Misty lay on the hospital bed, her mind returned to the fatal night that claimed her beat partner’s life.
A gush of cold wind, a scream. A dark shape pounced on her partner. Blood. Gun shot, and the piercing pain from her shoulders.
Misty instinctively reached for the empty space that her lost arm originally occupied.
She sat up and looked at the window. New York looked so bright under the sun light. But there was a world of darkness behind. It cost her partner’s life, her arm, but would it claim more of the New York that she swore to protect when she signed up as a cop?
Misty wasn’t sure of her next step. No one would believe her about things beyond human comprehension. She knew what her superior and the shrink would say. PTSD. Hallucination due to grief and fear, or something worse. But she knew what she saw.
The only question remained: What should she do when her eyes were forced open to the world?
Misty stiffened her lips.
Misty’s friend Celestina visited her in the ward. “Sorry for the loss.”
“How’s his family?”
Misty’s friend didn’t need further reference to know who she was talking about. “The wife’s grieving, but she’s tough. The family’ll be all right. How about you?”
“In pain. But I’ll be all right.” Misty managed a smile. She definitely wouldn’t function as well as she had been before, she thought.
“The boss has word that you can remain on the force...”
“With a desk job, right?”
Misty could read the answer from her friend’s face. “I’d rather quit.”
"Are you sure you want to leave the force? I just mean..." Celestina asked.
"I 'm certain of my choice. Better leave than being confined to a desk job."
"Then what'll you do?"
"Not sure. I'll take a break first. I haven't had a break for a long time."
"Do keep in contact."
"Sure," Misty said.
When Celestina left and the door was closed, Misty looked at her now lost arm. She had spent so many time wanting and living to be a cop. Could she find a new road in life other than that?
What would happen if she couldn’t?
Another person got into the ward. Mist relaxed when she saw that it was Colleen.
Colleen didn’t avoid her glance at the space an arm could be, but she didn’t look pitiful either. Misty liked her for that.
“You looked down.”
“Well, a good man lost his life, and me, I don’t know what I ‘ll do later. I won’t stay on the force to do a desk job, but other than that...” Misty said honestly. She felt safe to be more fragile before Colleen than her friends on the force.
“It’s not your fault that he was killed.” Colleen said, looking straight into her eyes. “And I know you. You’re a fighter. You won’t give up easily. I know! We can start a PI agency and solve cases. We can be our own boss.”
“A PI may not be as glamorous as you think, but it’s definitely …” Misty said. If she became a PI, she could make use of the PI license to get information that a civilian might not be able to get. Besides working with Colleen might be fun.
“A good idea? Then we ‘ll start it as soon as possible!”
Then Misty looked at her lost arm. “An one-armed fighter couldn’t do much good.”
“It might surprise you.” Colleen held up a box she was holding and opened it. Inside there was a metal arm.
“What’s it for?”
”A prosthetic arm that ‘s of the sharp edged technology, courtesy of an anonymous benefactor.”
“No one’ll be so kind to give things up free.”
“Well, I may have talked to some people, but the fact is that you can try it to see if it suit you. No price tags attached”
Misty held it in her hand to feel the weight. She was doubtful and hopeful. Nothing just dropped from the sky. But if this could really help her to return to the front line, she might use it for good.”
Finally she asked, “Is there a user manual?”
“I know you’d see it my way.”
Rehabilitation was a long time, as learning to use a new arm was harder than Misty thought. She would underestimate her strength and crushed maybe a cup that she tried to hold so she had to train her remaining arm to take care of her life. It was frustrating at first, as she had not appreciated that there were so many things in life that needed two hands. But she overcame it with the aid of physiotherapy, her stubbornness and Colleen. Finally she had a better control of the arm. It would surely be a good blunt weapon, Misty thought.
Three Months later.
Misty looked at the newly painted sign of “Nightwing Restoration Ltd.” They had done what they could to promote it. Now they needed to wait for their clients to come. Meanwhile, Misty did a research on unusual incidents of possible supernatural cause. It wasn’t possible for the demon to only strike one, and by finding out its modus operandi , Misty could predict the demon’s next move and set up a trap in advance.
It was harder than she thought as she understood that ordinary people’s refusal to recognize a supernatural cause was aided by the mass media’s haste to discredit them to mention supernatural occurrence. However she didn’t give up and collected some newspaper clippings of possible leads.
She was organizing them into a file when the door bell rang. She opened the door and saw a young woman with a tired smile. She led her to a seat and asked, “How can I help you?”
“Call me Ms. Stephen. I would like you to investigate a Preacher. Preacher Eric Smith.”
“Why do you want to investigate him?”
“My sister has cancer. Incurable. The doctor told us we should prepare for her death.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“So am I. Meanwhile, my sister hears about this preacher who claims to cure the incurable. She hears some stories that people miraculously recover from it and she wants to try.”
“And this is the reason you want to know more about him.”
“I’m an agnostic. I can accept things beyond my understanding. But there’re so many faith healers who’re just a fake. I don’t want my sister to hold her wish high, and then has her hope crushed by a cheater. It’s so cruel, not only to my sister, but also to people like her. However, if he’s real...”
“You want your sister to have a chance.”
“That’s what I mean.”
“We’ll do the background check on the Preacher to determine his claim’s validity. Do you know where he operates?” Misty said and quoted the fare.
“He operates in a church called the Holy Church in Brooklyn. Thank you,” Misty’s client signed a check to Misty and said goodbye to her.
Misty told the case to Colleen and Colleen nodded, “It’s a meaningful case. We should do our best. Let me do a background search on him. ”
“All right.” Misty said, then she asked, “How do you do it?.
Colleen opened a browser window and did some searching. Then she said, “Firstly I’ll do a google search on the individual. If he has a facebook, twitter or other social network account, it’ll be a treasure. It looks like he has one. And I’m finding some interesting stories about him too. He has no known criminal record to this name. His name is listed on the New York Yellow Pages. I even have an address and a phone number.”
“All right. Let’s split and do some good old foot work.”
Misty went to the church. It looked like a renovated warehouse. Inside there was a crowd of people and a man was on the stage. She asked the woman nearby in a wheelchair, “Is he Preacher Smith?”
“Yes. I came to let him cure my rheumatism. It’s very painful and is beyond the doctors’ help. I hear he can help me. Besides, he doesn’t demand money.”
If he didn’t demand money, at least it could eliminate a motive for money. Of course he could also have been angling for a bigger fish, Misty thought.
Preacher Smith seemed to be about middle-aged. He led the congregation in singing hymns and after the worship he shouted with the microphone in his hands, “God’s will is to heal everyone’s body. Sickness and suffering are never His will. Who wants to be healed?”
“Me! Me! Me!” the crowd shouted.
The Preacher walked down the stage, walked to a woman holding a baby girl and said,” She has heart disease, right?”
“Yes, Preacher.” The woman said.
Preacher Smith said, “Today she’ll be healed.” Then he closed his eyes and prayed. Then he announced, “The baby’s cured. Go to the doctors and have their confirmation. Then you should spread God’s word for everyone.” There’s scattering of cheers.
It was strangely not dramatic, Misty thought. She waited until the gathering ended and chatted with the couple. They seemed nervous and excited. Misty asked them about their story.
“My daughter was born with Tetralogy of Fallot. The doctor said she needed high-risk total repair to survive. But now you see: her lips are no longer blue, though we’ll go to the doctor as soon as possible,” the wife said.
Misty followed them to a hospital, where the baby had a check up. The doctor came out and said, with excitement in her voice, “The baby’s heart’s totally functional. There’s no need for surgery.”
“Thank Heaven!” The couple were in tears.
Misty then talked to the doctor after the couple brought the baby home and she confirmed the couple’s story. It seemed amazing.
It seemed that the healer was real, Misty thought, but she still had her suspicion. It was too neat. She needed further confirmation to report to her client.
When she met Colleen again, she told her about what she saw. Then Colleen said, “I didn’t find much today, but today Smith’s son was sent to the hospital. A heart attack, they said.”
Misty said, “It’s dreadful.”
“The weirder thing is the boy ‘s said to be very healthy. Definitely no signs of heart defect. But you never know in this case.”
The next day the Preacher helped a woman in wheelchair to stand. Then he suddenly collapsed on the ground. The crowd was in a panic. Misty ran to the stage and checked his life signs. He was still breathing and could respond to Misty’s voice. Misty called an ambulance to send him to hospital and followed him.
When returned from the hospital, Misty told Colleen, “The doctor said the preacher lost his leg function due to polio. But polio just doesn’t work so fast this way, and this’s what the preacher cured the woman of.”
“And the son collapsed at the hospital? I made some conversation and found that he was diagnosed of Tetralogy of Fallot. He was totally healthy in last check up.”
“So you mean...”
“Somehow, whatever the Preacher cured, they were transferred to his family and him.”
“Do you think it’s supernatural?” Misty held her breath for the response.
Colleen was silent for several minutes, then she said, “Why not? The world ‘s weird after all.”
“Let’s do research to find out whether there’s a pattern after all.”
Misty returned to the church and managed to gather a list of people being cured and what diseases they were cured of. Then she took it to Colleen, who then searched the news and city record to find out the people who were supposed to be cured. Meanwhile Misty went to these families and interviewed them. She made an unpleasant discovery.
The first family was cold toward her at first, but finally accepted her pretense as a freelance reporter. Their first son was found to have Eisenmenger's syndrome, which was nearly incurable. Desperately, they went to the Preacher. Preacher Smith prayed for the child and said he was cured. But then the child died of a heart attack later. When they confronted the Preacher, he said that it was because they didn’t have faith in God. The mother showed Misty the child’s room, which was preserved faithfully. Misty didn’t know what to say about this.
Preacher Smith was said to cure a man of lung caner, but when Colleen searched the record, he wasn’t in the city. Finally they found that he died of cancer soon after he went to Preacher Smith.
A woman went to Preacher Smith to cure her lupus. Preacher Smith said she would soon be completely healed if she donated money to the church. She did, but her disease not only wasn’t cured, but was worsened. She bitterly said, “It is this kind of people that let me lose faith in God. I wish...” She stopped here.
But when Misty visited the woman with polio, who the preachers had just healed, her neighbours confirmed that her disease was real and then it was just gone. She could walk as if she never had the disease.
Misty said, “I think we can draw a conclusion from it. Preacher Smith was a fraud. But now he isn’t because the disease just transferred to him and his family. Now we need to decide what to do.”
Colleen said, “At least we can tell our client the truth. Then we can end the case.”
“I think so, but honestly, I still want to know why it happens. It may be divine retribution to him, not so much to his family.”
“Well, I know someone I may ask.” Colleen said. “Let me make some calls.”
Colleen led her to an apartment and knocked on the door. “Please come in. The door’s not locked.” A voice came from inside.
Colleen opened the door and led Misty in. A long-haired dark-skinned man looked up from his book and smiled at Misty. His clothes that could only be described as colourful, but despite that he looked respectful. He looked young, but his eyes were old. “Hi, Colleen, and this’s your friend?.” The man said.
“This’s Jericho, an expert on supernatural. Jericho, this ‘s Misty, my partner.”
Misty and Jericho shook hands.
“What do you want from me?” Jericho asked. “I heard that there’s a preacher...”
“Yes. The preacher. “ Collen told him about the situation, then said, “We come to ask you if you know what magic or other stuffs can allow someone to transfer a person’s disease to another’s body.”
“It can be magic, black magic. Some supernatural creatures may also be involved. I need to be in closer contact with him to be more certain. Let me do some research first.“
The next day Jericho phoned them back and asked Misty to take him to the church. His clothes attracted a lot of attention but Jericho didn’t seem to notice. Misty saw that he closed his eyes and seemed to be concentrating, so Misty refrained from disturbing him. Honestly Misty had some doubt about him, but she trusted Colleen’s insight into people.
The congregation was visually small, and there was another Preacher here. There was no healing.
When the service was ended, Jericho and Misty walked out and found a diner nearby to talk. Jericho said, “I don’t feel the remaining trace of magic here. It’s something more sinister.”
“Possibly. Or a curse. Or other creatures. I need to be in close contact with the man to know.”
“All right. We’ll arrange it.”
Misty said good bye to Jericho and returned to the office to meet Colleen and told her what Jericho said. Colleen frowned and said, “It’ll be more tricky if a supernatural creature ‘s involved. I’m glad that you believe me and Jericho so easy, though. Not many people want to consider the fact of their presence.”
“In fact...” Misty gathered the courage and said, “I think it may be a demon.”
“Tell me about it,” Colleen said.
Then Misty told her what happened that night she lost her arm and Colleen held her hands. “Thanks for telling me. I’ll help you find and defeat it.”
“Thank you,” Misty said, touched. Because the atmosphere didn’t seem to be too emotional, she said, “Let’s return to the case.”
Colleen smiled at her. Then they returned to the case at hand.
Misty found out the day and time Preacher Smith went to have physical therapy and sneaked Jericho in. Jericho took a look at him and said. “This man’s cursed. I can see the signs.”
“How do we remove the curse?”
“Why do you care?”
“Because his family is innocent.”
“You need to find the person who cursed him, then undo whatever the person did to curse this man and his family.”
“I see. How do we know who the person is?”
“The person’ll keep the stuff needed for ritual at hand.”
“All right. Let’s do it.”
The prime candidates would be the familes Preacher Smith wronged. Misty and Colleen split to investigate who was the person who cursed the wrongful Preacher Smith.
Misty went to the first family and casually told them about the news of the Preacher and his family. The mother said, “It’s awful. I won’t wish heart disease on anyone’s child. Still this must be God’s punishment.”
The second man didn’t seem to have a family at all. He had a sister, Misty finally found, but she said they had been out of touch and not even received news of his death.
When the mother in the third family heard about the news, she had a quick glimpse of smile, but she soon frowned. “The child’s ill? How unfair.”
Misty suspected that she found the culprit but she didn’t say anything about it, just subtly stressing the piteous situation of the boy’s condition. The mother looked at her thoughtfully.
Then Misty had tea and left.
Misty made a call to Colleen and told her about her investigation and hypothesis. Colleen agreed that the third family should be investigated first and decided to intrude into the apartment to search for what Jericho said they would find. Misty was uneasy about intruding in others’ flats first, but Colleen convinced her that it could be beneficial.
Then Misty received a call from the mother in the third family. She sounded scared. “Can you come to my flat at once please?”
Misty and Collen went to her flat as soon as possible. The door was unlocked and they went into it, only to see that there was a shadow breaking everything in the house. The mother collapsed on the floor.
Then Colleen chanted a spell at the shadow. It seemed to freeze for a moment, but then it continued its destruction. Then Colleen pulled out a phone and made a call. “Hello, Jericho ?” Meanwhile Misty checked the life sign of the mother. Her breathing and heartbeat were steady. Misty was relieved.
Colleen spoke to the phone for awhile, then she held her phone to the shadow, “Hey , shadow!”
Misty could hear that Jericho was chanting in a language she didn’t know. The shadow shriveled and then disappeared.
The mother soon woke up and Misty gave her a glass of water. Then she told Misty and Colleen the story.
After her child’s death, the mother was grief-striken and furious at the preacher. Then she was approached by a stranger about a ritual to conduct perfect revenge. She didn’t believe it at first and tried it out of jest. She had no idea it would happen like this.
“It’ all right; it’s all right.” Misty tried to comfort the sobbing mother.
After leaving the household, Misty made an anonymous call to a reporter that she knows specially in defrauding and told her about Preacher Smith. The reporter agreed to investigate this. Misty hoped that Preacher Smith would receive what he deserved.
“So it’s a demon’s trick,” the client said after Misty explained the situation.
“Put it simply, yes, I’m sorry about this too.”
“Don’t worry. Death comes to everyone. I just... Here’s the check.”
The client left the office and Misty sighed, “I wish I could do better than that.”
“You have done for them and it would be enough.”
“I hope so.”
"You may want to see this." Misty's friend dialled.
Here was an apartment in an old building. Misty could sense the smell of blood and other odors even when she was far in the corridor. Inside blood was everywhere, even splattered to the ceiling. The body was slashed. Misty suppressed the feeling to puke.
"A slasher," she said. “What do you know about the victim?”
“Jack Brown. 44. Merchant. Married, with two children. The family sad he behaved normally and had no enemy. His business partner told the same story. Gosh, the kids I need to face...”
Misty put a hand on her shoulder to comfort her. “We’ll find the culprit.”
“Well. Hopefully it isn’t a serial killer case. Otherwise it’ll get nasty.”
“Why do you think we should be involved?”
"There was something wrong with it. The body tissues we got from the dead's nails? It was from someone who was already dead and decayed."
"So....." Misty exchanged a meaningful glance with Colleen.
"Mysterious. It may be a case you like. Do inform me of any advance though. I want the bastard behind bars. Forever."
"Thanks for telling me."
"It should be what I say. Tell you, your expense will come from the coffee pot money, but the time's been quiet, so don't spend too much."
Misty and Colleen returned to the office while discussing the case. Colleen asked, “What do you think of it?”
“It can be a sick killer. It can also be a monster.”
“The police did the routine check on the victim. We have to use another angle.”.
"There're similar cases," Colleen said.
"Let's check the files."
"We found out where the decayed tissues belong. Lucky us," Misty's friend said a name and Misty said, "I 'll follow it up."
