers were strewn across the floor, he walked over them, not bothering to check the envelopes of mail that were shoved through the slot. He would pay the bills at some point, but tonight he had other things on his mind.
Barker's apartment did not consist of normal items such as couches, chairs, or tables. Instead, he had an open floor and a bed in the corner. Of course, he had a refrigerator and a stove that worked; at least he assumed it would if he ever used it.
Tonight, Barker made his way to the only wooden structure inside his hovel. It was a misconstrued writing desk that had obviously seen the last of its better days years before. He saw no reason to chuck it out, as any flat piece of wood was just as good as another, no matter appearances.
Lucky's case file was already open. The pictures of the gruesome crash lay strewn out over the desk. Barker pushed them to the side. He had witnessed the crash first hand. He had the information he needed from it already stored in his mind. If he wanted the image, he had to but close his eyes and see it.
What Barker wanted was the list of Lucky's combat buddies. Those who had gone to war with him. Those who had slept near him as he screamed at night in terror. Those who had witnessed him killing helpless vagabonds in the hills. Barker wasn't sure any of that was actually the case, but he would soon find out.
On the morrow, he had already planned to walk to the corner of Watson and Holmes and hail himself a cab. From there, he would visit those on the list he had drawn up. There, he would find his victim... err his murderer. Barker traced the paper with his nail and landed on a name: Captain Dotton. Prime suspect number one.
The Canes Files is a collaborative effort between brothers McConnaughay and Scott Moore, chronicling the stories of a fox named Vulpecula Noel and a dog named Sanec Barker. Set in the anthropomorphic world of Maharris, the novel follows The Fox Detective as he solves various mysteries plaguing the area, all while discovering himself and where he goes in the world, and Sanec Barker's ascension up the ranks of the Urgway Police Department, committing notorious crimes and debaucheries along the way.
Molly Louise’s Disappearing Act, Magnet’s Newest “Attraction”!
Written by Michael Stiles of the Rescue Tribune
Less than two weeks ago, visitors of McKinley Halls, as well as citizens of Acera alike were taken aghast by the disappearance of actress, Molly Louise. Performing the leading role as Amy Sextant in the highly-acclaimed A Blood Lane Starlet, Molly Louise stepped upon and triggered a trapdoor sending her beneath the stage. The fellow performers dismissed this as an individual mistakenly unlocking the latch to the comical dismay of Molly Louise; however, they soon realized that Molly Louise was nowhere to be seen.
We have since learned that there was another story being told only known by Molly Louise and a very select few. “There was nobody on stage that knew about what I was doing, I couldn’t see their reactions, but I am told by my friends that nobody knew what was going on,” Louise tells the Rescue Tribune interviewer, Michael Stiles. Molly Louise fell safely beneath the stage before being helped to her feet by a member of Magnet, the most prominent group of performers in all Maharris. “We made special precautions to ensure nobody discovered us while making our escape. Everybody was looking at the stage, nobody knew what was going on, and we used it as a chance to go through the emergency exit. There were a lot of Magnet members blocking me from view also,” says the newly established Magnet member.
Molly Louise did not go completely missed as one witness recalled seeing her flee in the parking-lot minutes after. Molly Louise has confirmed the validity of this statement and clarified that she was nervous about going through with the ‘staged kidnapping’. Some might be uncertain as to why Molly Louise would have wanted to do such a large and controversial spectacle. Magnet has long-since established a name for itself by having the finest that Acera-born performers offered, and while Molly Louise has made herself prominent as one of the most known actresses ever to come out of North Rites, she was born in Hardan. “There are certain traditions that are upheld by Magnet. They rarely make exceptions, but I needed them to make one, badly. If you are not a member of Magnet, you might as well go home, and I couldn’t accept that I wouldn’t be allowed in by a technicality. They told me that if I did something extraordinary that they would let me into the group. And so, here I am.”
Molly Louise revealed herself at the McKinley Halls’ biggest available theater in-front of over ten-thousand audience members and was welcomed as the newest member of Magnet. She will be joining the troupe throughout this year, participating in various acts that have yet to be specified. “I realize that there are a lot of things that I had to do; I might have surprised a lot with my actions, but looking back at where I was, and looking at where I am now. I have no regrets about my decision.”
Lacerta rubbed the temples of his forehead before repeating himself. “I said… do you believe that we should disregard the witness’ account since there’s a chance it is not authentic?”
“Quite the contrary, the testimony’s relevance remains, but rather, I believe that we approach it with a grain of salt, not full-heartedly accepting, but not condemning either.”
“What are your instincts telling you?”
“They are telling me that the solution to our little conundrum is unlikely to be discovered anywhere inside of this theater, but still, we should look under the stage, if for no other reason than for me to attempt at recreating the scene.” Vulpecula answered.
Vulpecula looked around at the stage, appreciating the scenery; there were no backdrops and so, all the pulleys, sandbags, and props held a novelty to them. V headed uncomfortably one direction before turning to go the next, not entirely sure which side of the stage would take him to where he wanted to be. He eventually sought to stage right behind a white building prop with red hand-prints on the building meant to look like smeared blood. Apus and Lacerta followed him. While trying to find his way down the stairs, Vulpecula almost inadvertently tripped over one of the weighted sandbags but was able to keep his footing. Down the stairs, he beheld the spots dedicated to makeup. On the back-side, there was a row of spinning chairs each standing in-front of circular mirrors outlined by light-bulbs, as well as several cosmetic supplies that Vulpecula didn’t recognize. Beside all of them, there was a door leading to the lobby that Vulpecula chose not to investigate. On the side closest facing the theater, there were racks with clothing, out-of-place ladders, and pieces of plywood leaned against some of the walls.
Finally, Vulpecula found what he was looking for, a small, red push and pull plate door with a sign that spelled out the word “storage”. He pushed open the door and true to the words, there were plenty of boxes and props stored. It wasn’t cluttered though, and the second that Vulpecula walked in, he could see the cushion directly beneath the trapdoor. Vulpecula could tell that the area wasn’t finished as there were plenty of nails jutting out from some of the walls and wooden support beams placed sporadically throughout the area.
His eyes browsed the room frantically, not looking for anything, but merely looking for the sake of looking. He walked over to the cushion lying in the middle of the room. Fittingly, the cushion was a scarlet color and felt like nothing more than a large sponge wrapped in red clothe. Above him, he could see the bottom of the trapdoor as well as the latch that locked it from being triggered. There wasn’t going to be anything of use in this vicinity and that fact seemed strikingly obvious. Footprints and fallen fabric meant absolutely nothing; there were thousands of feet which had walked under this stage and plenty of items which carried no significance at all whatsoever.
There was only one thing left to do in the theater. He directed one of his companions to ready a ladder to unlatch the trapdoor before returning to the top of the stage. He imagined the emotions which might be carried by Molly Louise, there was a play going on before her, only one-hundred or so watching her perform, would she feel anxiety? This isn’t something that he could assume, after years and years on-stage, surely, she had been numb to some of the stage-fright. However, she could still be anxious, if Molly Louise anticipated the happening, she would be worried of being caught. If there were a second individual, perhaps the man witnessed leaving the theater with a woman described as congruent in size and shape to Louise, she might have been worried he wouldn’t unlatch the trapdoor on time. Maybe he’d even unlatch the trapdoor to be triggered by somebody else!
A lot of things to consider, especially if there wasn’t a second-person, she’d have to be swift but not obvious at keeping anybody else from triggering the trap. This is assuming, however, that this wasn’t a straightforward kidnapping. This is assuming that she knew, when in-reality, she might not have.
Her feet stand over the trapdoor, and she is feeling either one of two things. She is feeling relief that everything has gone according to plan. She is feeling astonishment, as well as confusion. This wasn’t in the script … Vulpecula waited what he believed was ample time for Lacerta or Apus to unlatch the trapdoor before stepping upon it. There was serenity to his fall, no swish or swipe at the air, before landing on the cushion. He arose to his feet, lending his eyes to neither of his friends. He looked around, what did she do afterward?
A witness puts her end as entering a vehicle which certainly seems plausible, but he also says that the man was forceful and aggressive. Vulpecula’s eyes looked around as he imagined a man grabbing at him. There was likely an anxiety at this moment, but it is uncertain what it could have been caused by. The witness describes the man as pulling her toward the car which implies that she was conscious. He did nothing to incapacitate her, if he did, he’d never be able to get her out without notice. Did she follow him for a reason, was this extortion or blackmail, a gun pointed at her? She could have screamed. In-fact, in this situation, silence would be essential. Vulpecula walked toward the door and opened it.
What would Molly Louise and the assumed kidnapper be seeing, outside of the storage area, it was dedicated mostly to makeup and cosmetics, would there be more witnesses? Likely, and so, why did nobody besides the man identify seeing her? A lot of the performers would be in the lobby, readying themselves to perform or stewing after their performance. There might not have been a lot in the room, but there would have been enough. They might have been distracted, but that doesn’t mean they’d risk it. Vulpecula went back into the storage area beneath the stage, Apus and Lacerta both looking at him in confusion.
Vulpecula didn’t feel the need to explain his behaviors to them; they knew the drill by now. There were boxes and boxes stacked upon one another, neither looked any more peculiar than the other. Vulpecula grabbed one of the boxes and pulled it with all his might, successfully moving it away from the wall exposing … nothing.
He lifted a smaller box and walked it over to the other side of the room. His friends evidently picked up on what he was doing because they began helping him move the boxes until they found what they were looking for.
A small door to the side of the stage, it hadn’t been completely unexposed and hidden, but would be easy to miss if one didn’t know what they were looking for.
Vulpecula climbed over some of the boxes covering it and opened the door. The inside led to a janitor’s closet and from there, the side of the stage. There was an emergency exit on each side of the theater; this would be much more likely than the front-entrance. Vulpecula opened the door and sure enough, it led out the side of the building. The misdirection as well as the confusion would enable to means of escaping inconspicuously, although some attention might be drawn to the exit-door being opened.
Vulpecula admittedly felt discouraged at the rationalizations; there was a lot of assumption that came to the conclusions. Unfortunately, he could see absolutely no way whatsoever how two individuals could escape while everybody else remained oblivious. There was too much risk, somebody would have seen something. He noticed the alarm-system on the side of the door and lent thought to the fact that it didn’t go off. It should automatically go off, if somebody is using the emergency exit for a just emergency, but it didn’t. He walked outside feeling the warm air touch against his skin, but in his head, he was imagining it was raining, just as it was when she went missing.
Feet stamping upon puddles of water while rain dropped on them, they would continue before turning left, Molly Louise would likely remain anxious or fearful. She would either be trying to fight away from the kidnapper or not be. She’d fight back, or she would go willfully, but the man would be in a hurry, and therefore, he would probably be pulling at her hand and trying to make her be swift. Vulpecula walks fourth into the parking-lot. They make it into the car but not before being seen by an older gentleman that faintly sees them in the pouring rain.
Vulpecula walks around aimlessly, knowing that this is the range where the imagination takes over. And so, he falls to a seated position in the parking-lot, looking up at the entrance of the theater. And, all at once, the answer showed itself to him with astounding straightforwardness.
Welcome to McKinley Hall Theater!
Home of the Magnets!
We Are Currently Closed.
"I’ll tell you the truth, V,” Lacerta began bluntly out of the blue while they sat down at the Sidian Inn’s dining hall.
Each eating their usual meals and sitting in their assigned seats designated to them by Vulpecula, who oftentimes found change to be more cluttering than innovative, at least when it came to things of such importance.
“I would certainly appreciate the truth over a lie,” Vulpecula answered honestly, twiddling his fork around his food with little of an appetite.
“I believe that Eric Leon was bamboozled and tricked by Molly Louise. You saw the way that he looked when we talked to them. He was absolutely devastated, and I am assuming that there is a little more behind their ‘partnership’ than he is letting on.” Lacerta explained.
“Are you suggesting that they were lovers?” Vulpecula inquired curiously.
“I am suggesting that one loved the other, I think that Molly Louise met somebody else, or maybe even somebody she knew while in Hardan. The life of a stage performer isn’t very good, and I believe she probably wanted to spare Eric Leon’s feelings. I am thinking that the person that the witness saw with Molly was that ‘somebody else’ and she hesitated because she didn’t want to hurt Leon.” Lacerta explained with a lot of confidence.
“Possible,” Vulpecula said simply, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. “What about you, my feathered friend?” He asked, motioning over to Apus.
Apus looked at him.
“Eric Leon wants to believe that it’s a kidnapping, but this doesn’t necessarily look like a kidnapping to me.” Apus commented.
“Exactly,” Lacerta called out smugly.
“And what do you believe it appears to be,” Vulpecula asked simply, once more seeming neither convinced nor uncertain.
“Now, hold on, Lacerta, because while I think that your theory carries weight, I do have a thought for another. Well, uh, you know how Eric Leon expressed that it was all about reputation and image in theater? Granted, it doesn’t look like a kidnapping, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be one with a different coat of paint. What if the kidnapper had dirt on Molly Louise, or somebody that she was close to like Eric Leon? Her acting might serve as a martyr for containment of something scandalous.” Apus’ voice didn’t carry nearly the same confidence as Lacerta with his theory, and he made sure to add, “I’m just trying to make sure we see all the possibilities,” at the end of his dialogue.
“Thank you, Apus, and extortion or blackmail is certainly a reasonable outcome to expect.” Vulpecula stated warmly, a small but assuring smile on his face.
Silence befell the room, aside, of course, the chit-chatting that occurred outside their social-group, Vulpecula could hear the youthful conversing of a couple of young fellows only a few feet away from them, sitting in a booth. He could also hear teeth chomping down against their meal, an older couple that hadn’t spoken much of a word since sitting down moments earlier. Vulpecula brought in a breath, taking in the aromas composed of various foods being prepared and the scent of the customers, most certainly. In the loving serenity of the environment before him, Vulpecula couldn’t help but feel the callous stares of his acquaintances obviously wanting something that he hadn’t yet gathered.
“Well,” Lacerta eventually mumbled sternly, a little bit of annoyance befalling his voice, as if he had secretly sent Vulpecula the well-deserved power of telepathy.
“I’m sorry, did you say something?” V asked, knowing full-heartedly the answer to his own query.
“Which idea do you think nailed it the most? Do you believe what I said about her running away with a lover or do you believe Apus’ theory about her being blackmailed into an unwitting departure away from performing? You are kind-of the head-honcho on this,” Lacerta asked.
Vulpecula wished Lacerta would brighten his vocabulary in such a way that discarded words such as “nailed,” there was no nailing to speak of in this evening’s endeavors.
“What is your favorite film, Lacerta?” Vulpecula replied casually.
“What!” Lacerta seemed shocked with the rebuttal, “What are you talking about?”
“I am talking about films, commonly called motion pictures, flicks, and about a million other synonyms. I watched The Red Lane Starlet recently, the screen-adaptation, I mean, as much as I would love to see Molly Louise’s portrayal, I have little reason to believe she’ll actually be returning to her role soon.” Vulpecula’s face momentarily wrinkled with despair at the fact, he really would have liked to have seen her portrayal. “There were a couple of minor changes that some critics ranted about upon the release of the film. However, I thought it was rather enjoyable, had a certain light-heart apathy on such heavy subject matter.”
“We were talking about the case!!” Lacerta called out angrily, hence the second exclamation mark.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought that both of you had finished.”
“Which one do you think is right?”
“Neither, of course,” Vulpecula answered back honestly.
“Then, what did happen?”
“While I have already concluded, I believe that the answer will come out in due time.”
“What is the answer!?” Lacerta called out. “Vulpecula, I swear, I just, you, …” Lacerta stopped shortly after his ramblings. He couldn’t find the words to verbalize his affection for the white-furred fox. Lacerta let out a breath, rubbing his love-filled temples to keep his infatuation under control. “What is the answer?”
“I’ve already cleared the chalkboard, the answer to the case has been found, and I don’t believe there is any more reason for inspection. Molly Louise will come out of, ahem, hiding in due time.” Vulpecula answered back, neither proud nor dissatisfied.
It was an interesting case to say the least, one with misdirection, flamboyance, showmanship, and intellectual turmoil. Vulpecula sat back in his chair looking at the distraught and dissatisfied Lacerta while also looking at the confusion in the eyes of Apus. He couldn’t remember all of the ties that he found in the first place, once the chalkboard was erased, it was gone forever. He kept notes and information stored somewhere or another, as you are reading, but he rarely found sentiment in them. He kept one fact and one fact alone, the answer to the case was to be revealed by itself.
Eric Leon would find the whereabouts of Molly Louise as soon as everybody else and react with whichever emotion suited him. He’d likely feel hurt or angry, but it wasn’t for Vulpecula to cause. Vulpecula merely took the time to put Eric Leon’s heart at ease, informing him that Molly Louise was safe, and told him to go home and get some much-needed rest.
The Canes Files