PART THREE: THE BREAKTHROUGH
Leal opened up the mission file’s photo reel of pictures taken from key points of the Serjs’ (Blues’) investigation into the alleged disappearance of Mariposa Esposito and among the many photographs taken were pictures of Mariposa’s Witch garden which had long since been overrun with weeds after weeks of not being tended to. For a gardening enthusiast, Leal thought Mariposa would have a nervous breakdown at seeing the state of her garden then.
The vision he had had while he squatted over his own Witch garden observing the rare orchid blue monarch butterfly floating over the witch hazels there suddenly replayed in his mind and he was only awakened from his almost trance-like state by Acwulf suddenly pressing down on his shoulders and saying, “Captain Chestnut, please do not tell me you are already going nuts on me. This is our first mission and it can hardly even be called that considering all the facts gathered by the Blues…”
“I am sorry I got caught up in my own thoughts again,” Leal stated apologetically.
“All over some witch hazels?” Acwulf stated in surprise.
Leal smiled feebly. “Still, it wouldn’t hurt for us to do a sweep of her house just to make sure right? Then we can have those elixirs I promised,”
Acwulf grunted but then stated, “If you insist.”
Acwulf requested a warrant to search the house which arrived surprisingly fast owing to the fact that Miss Edouard, the heiress to the Golden Knights Agency, had friends in high places. He and Leal then took off in their Classic Dune buggy and arrived at Mariposa’s home and set off security drones to sweep every corner of the house in search for clues of foul play. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary and Acwulf was about to call it a day when he noticed Leal going towards Mariposa’s Witch garden in the backyard of her home.
Leal instinctively squatted over the witch hazels and observed them keenly as the security drones hummed busily as they also scanned the garden for further clues of foul play. The orchid blue butterfly he had observed several times prior suddenly appeared and settled on the witch hazels and Leal observed keenly, ruminating on the vision he had previously. He wondered whether the gloved hands he had observed had been Mariposa’s hands and then he turned to the security drones and went through their detailed analysis.
“C.C, you’re killing me here. There is no big mystery to resolve here, just a witch that eloped with her rival clan boyfriend and left her old life behind like all those cheesy rom-coms my wife insists we watch together over the tube. Let’s get a move on, C.C, I got several elixirs at Wes Tavern with my names on them-“
“There are several sets of footprints the drones are picking up on from earth analysis,”
“Totally normal considering the Blues were here and they scowered every inch of this place to make sure no foul play occurred. Their analysis is in the Mission file, C.C. You are looking too deeply into this,”
“According to the reports, the last recorded physical sighting of Mariposa was right here in her garden, right? The drones’ analysis of the soil shows that her footprints are here but there seems to be no further footprints of hers leading out of the garden. Peculiar, don’t you think?”
“What’s your damn point, C.C?”
“There’s also a set of footprints here that are rather awkward. Rather than exiting from the garden like the other sets of footprints by the Blues, they stop here in the garden just like the last recorded footprints of Mariposa Esposito herself. Double whammy, don’t you think?”
“What you are saying is that Mariposa was somehow abducted here in the garden? That makes zero sense considering the Blues registered no unusual magic patterns here. You know all that bologna about all magic leaving some type of calling card or blah, blah, blah,”
Leal was still not convinced and continued reading further into the drones’ analysis.
“The drones record that the soil right here to the west of these witch hazels has settled in an unnatural way almost as if it was disturbed somehow. That is strange considering no one has tended to the garden in weeks right?”
“Could have been animals or insects, that’s normal, right?”
“Boss, I need to borrow your bloodhound nose for a second here. Try sniffing out for any unusual scents, okay?”
Acwulf grunted but did as requested.
“Smells like dirt and a dead end, C.C. Can we go now?”
“Does the dirt smell the same all across the garden?”
“Trust me on this, boss. Use your keen sense of smell and spot the difference,”
Acwulf grunted but used his sense of smell keenly.
“The soil on this side smells kinda different but so what? That doesn’t necessarily mean something foul happened to Mariposa right?”
“Do you think the differences in smell could be attributed to something unusual happening to the soil over there? Perhaps some magic of some sort being used?” Leal pressed on.
“It’s possible, I suppose. Where are you going with all this?”
Leal went towards the tool shed and grabbed a shovel and used it to dig into the patch of soil that seemed unusual much to the surprise of Acwulf.
“HQ done paired me with the craziest rookie of them all. What in the world are you doing, C.C?”
Leal ignored him and continued to dig until he noticed a strange hole and sent the security drones down it to seek more clues.
“The hole here seems to have been made by magic. And look, the drones found Mariposa’s DNA and some other foreign unidentified DNA across the tunnel created by the hole. How do we account for that, boss?” Leal asked him.
Acwulf was surprised when he saw the live feed of the tunnel linked up to the hole dug in Mariposa’s garden and how far it extended. It eventually led down an unusual cave system which was teeming with what the drones speculated was most likely dryad magic.
“C.C, call your girl right now and tell her we may be in B-3 for a while,”
Leal smiled and nodded before he and Acwulf both covered up the hole the earlier had dug up and went back to report their findings to HQ. Further investigations in collaboration with the Blues yielded results that Ac and Leal had stumbled upon an intricate hidden cave system where dark dryads hid.
Through closer examination, it was determined that Mariposa’s unique magical signature and DNA was found on the scene and the dark dyrads found there were arrested and questioned as to her whereabouts. One dark dryad was able to work out a plea deal with the legal enforcers in return for revealing that Mariposa had indeed been present in the prisons the dark dryads fashioned for captives, utilizing the stalactites and stalagmites as well as naturally occurring magical crystals (that absorbed dryad magic and possessed holder magic) found occurring in the caves to effectively cage her and several others in.
Following the damning evidence to the fact, Mariposa was officially declared a missing person as was her boyfriend, Abasi Awaya.
“C.C, you’ve got one hell of a gut instinct, I’ll tell ya that. How could you have possibly known to check the hole in the ground?” Acwulf asked Leal in surprise.
“I don’t understand how it happened myself. I just hope the Blues find her safe and sound,”
“Oh no, it ain’t over for us my Chestnut-haired pal. We are running a joint investigation for both her and Abasi Awaya with the Blues. We got the permit and everything. Let’s hope that your gut leads us right to her,”
Leal smiled feebly and he poured over Mariposa’s case file for several days preceding the ground breaking finds of the Blues investigation. Though they found the one who had kidnapped both Abasi and Mariposa (who was a dark dryad specializing in kidnap and trafficking of witches), there was no way of tracking the intricately twisted web of trafficking organized by mob big-wigs. He could not accurately tell them who had bought them off of him or where they had gone at all.
Several more days passed without any significant leads being encountered and Leal no longer saw any signs of the orchid blue butterfly he could attribute to his earlier success. Whenever he went to sleep at night, he saw Mariposa in his dreams, crying out to him and begging him to save her. The same scenes of the case kept cropping up in his dream scape over and over again so much that he could almost say he had memorized them.
If only he were clairvoyant, Leal thought. Perhaps he could accurately predict where Mariposa was being held against her will. Leal bitterly regretted having to return to his own Timeline to prepare for his daughter’s upcoming wedding but with no further leads in the case, perhaps it was the right course of action to do at the time, he reasoned with himself. Only time would tell whether Mariposa would be found in one piece.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Shall Mariposa Esposito be found alive or is she simply a lost cause? Stay tuned to find out! Links to previous parts in the Mystery are listed below: