"Vince, don't tell me you have to work tonight, too! Not again; this is ridiculous!" Dana Faraday exclaimed. Her husband sighed as he finished shrugging on his ARK uniform. He’d gotten a phone call from work a few minutes ago.
“Honey, it’s not like I want to go. I have to go to this crime scene. Go to sleep. I’ll be back soon.”
“Right. Like you came right back the night Orwell sent you to the train yards.” Vince stiffened.
“That was different.”
It had been over a year since Orwell, the investigative blogger, the one honest source of news in the city, had warned Vince that ARK Corporation was secretly moving illegal weapons down at the train yards. At the time, Vince had just accepted a job offer from ARK Corporation, which was poised to take over the work of the Palm City Police Department. He’d gone to investigate the tip and woken up bound to a chair in front of Peter Fleming, the C.E.O. of ARK Corporation.
The detective had learned, to his horror, that his new boss was secretly the notorious criminal mastermind known as Chess. And then his day really took a turn for the worse: Fleming had his Chess mask stapled to Vince’s head and framed him for his crimes. The honest cop ran for his life, and only narrowly escaped being killed by faking his death.
He was forced to spend months away from Dana and their son, Trip, unwilling to risk what might happen if Chess learned that he was still alive. It was during this time that his alter ego, the Cape, was born. Based on the Faradays’ favorite comic book superhero, the vigilante was dedicated to two goals--bringing down Chess and restoring his reputation.
Well, at least he had fulfilled the latter. Despite his best efforts, Fleming did eventually learn his secret. Fortunately, the circumstances had allowed Vince to force the billionaire to clear his name and he was able to go home again.
Unfortunately, the only employer that would hire him happened to be ARK. Fleming reveled in having Vince at his beck and call. The Faradays hated it.
Dana couldn’t stand all the overtime hours her husband had been putting in since “coming back from the dead.” Their once happy marriage became strained as the defense attorney became convinced that her husband was having an affair. He tried to explain to her that her fears were unfounded, to no avail.
Still, things could be worse. At least she was talking to him about marriage counseling rather than separating…
Maybe the position really is cursed, Vince mused, as he stared down at the body. Saul Stoykova had been appointed as the Chief of Police after his predecessor, Marty Voyt, pleaded guilty to corruption charges. Vince was one of the few people in the city that knew that Marty was being used to cover up Fleming’s misdeeds. He’d have broken his old friend out of prison if only it weren’t tantamount to signing the man’s death warrant.
Now, the question was: Who had signed Stoykova’s death warrant? A knife protruded out of a stab wound in the man’s chest. Blood had seeped from the fatal wound, as well as from shallower cuts along the man’s arms.
The forensics team had gotten there first. A member consulted with Vince before removing the murder weapon from the body and placing it in a plastic evidence bag. The detective took hold of the bag and inspected the knife inside.
Faraday’s eyes narrowed. The handle was ornate. It was a cream color, and carved into it were chess symbols.
“That son of a bitch,” Vince said, disgusted, before handing the bag back to the forensics team. “I want this dusted for prints immediately and call my cell as soon as you have the results. And don’t even think about going to Fleming first, do you understand?”
“Sir, you should take a look at this,” another officer called to him. Vince looked up at the ceiling. The knot in his stomach tightened. Nearly right over the body, the killer had written one word in what could only be blood: CHECK.
“You can’t possibly believe I’m the killer,” Peter calmly stated. Faraday had angrily stormed into his penthouse at ARK Tower and accused him of murdering Stoykova.
What nerve! Chess thought. Peter did the best thing he could do when his other personality spoke to him: Ignore the voice and hope it would go away. Chess was about to point out that he wasn’t going anywhere, but decided to allow Peter to concentrate.
“The evidence points to you,” Faraday went on. “Chess symbols on the knife, the word ‘check’ on the ceiling, and your fingerprints on the murder weapon. No doubt forensics is going to find your DNA in that apartment.”
“Faraday, really, you’re being unreasonable. I have never been tied to any of my crimes and do you know why?”
“Because you own this town.”
“That, and because I don’t make stupid mistakes. Do you honestly believe I would leave a murder weapon around with my fingerprints on it? I’d hate to think I overestimated your intelligence, Cape.
“Clearly, someone is trying to frame me.”
“Would serve you right,” Vince snapped, crossing his arms.
“Now, now. Don’t be cranky just because you’re missing your beauty sleep. How about I go with you and take a look at Stoykova’s place myself? Perhaps there’ll be a clue there as to who would want to pin this on Chess.”
“Let’s pretend for one moment that I believe you didn’t do it. Peter, whoever did this knows that you’re Chess.”
“As do you. I’ll extend you the benefit of the doubt for now, and hope you’ll do the same for me.” The billionaire crossed to the door, then turned back to his employee. “Well, are you coming or not?”
“I don’t know what it is you expect to find,” Vince said. “I’ve already gone through here.”
“Yes, and at the time you were operating under the assumption that I was your killer. Perhaps we can do a more thorough examination now.” He stepped closer to Faraday.
“You know, at some point, you’re going to have to accept that I’m not the cause of all the evil in this city,” he whispered in the younger man’s ear. Vince shivered and stepped away.
“I never said you were behind all the evil; just most of it. What’s this?” He picked up a printout that had been lying on Stoykova’s desk.
“What did you find?” Peter asked, as he approached. Vince read the advertisement from The Wizard Dresden dot com aloud.
“Harry Dresden: Wizard. Finder of Lost Objects. No endless purses, love spells or entertainment…”
Author's Note: Yes, yes. Right about now I can hear the fans of “The Dresden Files” screaming at me that Harry can’t use the computer. Don’t worry. I’ll explain things in the next chapter.
What did you think? This chapter has not been beta-ed, so feel free to point out errors.