"The guy was a drug addict. Wasted everything on drugs. Been to the jail numerous times. Burglary, assault, robbery, you name it. All to feed his habit. No one missed him."
“It’s possible that he became an undead then,” Misty said.
“We have to figure out what he becomes to fight him if he really becomes an undead.”
"I find something. If I'm correct, it's a blood corpse."
"What's a blood corpse?"
"Like a vampire, but mindless, more bloodthirsty."
"So we're facing what's practically a vampire. how do you know about it?"
Misty didn't ask further. The most important thing was to stop the monster from killing.
"We need to set up a trap. It will require a lot of blood."
Colleen returned to the office and carried a bag of blood. "I think the butcher looked at me weird about it."
"It couldn’t be helped. This’s the price for monster hunting. Now go on to the work."
They chose an abandoned house and splattered the blood all over the house. Then they waited.
At night Misty and Colleen sensed a decayed smell approaching. When they looked there was a living rotten corpse.
Misty took out her gun just as Colleen unsheathed her katana when the blood corpse appeared. She shot at the lower abdomen part of the corpse. It screamed and there was a hole, but it kept charging. Colleen pounced on it and used her katana to cut of its arm.
The fight was over. "We'd better get out of here. Otherwise there might be witness."
"Well, I don't believe much in supernatural, honestly, but I believe in you. Besides, New York’s crowded enough with weird things, a vampire wasn't much. I wished the superior would accept it, though."
Misty and Colleen went to a diner. "It's our second case, and we have to prepare for more."
Another day when Misty and Colleen were sipping tea at the office, the door bell rang. Misty put down her tea cup and opened it. There was a twenty-something woman with curved hair and in a long dress. She went to the client’s seat and almost collapsed onto it.
"I need your help," The client said. Her face was thin, and marked with worry and tiredness. There were black circles under her eyes. "My child has been abducted by a changeling, and I need you to bring her back."
“What about if you tell the story from the beginning? How do we address you?”
“Call me Mrs. Anderson. My daughter was born just two months ago. We’re so happy for her. I always wanted to have a daughter. Then one day she was just missing. We called the police. We did everything. She was found later in the day but I knew that she wasn’t the same. I’m not sure at first, but I got more surer when I looked at it. It just couldn’t be our daughter. I told my husband and he just said I was too tired and hired a babysitter. I don’t know what to do.”
"Are you sure?"
"It can't be my child. I know. Do you think a mother not able to recognize her daughter? Do you think I’m not sane enough? I’m fed up with this. I know I need help and then I find your number. It said you would handle any cases."
“We do.” Misty couldn’t decide what to do with this. On the one hand, the woman didn’t seem emotionally stable, on the other hand supernatural things were not to be dismissed. Real or not, this was a woman who needed help.
“Where’s it now?”
“I left it with the babysitter so I could sneak out.”
“All right. We’ll accept your case. Do you know our fare?”
“I do. Here’s the money.” The woman signed a check to Misty. Misty put the check in the drawer.
“We’ll report to you regularly and see if you need further investigation after a week. How do we contact you?”
“This’s my phone number. Do it as soon as possible. My poor daughter...” Mrs Anderson started to cry and pulled a handkerchief to wipe her tears..
After the client left, Misty asked Colleen, “What do you think about it?”
“Not sure myself. Let’s do some research on changelings first.”
Colleen checked the Internet and said, “Changelings were said to be fairy children kept in the place to replace a kidnapped human child. No one was quite sure why the fairies kept the babies. Some people said the fairies kept the human children as servants or food. There ‘re theories that changelings were either residue memory of an actual hiding people or an explanation for children with developmental disabilities.”
“How to know if a child’s changeling?”
“It ‘ll look weird, at the beginning, as it ‘s a fairy child. Iron should work on it.”
“Our client left a home number. Let’s contact her.”
Before Misty made a call, there was a knock to the door. Colleen opened it. A Black man with a baby stood there.
“Sorry, but I saw that my wife’s been here. Could you tell me where she was going?”
“Whether Your wife might have been here or not, we don’t disclose things about our prospective clients. You’re...”
“Henry Anderson. My wife is Holly and this’s our daughter, Sarah.”
“Do you want to tell me your story?”
“I'm sorry, but... I think this's my fault. I don't take care of my wife enough. I guess she has too much pressure, especially after the day our baby was retrieved. She doesn’t believe that this ‘s our daughter and insists that she’s a changling. Now she's not even willing to see the child. I need to take the baby out of the flat. She refuses to see a doctor."
"Do you believe her?"
"The doctor says it's normal for a mother with depression to reject her child." Mr. Anderson said, in a tired voice.
Misty wasn't certain what the truth was. Was it really a case of a changeling, or just a mother who finally had too much?
Colleen said, "There was an easy test for it. If the child's really a changeling, she can't touch cold iron."
"What's cold iron?"
"It's wrought iron."
"It'll be hard to get such thing in New York. They all use steel now."
"Perhaps a steel spoon is a sufficient substitute."
“There’s no steel spoon in my home,” Mr. Anderson said. Seeing Misty and Colleen’s surprised face, he said, “I’m allergic to all kinds of metal, so...”
“And you think your daughter inherit your allergy.”
“I won’t test it just to inflict pain on her.”
“This’s a problem,” Misty said.
“I can hire you to let my wife believe that she’s our daughter and seeks help.”
“There may be a conflict of interest.”
Misty took a look at the baby but as she was not familiar with young babies, she couldn’t say whether the child looked ordinary or not. Moreover, appearance didn’t mean anything.
Mr. Anderson left sadly and Misty just shook her head at Colleen. “I hope we can help them.”
Colleen said, “We’ll help them.”
An hour later, the phone rang. Misty received the phone and it was Mr. Anderson.
"Please help! My wife's gone with the child!" he shouted.
“I brought the child home. My wife was there and we had an argument again. Then she said that she believed me and told me to leave the baby with her and buy something for her. When I returned, there was no sight of them. The police don’t listen to us because it’s too early, and I can only ask for you to help.”
“We’ll help you.”
After searching the street, Misty finally found a useful lead. A worker said, "I think I saw a woman with a baby. She looked pale and didn't pay attention to it even when it's crying. So I ask if she had any problem. She said no."
"We must find them," Colleen said. She kept asking people "Tell me. Do you see this woman? Talk to me."
"You seem to be particularly hit by the case," Misty said. She cared about the mother and the child too, but this didn't sound quite like Colleen as usual. "Would you tell me about it?"
Colleen was going to answer when the phone rang. "I think I find your client. She's on a taxi, reaching the river side."
When Misty and Colleen located the mother, she was dangerously close to the river side.
Misty said, "Be calm! We can talk."
"No. This's a changeling, I know. If it returns to its world, my daughter 'll return. I've got to try."
"This's a life too, and what if things don't go as you wish? You can't return to the past!"
Colleen winked at Misty. Misty step forward and said in a calm voice. "Keep talking to us. We 're here to help you, right. Let 's do a test. You know changelings can’t touch steel, right? Here’s a steel spoon." She handed it to the mother, who gave it to the child. The baby played with it and there was no signs of problems.
"The baby can hold a steel spoon. She's not a changeling." Misty said.
"Really? But.. I think.." he mother said.
The mother's about to fall. Misty uses this chance to pull the mother back. "This's really your child."
The mother cried. "What...have...I done? I nearly....."
Misty and Colleen brought the mother and child back to the grateful spouse.
The woman said, "I wronged you!" The baby cried; the woman cried; and Misty found her eyes wet.
I'll pay more attention to you and we'll find help as soon as possible." The husband said.
The family returned home. Misty asked Colleen, "Do you think there're changelings?"
"How do we know? I'm glad this case came out all right."
In the morning Misty went to the office and tidying up the documents left from last night. She heard the door open and saw Colleen coming in.
“How’s your night?”
“It’s all right. I finished several of the injury claim cases and they’re all valid.”
Misty sighed. If she would say what was the bad thing of the PI business, it was that because their income was unstable and monster hunting cost money, sometimes they needed to do these injury claim cases for the insurance company for a living.
When Misty wanted to talk more, the bell rang. Colleen opened the door and there was a middle-aged woman with dark skin and in a colourful dress. Her expression didn’t seem as cheerful though. In fact she looked worried, with reddened eyes and twitching hands.
"I hope you can help find my sister. She's been missing and the detective said you could help me," the woman said.
“Please sit down. How do I address you?”
“Call me Miss Jean. Will you help me?”
"Tell me the story."
"One week ago my sister joined an online dating site. The next day she phoned me and said she met a great person. She was so enthusiastic that she said they would get married as soon as possible. I tried to tell her to be cautious, but she just hung up my call. To be honest I thought she was not being serious. Then I received a wedding invitation in my email from her the next day. I can't find her ever since. It isn't like her at all. I worry......"
"Does she tell you anything about the person she wants to get married to?"
"The name is in the email, and I have a photo there too. I printed the email. Here it is."
Misty read the email. It did read very enthusiastic, with a lot of exclamation, ending with the words, “We’re getting married as soon as possible! Immediately if possible! We’ll give up everything, everything to be together. Adiran.”
“This’s my sister’s name, Adiran.” Miss Jean explained.
“Do you have a key to your sister’s apartment? We may need to search it for more information.”
“Sure. I didn’t realize. Here it is.”
Misty quoted the cost to Miss Jean, and she didn’t even blink her eyes.
“Anything for my sister to be back..”
After the meeting with Miss. Jean, Misty and Colleen went to the missing sister Adiran’s building. Her mail box was bursting with letters. Misty asked the superintendent if she remembered Adrian.
“Yeah. That day she left she was so excited, bursting with joy, taking a large suit and even tipped me!”
Misty and Colleen took a lift and entered Adiran’s apartment with Miss Jean’s key. When they opened the door, the flat seemed really messy. Clothes and things were pulled to the ground and the potted plants seemed to be dying. Either there was a search here, or the person left in a haste. Misty and Colleen started to comb over the apartment to find other hints of the mysterious person that their target disappeared with.
Colleen switched on the computer and checked over Adiran’s email account as the password was saved on the computer. Misty leaned forward to look at it. Colleen glanced at the inbox and said, “There’s a dating site sign up and... There’re some newer emails with “<3<3<3” in
the subject lines.”
“They do seem to be related to the case,” Misty said.
Colleen opened it one by one and Misty blushed at the content. She wasn’t a blushing virgin but the content were too risque to her taste, and it made her feel like a peeping Tom. However, other than a name and an email address, there didn’t seem to be any indication of where the two people planned to go. “It would be like searching hay for a needle,” Misty said.
“Let me do a google search to see if anything comes up,” Colleen said.
It did. Surprisingly the name seemed to be a real name and when Misty and Colleen did a background check on him, they found out more.
Stephen Moore was a small-time thief who went into and out of jail for several times and now worked as a janitor. When Misty phoned his employer, she said that Stephen Moore had been absent from work ever since the day Adiran was missing. Misty and Colleen decided to split up to collect information. Misty went to the company to ask for more information about Stephen.
Stephen’s colleagues said he was hardworking and never asked for a leave. The most unusual thing about him was that since several days before his absence, he couldn’t stop talking about how he would get married very soon and what a joy it was no mattter how much his colleagues were fed up with it. “You know, it’s not that we’re jealous. It’s that I have a job to do other than listening to the love sick fool,” Stephen’s colleague Ms. Martin said, “But it’s weird. He’s.. not exactly a player, but he always says that he won’t be tied down so fast, so... Maybe it’s the power of love, who knows?”
Misty thanked her and when she made a call with Colleen about her discovery, Colleen said she’d been to Stephen’s apartment and it seemed that the owner left in a hurry, just like Adiran’s flat.
“Let’s brainstorm together,” Misty said. “Why don’t we meet at the usual diner?”
“The two people involved all behave strangely several days before their disappearance as the people who know them all say that it’s unlike their usual self. Then they both disappeared. All after they started to date.”
“Do you think there ‘s supernatural influence behind this?”
“I’m not sure, but it does sound suspicious. Maybe it’s just sudden love at first sight. Maybe there’s something sinister. Maybe they’re cursed. Let’s check out whether there’s such possibility.”
“I ‘ll contact Miss Jean to ask if she can think of anyone targetting her.sister. Then you can find Stephen Moore’s friends and family to ask.”
When they returned to the office, soon there was another client to their office. It was a young woman with a worried expression.
"I need your help. My brother disappears right after he suddenly wants to marry."
Misty looked at Colleen. Colleen nodded. Misty said gently, “Please take a seat and tell us about it.”
The young woman told the story about her missing brother. It sounded suspiciously similar to Miss Jean’s. Her brother suddenly proclaimed to marry right after meeting someone for a day, despite the family’s protest. Then he disappeared.
“My I know your brother’s name?” Misty couldn’t help but ask.
“My brother’s Alex Li.”
“How do you know about us?”
Ms. Li told them that a detective in the missing persons unit directed her here. “She said that the police had too many at hand to deal with a missing person case, but you could help me. Can you help me?”
“Certainly,” Misty said. “Our cost is.....”
“It’s all right. I’ll pay it.”
When the client left, Colleen said, “It’s the same story, only with the gender flipped.”
"It's too much a coincidence that there's a sudden surge of missing people's case with the same modus operandi.."
“It wasn’t a singular attack then. Let’s check if these people were connected.”
Misty and Colleen did a search on Alex Li. Finally when the result came up, Colleen said, “These people don’t even move in the same circle. The only link is that they all tried online dating.”
“Same dating site?”
“Same dating site. I checked the information about the site. In a lot of ways it’s like others, but it does have an unusually high rate of speed marriage for the successful couples.”
"You think there's something wrong with it?"
“It at least is the first clue. I’ll find a friend to check over the site, to see whether there is something evil lurking inside.”
“I don’t expect that the evil power has been now advanced enough to use the Internet. What am I saying? It’s the evil I’m speaking of. Of course they use the Internet. How soon can you hear from your friend?”
"Not sure. I'm trying to find out about the site owner any way. The owner may be involved, or one of the staff. Or it’s just a coincidence, though I won’t put much into it."
“I’ll try to do my part. Let’s see...”
Misty phoned her friend on the force that directed her the cases. “What made you introduce them to me?”
“Well, at first I didn’t think much, but weird, right? And you can concentrate your effort on it more than I can. The second case? Well, that’s starting to be a pattern”
Misty told her about the connection with dating site.
"This dating site? I know someone using it and I can ask. Hold on."
Soon her friend called back.
"The person I mentioned to you? Disapppeared too. Same type of behaviour pattern."
“It’s getting serious,” Misty said. "The series of missing persons cases all link to the same dating site. We have a problem."
"My friend contacted me back. She thought she felt something not of this world from the site, but when she tried to find out more, she lost her connection and couldn’t access the site again. She suspected that there was a magical ward.”
“Then we can confirm that there’s problem with the site. If the site has a ward, it means the person behind it may be a rogue magic user.,”
“I hate magic,” Colleen said with emotion.
“We have to proceed carefully. It can be nasty.”
“I’ll start from finding out about the web site owner. ”
Colleen got the identity of the site owner. Misty and Colleen bother gathered intel from their sources and formed the following picture.
The site owner was called George Roswell, who lived with his parents and sister in a farm outside New York city. He went to university and studied computer science. Then he suspended his study, started the online dating web site and ran it by himself. His parents were described as weird and kept to themselves. But there was a long time that no one saw the couple and the daughter any more. One of the neighbours advised Misty and Colleen not to get near the farm, because there seemed to be weird smell and inhuman wail around the place. However, a number of strangers went to the town and asked about the farm. Then they were never seen again too. Misty and Colleen showed her the photos of the missing people and the neighbour recognised them as the same.
“Necromancer?” Misty said when she and Colleen got far away from the neighbour.
“Possibly. But what use does he have of the couples?”
Then they both said at the same time. “Living sacrifice.”
“The time was running out. If he was summoning the dead...”
“We need to be quick.”
Misty and Colleen soon made the preparation. Their plan was to lure George Roswell out of the farm by making a spectacle. Then they would sneak in, destroy the ritual ground, and save the missing people if they were still alive. They did the research and gathered the weapons. There's no such thing as over preparation.
Colleen asked, “Do you remember the duct tape?”
“Of course,” Misty said. As they would try to avoid killing as much as possible, duct tape to bind the magic caster’s hands to immobilize him would be very useful.
They had to attack at day time because necromancy and the undead produced were strongest at night. It also meant that an ambush would be more difficult. Misty drove Colleen to park at a distance from the farm and set up watch. Nobody went in or out, but there was a weird pungent smell around the farm, just as the neighbours said.
Misty wondered if there were still people in the farm so she checked over it. The grass was a metre high, but the door was not blocked by leaves or branches. The power box and other utilities were on, and the fences at the backyard were new.
Misty got out of the car, started a small fire upwind, using a lot of wet leaves and branches to produce a lot of smoke, hoping that the apparent sign of a fire would get the people inside out, but there was no response from the farm. Misty frowned.
“Plan B,” Misty told Colleen. They went to the back yard and picked the lock. Then they went in the house.
The house was dark and there was a faint inhuman wail coming from one of the rooms. Misty wondered what was behind, but wasn’t interested in figuring out. She walked down the corridor carefully, listened to each door and finally found one that she heard human groaning and moaning. The door was locked with a heavy iron lock but Misty picked it with some effort. When she opened the door, she saw several men and women lying on the ground and recognized that they were the missing people. They didn’t seem well.
When Misty wanted to walk in to check over the people, Colleen pulled her out, pointing at the door the inhuman wail came from. That door was being broken open.
Misty made a decision to close the door behind and ran with Colleen. She didn’t want to drag the people into a fight. Neither did she wanted to directly confront whatever was behind.
But it was too late.
Misty heard the sound of the door being finally broken and when she turned behind, what she saw haunted her.
It's horrible, Misty thought. It's a ... thing? person? It's so ugly that Misty felt pungent seeing it. It looked like a unholy union of a pig, tentacle monster and a gnome. It charged at Misty and Colleen.The corridor was not wide enough for them to dodge, so they needed to confront the monster. Colleen unsheathed her katana and Misty put out her gun.
Colleen jumped a step behind to widen the distance between her and the monster. Then she jumped in the mid-air to bring her katana on the monster’s head. It screamed and started to bleed. It stretched out its tentacle to attack Colleen, and Misty shot it. Colleen cut off the tentacle and retreated. She focused on cutting the monster’s tentacles while Misty kept shooting at what should be its head.
Then Misty felt a cold wind thrashing at her and she turned sideways to see that the man they were looking for was here. There was no time for thinking when she shot his hand when she saw that he was raising it.
“Oh!” The man screamed and his hand started to bleed. He shouted, “Intruder, heed the anger of my master!" and did a complex gesture with his other hand before Misty stopped him.
Misty immediately heard a grunt from Colleen, as she turned to her and found that the monster went berserk and knocked Colleen off. Misty pulled Colleen up and retreated
“Ha Ha Ha! You two will be killed by my sister!” the man shouted.
Sister? “You turn your sister into this monster?” Misty shouted when she was trying to drive off the monster’s attack.
“She should be glad to have a chance to serve my master! She ‘ll devour you two while I don’t need to do anything at all.”
Misty saw that Colleen was recovered, and then made a signal at her. When the monster tried to charge again, Misty and Colleen attacked the monster at the same time on the same place. The monster screamed and stepped back.
“Useless! Let me...” The man didn’t have a chance again as Misty shot his other hand. He fell down and whined, “Oh, you shot me!”
“Cry baby,” Colleen said with disgust. She pulled the man up by his collar and said, “Tell your sister to back off, otherwise I’ll throw you to her.”
“She can’t understand human speech nor recognize me. It’s impossible!”
Colleen thumped a knife hand on him to knock him down, then she joined Misty again in the fight.
Soon the monster gave out a pathetic wail and fell down.
Misty had an eye on the monster lest it climbed up again, while Colleen put a duck tape on the man’s mouth. After Misty was certain that the monster didn’t move at all, Colleen cut off its head.
They went to the room with the missing people to check over them. They were starved, dehydrated and couldn’t walk. Misty called the police and an ambulance for them and retreated because they didn’t want to meet the police. After the they watched from afar to made sure that they knew where the missing people were sent to, they informed the clients. They then burnt the farm to ritually destroy it.
Several days later the clients returned to Misty and Colleen’s office and payed them handsomely. The next day they read the paper and there was more of the story.
Misty read, "The police there heed an anonymous call to the dating site owner's farm and find the missing people, all seemed to be drugged, dehydrated and starved. They didn't know how and why they come here. There are two decayed bodies that are the missing parents. He must have murdered them."
"Yes. If the call came later, the people would have died and the person could flee the law. He doesn't seem to be mentally well, though. Shouting something about master and revenge."
"It's daunting what mental problem can do to a person." Colleen said.
"The same restaurant you like.."
Misty went to the office and saw Colleen focusing on the newspaper . Out of curiosity, she asked, "What news are you reading?"
Colleen said, “Look, the serial killer strikes again last night. The witnesses saw a van appearing just before and after the murder. It said that the mode of killing fit a serial killer executed years ago.”
Misty took it to read," Yes, I remember the killer. At that time I was already in the force."
"What's your theory?"
"It may be a copy cat killer. Hopefully the killer'll be caught soon."
Then Misty's friend phoned her about the case. "I initially don't want to bother you, but I think there's something weird with this serial killer."
"Why do you say that?"
"We have report of the killer doing something not humanly possible. Of course the witnesses may remember things wrong due to fear, but..."
"I see. You think there may be something supernatural."
"Yes. please help me. Either I think too much, or... I'll pay you a reasonable amount of fee."
Misty went to the Internet and read what it said about the case. There were all kinds of conspiracy theories, starting from government experiment goes wrong to ghosts. Misty checked up about the current killing spree and thought about the previous killer.
The killer was nicknamed Old Smiley Jack because he used a knife to cut a wounds on his victims' face, which looked like a gruesome smiling face. His killing caused a lot of fear and anger directed at the police force. Finally the police got a clue from the van he used for transport and found him. He was soon prosecuted and executed
The current killer did the iconic cutting on victims' faces too, and the killing was getting more and more gruesome. It attracted even louder and larger media uproar after what the killer did to the last victim. The killer now killed every day. Every morning a mutilated body was found.
However, the police still couldn't get him. There were no fingerprints, no hair, no blood stains, and the very few witnesses of the aftermath couldn't quite agree on what they witnessed. The police set up a hotline, but despite the usual useless or prank call, there was no good information.
Would the current killing be committed by a human, or were they done by a ghost?
Misty told Colleen about it and Colleen said, “Let’s investigate.”
Misty decided to try the supernatural route because there was no way they could beat the resources the police used on tracing a human one. However, a supernatural angle was what they worked best.
"What would we face if that was a supernatural creature?" Misty asked.
"There was always a classic vampire, a zombie, a ghoul, and something like that, but we have to be sure that the grave was still intact. If so, we could eliminate a lot of probabilities."
Misty and Colleen went to the serial killer’s grave and found that it was vandalized. The broken coffin was exposed to the ground and the body was missing.
“Would he be actually coming back from the grave?” Misty wondered.
Misty asked around to find the clues to the destruction of the grave. Then she heard that someone knew someone in a bar boasting that he dug up the grave
Misty followed the clue and found out that the vandal was the brother of a victim. He hated the killer so much that he dug it up, burned the body and threw it to the river. The he watched the news and was frightened..
Colleen said, "possibly it was a ghoul, formed by bodies whose graves were disturbed. Let's see if we can placate the dead person. I'll find Jericho ."
Jericho conducted a ritual and said, "If it was really a ghoul, it would return to the place it should go."
Next day they read the newspaper. The murder didn’t stop.
Colleen said, "But the murders continued."
"So it's just a red herring." Misty replied.
Misty and Colleen were on patrol and separated to collect more information.
Misty heard the screaming and ran to the source.
This van -- the licence number -- Misty realized that it was the killer’s trademark van and ran toward it. The killer must be nearby, possibly killing people.
Then it disappeared before her.
Misty found the survivor of the attack and sent her to the hospital.
“We need to have new hypothesis about its identity then,” Colleen said.
There was a knock to the office door. Misty opened it and saw a young woman with a scar on her face.
“Please help me. I’m worried that I’ll be the serial killer's next victim.” The client said.
“Why do you think so?”
“Do you see the scar? It’s left by the killers.”
Misty and Colleen realized that the client was once a survivor of the serial killer’s attack.
Misty stayed with the client and stood on guard for her. “What’s this?” Misty asked.
“Something I drink it to sleep.” The client said.
Misty smelt it and it reminded her of Colleen’s friend’s workshop. The nervous glance of the client made Misty remember this incident.
Misty noticed that the client’s friend looked at him with hostility and the client seemed to fear him. She decided to investigate the friend.
From Misty’s investigation, This friend seemed to be regarded as weird by the people who know him, because they thought he was too involved in so called magic and herbs. He frequented shops that were known to sell magical items and herbs, and Misty was sure that he was the supplier of the drink the client had every night.
Misty took a sample of the client’s drink and gave Jericho to analyze it. Jericho frowned and said. “The person must stop consuming this.”
“The potion isn’t a sleeping potion. It can materialize one’s nightmare.”
Misty remembered that the client said she was a survivor of the killer. “So if the user dreamed about the killer, the killer will come to the reality.”
“Then I must tell my client,” Misty said.
Misty said to the client, “You have to stop drinking it. It materializes your fear and kill people around.”
“But... how can it be possible?” The client asked.
“You have to believe me.”
“All right.” Misty’s client said. “I’ll try to go without tonight.”
The next day no bodies were discovered.
“It ‘s possibly a coincidence,” the client said.
“A big coincidence if it is.”
When Misty was on her way to meet her client, she heard a shouting.
When Misty followed the shouting and went to the corridor, Misty saw her client struggling with the friend.
“What’re you doing,? We’re friends!” Misty’s client shouted.
“You tell the secret to the outsiders. Do you know what they’ll do to me?”
Misty saved the client and gave the young man to Jericho . She theorized that a magic user would be a better help guiding the young man.
Misty and Colleen left the room and went to the street. Misty sighed,”I would never expect that. Fear’s a horrible thing.”
“I’m glad that you overcome it.”
“It’s a collaborative effort.”
Misty smiled at Colleen.
“No one believes me, but I hear that you accept strange cases, so I came to you.” Misty’s new client said.
Misty’s client looked at her shaking hands and told Misty about the situation. Misty frowned. The description matched her prior experience with a demon. Would it be the same monster?
“All right, I accept your case.” Misty said.
First Misty visited the cop who investigated the case and the witnesses to confirm her client’s story. After that, when Misty started to pursue the culprit, Misty received a call from the client. The client spelt out an address , and then the line was dead.
Fearing that there would be a trap, Misty asked for Colleen to be her back up. When Misty arrived at the address, she saw the client, but there was something wrong about her.
“Are you all right?” Misty asked, keeping a distance.
Then the client spoke. Misty felt nauseated as the voice was inhuman.
“Demon?” Misty asked.
The client smiled cruelly. “You’re coming too close,”
Misty put herself in a fighting stance. Was there anything left in the client, or... She made a pre-determined signal to Colleen.
Then the client attacked.
Misty found that her (or its) strength was unnatural, and the fighting style was brutal. The client didn’t seem to feel pain. Misty managed to hold her off for awhile, and then Colleen joined her.
When Misty and Colleen seemed to have an advantage, the client started a chant, and Misty felt that the room was getting cold and suffocating.
Then Colleen threw a paper at her, and the client screamed. Colleen pulled Misty out and retreated.
“Now the demon has started a war,” Misty said.
With Colleen and Jericho ’s help, Misty located the demon.
Misty made the best preparation for the coming fight. She had Jericho worked a ritual on her gun to make sure that it could damage the demons. She also surveyed the location and set up a trap to limit the demon’s ability. After doing her best, Misty finally faced the demon face to face with Colleen on her side and Jericho as back up.
Finally, Misty thought. After what she’s been through, she could finally avenge her partner and herself.
The demon said, “Do you know what your friend is? She is tainted with our mark!”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Part of it’s true. My mother’s a priestess of a cult. I don’t want to tell you about this.”
“It’s your mother. It isn’t you.”
“Do you really believe that?” the demon asked.
Misty said, “Yes.” After what they’ve been through, Colleen’s secret didn’t seem so important.
Misty shot at the demon.
After everything was finished, Misty held Colleen’s hand and said, “Everything is over now.”
“Yes,” Colleen looked tired but smiled. “Thank you for trusting me.”
“We’re friends, aren’t we? We should celebrate though.”
“This time the restaurant’s my choice.”