Implications of Guilt

Here is the latest part of my continuing story featuring Lachlan McClelland and Ezra Metternich.  Ezra’s now a suspect in the murders, because his magical signature was found at the crime scenes (it’s a set up – he’s being framed).  Ezra was ordered to return to the car.  They’re probably expected to report in now…

Eileen Lupin, who appears in this section, is a fan character that my sister and I created – daughter of Remus Lupin from Harry Potter.  Obviously, I don’t own her father and I’m not making any money on this story.  She’s sort of an homage to my favorite Harry Potter characters.

**

By the time Lachlan reached the car, Ezra had calmed down.  He’d been able to push aside his hurt and anger and look at the situation impartially.  He met his partner’s gaze steadily.  “The person you’d scented on me,” he said, his voice soft.  “You said he’d been at your apartment and, for his scent to be on me, he must have been near Nowell.”

“He’s the killer,” Lachlan said, nodding firmly.  His brows furrowed.  “I’m thinking that this is the work of those bent on keeping my kind out of the peacekeepers, Ezra.  They’re building distrust of you to play on my loyalty to you.”

“Guilt by association,” Ezra said, nodding.  It made sense.  Lachlan was an unknown.  It was clear that they couldn’t make anyone suspicious of him by simple virtue of his nature.  If they could have done that, he wouldn’t have been allowed on the force to begin with.  So, they were using Ezra’s less than sterling reputation and Lachlan’s unswerving loyalty instead.

“By making it seem you are the murderer,” Lachlan said, his voice soft, “they cast you as a dark wizard and, being a dark creature, of course I should be loyal to you.  Aye?  ‘Tis proof that they cannae trust my kind as peacekeepers.”

Ezra bit his lip and nodded.  “How are they doing it?” Ezra said, shaking his head.  “I just don’t understand how they’d be detecting my magic on the victims.  I’m following procedure perfectly.  You know how careful I am about such things.”

He took a shaky breath and shook his head.  “The only way they’d be detecting my magic would be if I were the killer,” he said.

“And you’re not,” Lachlan interjected.

Ezra nodded once and continued, “or if I wasn’t shielding properly before using the detection spells and I am!”

“What if…” Lachlan started.  Then, he bit his lip and ducked his head.  “I don’t know much about magic, I’ll admit, but… could they somehow link your magic to the victims when you’re doing the shielding itself?”

For a moment, Ezra just stared at Lachlan.  Then, slowly, he nodded.  “They would have to be in the area when I’m performing the shielding, Lachlan,” he said, his voice soft.  “You – you’d know.”

“The first crime scene the wild basil ruined my nose, Ezra,” Lachlan said, shaking his head.  His brows furrowed.  “The killer could have stood just behind me, looming over my shoulder and I wouldn’t have had his scent.”

“And this time?”

Lachlan scowled.  “The water,” he said, snapping his fingers.  He pointed at Ezra and nodded.  “That’s why the killer lure Nowell out to the lake!  The scent won’t carry over water, Ezra.”

“I know that water would wash the scent away,” Ezra said, shaking his head, “but… if he were near the scene…”

“The wind came in to shore off the water, Ezra,” Lachlan said, shaking his head.  He grinned and nodded when Ezra’s eyes widened.  “All he needed to do was stand further up the bank.  I’d have not been able to catch his scent.”

“He would have been… downwind of you,” Ezra said.  When Lachlan nodded, Ezra heaved a sigh.  “How do we prove any of this?  Right now, I’m a suspect and they won’t believe you either!”

For a moment, Lachlan chewed his lip thoughtfully.  “We’ll need to find someone else, then,” he said, his voice soft.  “We’ll need to find someone that will believe us long enough to hear us out, but who our superiors will feel is above reproach.”

Ezra bit his lip and then nodded slowly.  The question was: who?  After a moment, his eyes widened.  “I think I know just the person,” he said, as a smile touched his lips.  Meeting Lachlan’s gaze, he said, “Fancy going back to school, my friend?”

“Fancy I do, aye,” Lachlan said, nodding.  He hurried over to the passenger side of the car and got inside.  Once Ezra was in the driver’s seat and they were both buckled in, they headed out onto the main road.  There was probably only one person who would hear them out now.  He was the same man who had trained both of them when they’d first joined the force.  He was also the same person who had suggested Ezra as Lachlan’s partner: Alistair Brody.

As they headed towards the Academy, Ezra could only pray that whomever the killer was, they wouldn’t realize what Ezra and Lachlan were planning.  Otherwise, the former peacekeeper might be in grave danger.  Chewing at his lip, Ezra pressed harder on the gas pedal.  It wouldn’t hurt to hurry, just in case.

“Above all else,” Brody said, glancing around at the students, “I cannot stress enough the need for constant vigilance.  Dark magic is unpredictable.  What works against it once will not always work a second time.  You have to be ready for anything.”

He glanced through the open door at the back of the room and frowned at the two familiar figures standing there.  “Expect the unexpected,” he told his class.  Then, he dismissed them.  As the students dispersed, he turned to the blackboard and began erasing the notes.

“Metternich,” he said, as the young wizard slipped into the room.  He glanced over his shoulder and nodded.  “McClelland.  What brings you two back here?  Come for a refresher course?”

“I’ve always wondered if expecting the unexpected doesn’t then make the unexpected into the very thing you then expect,” Ezra said, smirking.  He arched his brows.  “Rather a paradox, I should say.”

“Rather,” Brody agreed.  He set the eraser back on the tray in front of the blackboard.  “Take you, for example, most people would have expected you to disappear once word got out about what they think you’ve done.”

“They’ve sworn out a warrant, then?” Lachlan said, sitting back on the low table that made up the front row in the lecture hall.

Brody nodded.  “That was unexpected,” he said.  He looked at Ezra.  “You’re no more a dark wizard than Lachlan is a blood-thirsty beast.”

“Tell them that,” Ezra groused.  He heaved a sigh and then explained why they were there.  In the end, he said, “We figured that, if anyone would hear us out, it would you.”

“And you figured that the boys at headquarters would be more likely to believe me than you in the matter,” Brody said.  He frowned and shook his head.  “Question I have is this: Why would Nowell have worked with dark wizards?  He doesn’t seem the type.”

“If I had to guess,” Ezra said, frowning, “I’d say that he got in over his head.  He was so determined to keep werewolves off the force that he began working with the man who, ultimately killed him, without thinking about the possible consequences.”

“More than likely,” Lachlan said, his voice soft, “he didn’t expect for O’Neill to be killed and didn’t like that they were using Ezra to get to me.”  He glanced at Ezra, who nodded agreement.  Then, he turned back to Brody.  “I figure he had served his purpose and was becoming a liability, so… they killed him.”

“The question is: what purpose did they have for him?” Brody said, nodding.

Lachlan grimaced.  “As to that,” he said.  He glanced at Ezra and then shrugged.  “I was taken to task about… misconduct at a crime scene.”

“Misconduct?”

Nodding, Lachlan rolled his eyes.  “Seems word got back to our superiors that being near a corpse ‘excited’ me,” he said.  His brows furrowed and he shook his head.  “It’s ridiculous and I told them as much.  I mean, if a corpse smells foul to you, think how terrible it smells to me!”

“I… told Nowell that you were nearly as uncomfortable being near dead bodies as I was,” Ezra said, shaking his head.  “I never said anything…” he trailed off, dropping his gaze.

“Nowell lied and the lies made sense,” Brody said, setting a hand on each of their shoulders.  “To people who don’t realize that werewolves are humans that become wolves, who think of them as wolfmen, it makes sense that a dead body would excite them, when it’s really quite the opposite.”

“They bother you too?” Lachlan asked, blinking.  His brows furrowed.  “May I know why?”

“My magic detects them as… once alive,” Ezra said.  He shivered and shook his head.  “I can feel… what’s missing, basically.  It leaves a hole that unnerves me.”

Brody beckoned to the pair and said, “Let’s get you two under cover.  I’ve got someone who might be able to prove that someone was interfering with the magic detection spells you worked, Ezra.  Armed with that proof, we might be able to get your superiors to listen to reason.”

He led them across the campus to the academy laboratory.  “Eileen,” he called as he strode into one of the labs.  “Are you in here, girl?”

A moment later, the girl in question glared at him from one of the storerooms connected to the laboratory.  Her dark hair was pulled back in a low ponytail that was plaited into a messy braid.  “What do you want, Brody?” she asked, as she strode over to a cauldron that was simmering.  She tipped a bottle of blue powder into the cauldron and stirred it.  After a moment, a puff of blue rose from the surface.  “I’m brewing.”

“I’ve got a puzzle for you, Eileen,” Brody said.  He quickly introduced Lachlan and Ezra.  Then he explained the situation and what they needed from her.  “Can you do it?”

“You already know that I can,” Eileen said, nodding.  She glanced at Lachlan and then nodded slowly.  “My father told me about your pack.  I’ll do what I can to help you and your partner.”

“Your father?”

“Remus Lupin,” Eileen said.  She flashed a smile at them and then grabbed her wand off the lab bench.  Flicking it at the potion, she set a status spell around it.  Then, she hurried into the storeroom and returned to the room as she settled a cloak over her shoulders.  “Let’s get to the crime scene.  If we’re lucky, I can still find a trace of the spell that fouled your shields, Officer Metternich.”

“Thank you, Master Lupin,” Ezra said, grinning.  He nodded his thanks at Brody.

As they headed out, Brody called, “Bring them back to my place when you finish, Eileen.”  She waved him over her shoulder and Brody heaved a sigh.  He hoped that she’d stay out of trouble.  However, she was with Ezra and Lachlan and, together, the three of them were more likely to find trouble than stay out of it.

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