The Kindness of Strangers

Prompt: a gentleman can have it all

Ezra slipped through the crowd. It seemed to roll and pulse around him. Occasionally, it would spit him out and he’d have a few moments to catch his breath. He had found the food vendors. His mouth watered as the smells wafted over to him.

He sighed softly. He wanted so much to just find something he could eat. However, he had no money. He knew what his mother would tell him. He was a gentleman. He shouldn’t have to worry about money. People should simply give him food, because he asked about it. His charming smile should be enough to get him a free meal.

Things never seemed to work out that way. He frowned and then his eyes widened. He knew how to get something to eat. He pretended to collapse. As he sank to the ground, the crowd spit out a woman.

“Are you all right?” she asked, kneeling beside him.

He gave her a weak smile. “I’ll be fine,” he said. It wasn’t hard to sound tired. He hadn’t eaten anything in a day or so and he hadn’t slept well at the hostel. “I’m just a bit…” he stopped, as his stomach growled. “…thirsty,” he finished lamely.

“Hungry too,” she said, chuckling. She helped him stand and said, “Let’s get you settled in the shade and have some lunch.”

“Oh, but, I…” he started, shaking his head.

She laughed and patted his hand. “My treat,” she said. Sometimes, his mother’s advice actually came in handy.

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Equal Under the Law

Prompt: the esthetic of lostness

“So,” Keenan said, looking at Joram, Aidan and Thom, “that’s where things stand. We know that Lord Haffley killed Cass.”

“But he won’t say who else on either council is part of the splinter movement,” Aidan said, nodding. “It’s not like we can take all the republicans out of public office. They were duly elected, after all.”

“The same is true of the other members of the High Court,” Joram said, shaking his head. “Without any sort of proof showing that a person was involved, our hands are tied.”

Keenan nodded. “We’ll just have to be careful,” he said. “We’ll watch out for laws that might infringe on the rights of citizens who are from other ethnic backgrounds. We’ll keep an eye out for instances when they’re being unfairly excluded.”

“We caught the guy,” Thom said, sounding upset. “So, why does it seem like we’ve lost?”

“Because,” Keenan said, “the fight goes on.” He smiled faintly and said, “But that was just one battle. We haven’t won the war yet, but we’ve made a good start.”

Unraveling

Prompt: where people go

“Lord Haffley,” Thom said, as the noble slipped into the church sanctuary. Why was it that people felt the need to go back to the scene of their crime? He stepped out of hiding at the same time that Aidan did.

“You’re under arrest,” Aidan said. “The charges are the attempted murder of Ezra Pemberton and the murder of Cassidy Reinsch.”

Haffley looked horrified. “You,” he breathed. “Why did they send you to take me in? I wanted Amon!”

Thom frowned and looked at Noreen. “What?” he said.

“Amon is ethnically Shynian,” Syusuke said. He shook his head and looked over at the noble. “You’ll just have to settle for these two, my lord. Really, it doesn’t matter. They’ll send you off to South Cape Prison, same as he would.”

That seemed to bring Haffley up short. “You’ve got no proof,” he said.

“On the contrary,” Thom said, “we have all the proof we need and a witness. Pemberton recognized your voice.” However, they might never have caught him, if he hadn’t returned to the scene of the crime.

Strange Ideas

Prompt: Off the beaten path I reign

“They called you?” Aidan said, his brows were furrowed. “They didn’t actually say they were going to kill you, though.”

“I was with the Underground for ten years, sir,” Ezra said, shaking his head. “That’s long enough to be able to read between the lines. The caller disguised their voice and said I should stay out of things that weren’t my concern. There was an implied threat.”

“Why threaten you?” Thom asked. “Why not someone who’s actually part of the investigation? They obviously aren’t worried about the Agency coming after them for threatening one of us.”

“They might not realize that I’m an agent,” Ezra said, shaking his head. “We are trying to keep that particular fact under wraps, after all.”

“That’s a little far a field, though,” Aidan said, frowning.

Ezra grinned. “Sir,” he said, “far a field is where I live – so many things I’m involved with outside the norm, I practically rule there.”

A Working Holiday

Prompt: home is where we are not

“So, the judges all headed home for the holiday,” Aidan said. He looked at the members of his team and then at Thom. “I’m sorry we couldn’t do the same, however, this matter must be decided with all haste.”

Thom nodded. “We all understand that,” he said, his voice soft. As much as he would have liked to be with his wife and son on this day, they had a murder to solve. “Have we learned anything of use?”

“The killer was waiting for Judge Reinsch,” Steve said. There was such certainty in his tone that both Thom and Aidan looked at him sharply.

However, Syusuke nodded. “He’s right,” he said, sounding perfectly sane. He looked at Thom with bright eyes. “Think about it for a moment: Judge Reinsch took the same trail through that park at the same time everyday. It’s very likely that the killer watched her and learned her routine. He struck when she would least expect it.”

“So,” Eric said, “that discounts the theory that she was the victim of a random attack.” His brows furrowed. “She was intentionally attacked – something made her a target. What?”

“That she was a member of the High Court?” Aidan asked. “Does that mean the other judges are in danger?”

Noreen shook her head. “Not necessarily,” she said. “All the other judges… she and Judge Norse were the only members of the original High Court left.”

“And then, there was one,” Syusuke said in a low, creepy voice. For a moment, the others simply stared at him. He blinked and shook his head. Returning to his normal tone, he said, “Sorry… um… right! One died of old age and the other two retired.”

“Why did they retire?” Kyle said, his brows furrowing slightly.

Thom frowned. “What’s that got to do with the case?” he asked, shaking his head.

Aidan looked thoughtful. “Maybe nothing, but we won’t know unless we check it out,” he said. He looked at Eric and said, “The press asked Ezra about why the High Court was… homogeneous. It didn’t used to be.”

“That… in an interesting thought,” Eric said. He nodded. “We’ll start working that angle – see where it takes us.”

“We’ll keep working the forensics,” Thom said, nodding. His brows furrowed and he said, “Is Ezra checking into the background?”

“Probably,” Aidan said, nodding. “I’ll make sure he knows it might be connected with Judge Reinsch’s murder.”

Eccentricities

Prompt: No yesterdays on the road

Thom stared at the blood spatter for a moment, then, he snapped a picture of it. He glanced over at Sysuke was supposed to be the best forensics wizard the Agency had. Thom didn’t doubt that. However, he’d been with the Agency for just over ten years and he’d joined at a time before they’d realized what the use of so much magic did to a wizard’s psychological state.

“Syusuke,” he called, trying to get the man’s attention. “Are you ready to do the stress test?” He smiled faintly at Noreen. She had far more patience for Syusuke than he did.

Syusuke frowned and hugged his stuffed rabbit a bit closer. “Bunny doesn’t like this place, Thom,” he whined, stomping his foot. His voice turned low and somewhat spooky, as he said, “There’s death here.”

“We can leave as soon as we know what happened here yesterday,” Thom said, his tone one of exaggerated patience.

Syusuke shook his head slowly. In the same spooky voice, he said, “There is no yesterday here. There is only death.”

“Bunny,” Noreen said, setting her hand on the rabbit’s head. “Let Syusuke do his work now.”

That seemed to snap Syusuke out of his… spell. He blinked and handed Noreen the rabbit. “Hold him for me,” he said, suddenly sounding both adult and serious, without the strangeness of before.

Thom sighed in relief. For a little while, at least, they had their forensics wizard back. “Thank you,” he said, his voice faint. Noreen just shrugged.