PART SIX: THE CONFRONTATION
“What is the meaning of this, Mr. Hallman? My partner and I would love to take our leave of your fine establishment. Your persistence of keeping us here against our will consistitutes false imprisonment and I am certain a fine gentleman like yourself wouldn’t want to taint your reputation over something like this,” Acwulf stated boldly.
“Interesting you should mention a tiny, little misdemeanor like that in the face of the very real charges I can accuse you both of, isn’t that right, Mr. Grayson?”
Acwulf turned to face Leal who to his credit, did not flinch at Herman’s words.
“What are you going on about? What are you accusing us of?”
“Unlawful Espionage and depending on your responses to my questions, trespass,” Herman stated.
“What?”Acwulf asked Herman in confusion.
“Why don’t you ask your partner what I am talking about? He knows exactly what I am referring to,”
“C.C?” Acwulf asked Leal in confusion.
“He has no part in this. Let him go,” Leal responded.
Herman smirked and moved closer. “Sure, he can leave once you have answered my questions, sir. Now, who sent you here and why?”
“No one sent me here. I am simply investigating the disappearance of Mariposa Esposito so I came here to interview you,”
“How did you know about me? The hostess told me you asked for me by name and I don’t think we have ever met before,”
“You were interviewed by the Serjantia squad so your name was in the case file. Not wanting to waste any more precious time, I asked for you specifically,” Leal answered smoothly.
“Why send a spy-drone down my cellar? Wasn’t I already cleared of any suspicion in the case of Miss Esposito’s disappearance? On what legal grounds do you have the right to further investigate me?”
“I was simply curious when I saw what great lengths you have gone to, to prevent people from going down there,”
“Of course I have gone to such lengths! The company secrets are all down in my cellar. Who is to say you weren’t working under the instruction of a business rival to find out my company secrets? Anyway, that doesn’t answer my question. Why my cellar?”
Leal kept quiet because he didn’t have a clear cut answer for that question. He couldn’t very well say he had been led there by a butterfly which only he could see.
“Very well, please hand over the electronic device you used to illegally spy on the cellar downstairs or at the very least, delete all footage pertaining to what you have recorded of my cellar and this all goes away,”
Leal sighed but did as he was asked with the female Ghorma blocking their exit from the establishment breathing down his neck to ensure he did as Mr. Herman requested.
“My disappointment at how these events played out is immeasurable, Mr. Grayson. I thought you had more integrity than that. All you had to do was request me to take you down the cellar myself and I would have done so with reasonable restrictions. It goes without saying that neither you nor Mr.Acwulf are welcome here ever again. I shall be so bold as to state that I never want to see your face ever again,”
“Mr. Hallman, please know that I will stop at nothing to find Miss Mariposa Esposito. I do not care if you or anyone else ends up hating me for it. I will save her, no matter what the cost,” Leal stated.
“Be careful whom you make an enemy of, Mr. Grayson. Please remember these words,” Herman stated as he and Acwulf exited the premises and headed straight for the dune buggy.
For several minutes, Acwulf angrily remained silent before cursing at Leal and then asking, “What the hell, Leal? What was that about?”
Leal sighed and shook his head. “You wouldn’t get it,”
“Get off your high horse, Leal Grayson. You put both of our lives in danger and not to mention sullied the name of the Golden Knights while at it! I am your partner, damn it! Don’t you think you should have told me what you were up to or does my life mean so little to you just so you can play hero to Mariposa? How do you think this makes me look? I am your partner and far more experienced yet I couldn’t even prevent a mere greenhorn like you from going off the rails,”
“This has nothing to do with you, Acwulf. I am trying to save Mariposa Esposito,”
“Oh, and I am not?” Acwulf snapped.
“You seem to be more content enjoying elixirs at Wes Tavern than actually solving this case,”
Acwulf brought the dune buggy to a screeching halt then forced Leal to get out the vehicle to force the latter to take a long walk back to HQ to reflect upon his actions.
“Oh, come on, Acwulf, this is a bit excessive, don’t you think?”
“Don’t make me go wolf-shit on you, Leal. You take that walk and think about what you’ve done. I suspect HQ will also want to question you so you can think about your responses on your walk,”
Acwulf then backed up the buggy and raced away stranding Leal in the unfamiliar woods of Kalpa City. Leal sighed but began the long trek towards HQ relying on a map app on his C-pad and reflecting on his actions. As he walked through the woods, he kept having flashes of Mariposa in a state of delirium wandering in the forest on the night of a Full Moon, trying to get help before stumbling upon a werewolf. He stopped after a while and panted, looking ahead of himself to a clearing ahead of him that was filled with lycans staring him down suspiciously.
Leal ignored them and looked at his sweaty palms. What was he missing? What did the barrels have to do with Mariposa’s disappearance? Why were the Vermont staff so jealously guarding the cellar? Why had the butterfly suddenly halted on top of the barrel? There must have been meaning to it surely. He sighed and suddenly fell down to the floor in exhaustion. He reviewed everything he had learned during the duration of the case as he shut his eyes and begged the Universe to offer him more clues. The butterfly’s actions that day stood out…
It had led Leal inside the establishment and had hovered over the glass jars housing the various elixirs offered by the Vermont as its novelty drinks before it led Leal down to the cellar. Was that a clue too? Were the elixirs also proof of Mr. Hallman’s culpability in her disappearance and how?
“Hey Mister, are you okay?” asked an unfamiliar voice to Leal. He abruptly opened his eyes and saw that he was surrounded by the pack of lycans he had seen earlier. The one who had spoken to him was presumably their Alpha.
“Um, yeah, I’m fine, just a bit tired, that’s all,” Leal responded.
The Alpha offered him some water but Leal politely declined it. He did, however, accept the Alpha’s hand who helped Leal get back on his feet.
“Sure you’re alright there, fellow?” the Alpha asked him.
Leal smiled feebly but nodded. “Um, could you fellows have seen any witches wandering around here?”
“Wandering witches around these parts? Not really, I mean, most witches are pretty scared of us, you know? No witches would willingly wander around these parts unless they really meant to, you know?”
“Oh, I see. Well thank you, fellows, you have been very kind,”
“Are you a cop or something?”
“Yeah, something like that,”
“Looking for someone?”
“Yes, but I can’t seem to find her anywhere,”
“Well, if you don’t mind, why don’t you share her picture with us; me and the fellows will keep an eye out for her,”
“I would really appreciate that,” Leal stated hastily searching through his C-pad for an image which he projected in front of them much to their surprise.
“Isn’t this future tec? You ain’t from around here are you, Mister?” the Alpha asked in awed splendor.
“Well, truth is, I have been here and there but please fellows, if you see her anywhere, get in touch with me, okay?” Leal asked them handing them each a physical business card.
The Alpha nodded but he and his pack still observed Leal like he was an apparition rather than an actual flesh and blood being. Leal thanked them and then began to trek towards HQ with the sense that the eyes of the pack were still boring into his back. He trekked for a good two hours before his partner came to pick him up begrudgingly having felt that Leal must have learned his lesson by then. As his partner had predicted, there was a hearing and his punishment would be decided shortly thereafter.
He sighed as he settled into his bed for the night saddened by the fact that he could not even share what had happened to him with Aurora knowing she would probably get mad at him for once more relying on consciousness jumping and not informing her about it. Leal went to bed feeling the weight of everything he had experienced thus far in the case.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Is there a meaningful connection between Mariposa’s disappearance and the barrels and elixir jars stored at the Vermont Novelty Bar and Restaurant? Stay tuned to find out! Dive back into the investigation full force and assist our budding Golden Knight by following the links below. Enjoy: