EPISODE 51: TRANSFER

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Jecia Singh. Aries 4th, 2351 AA. 11:05. Arroyo, Central Terrace (AKF Central Precinct.)

Jecia learned more about Arch Chief Drake from her pen than anything she said in their brief meeting.

The pen, a black and silver Excalibur with a fountain tip, wasn’t exactly happy, like many oft-used and well-cared-for tools were. The burdens it bore—hard calls that would shape the lives of Drake’s people, flaccid politicking to please civic and amagiate officials—were too somber for its Inherence to be that cheerful. But it was a proud instrument, as closely trusted and revered as an Amagia’s revolver, blade, or other weapon of choice. It had a busy energy about it. No time for bullshit, no need to scratch out words when a single, decisive strikethrough would do. Drake’s grip was light and her handwriting was crisp—

“Detective Singh? Is my pen distracting you?” Drake asked, mildly amused.

Jecia withdrew her wyrd from the pen and gestured a formal apology.

“I have a yen for psychometry. Objects with strong Inherences catch my wyrd. It was a gift, wasn’t it?”

Even from her brief assessment, Jecia knew, without a doubt in her head, that Drake’s sister had given her the pen. She even knew, from the traces of grief that clung to the enamel and metal, that said sister had passed away. With more time, she might even be able to glean how long ago it had happened.

But Jecia had learned that blurting out personal information about people’s prized possessions tended to provoke them, or put them on their back foot. Asfalis and amagia alike. And after seeing Drake’s reaction—a half-second’s hesitation with a puzzled, appraising expression—she knew she had made the right call to keep quiet.

“That’s extremely astute. My sister gave it to me when I became AC. You picked up on that just from probing for a few seconds?”

Jecia shrugged and smiled a touch sheepishly.

“Well. You’ll be a tremendous asset in the fridge, I’m sure,” Drake said. “Your transfer has already been approved, so this meeting is a formality really, but I like to get a sense of my people before I put them to work. I’m happy to answer any questions you have and I’d appreciate it if you could indulge my curiosity as well.”

Jecia nodded as Drake flipped open her personnel file. Here it comes. Is it true you were abducted? What did they do to you? How did you cope? Seeing the questions coming made them easier to answer, and she was comfortable talking about it now. Well. ‘Comfortable’ is a bit strong, but it doesn’t physically hurt me to think about it anymore, and I don’t lock up when talking about it.

“Most officers would hang up their vambraces after what happened to you. I saw the Newam KF paid you a small fortune too. Why not retire?”

Jecia was grateful that Drake took her personnel file at face value. She hated having to ‘verify’ her trauma to satisfy morbid curiosity.

“I thought about it,” Jecia said. “But after my first month of leave, I felt the itch. Didn’t know what to do with myself. More than that though, I don’t want three bad days to be the defining moment of my life. Or even my career. I’d hate myself for that.”

The ghost of a smile graced Drake’s lips and she leaned back in her chair. When Jecia remained quiet, Drake gestured for her to continue.

“I’m hoping to return to the field someday. But I figured it would be smart to ease back into things, which is why I applied to the cold case division.”

“Fridge isn’t exactly a popular appointment,” Drake admitted. “But it may be livelier than you expect. Your CO, Sevardin Harker, is an exceptionally driven detective. Believes the best way to close old cases is to get out of the record room. He’s cinched up dozens of dead ends, some dating back a decade. Humps don’t last long on his watch—not that you strike me as one.”

Jecia gestured appreciation, but didn’t volunteer anything else.

“Why Arroyo?” Drake asked “With your service record, you could go to any chapter you want.”

“Lots of little reasons. My parents moved out here to retire, and I always enjoyed visiting. My shrink recommended a change of scenery from Newam, but I’m not a smalltown girl. Arroyo has Los Angeles in its backyard, so it struck me as a good balance.”

“If you don’t mind my asking, what do you enjoy on your down time? What is your opus?”

“My opus is painting,” Jecia said. “Acrylic abstracts in particular. In terms of hobbies, I enjoy antiquing. Furniture. Weapons. Odd little trinkets,” she hesitated and shrugged. “Other than that, I like the same things as everybody else, I suppose. I work out daily. Spend a lot of time on the range on weekends. I can’t keep up with symvision but I watch a lot of movies. Been known to crack a book occasionally.”

“Well, you’ll thrive in Arroyo. Practically everything is an antique here, down to the buildings. Your file says you’re unmarried. Any children?”

“No pets, no kids, no men,” Jecia said, and then added: “Or women, for that matter.”

Drake looked like she wanted to ask something else along similar lines, but thought better of it, and Jecia was grateful. She knew she was attractive, and still young at twenty-eight, but she was also a witch cop, which tended to frighten away all the sensible suitors. That left her with assholes and crazies. And the job didn’t exactly leave a lot of time for romance. Excuses all, maybe.

Jecia wasn’t opposed to the idea of love, but to date, all of her relationships lasted a few months, a season at the longest, before petering out. And her abduction had made her even less interested in pursuing people. The real problem was that nobody could hold her interest. People were supposed to be livelier than things. As a rule, that was true enough, but just as most objects were pedestrian and disposable, most people were willing to walk by and dispose almost anything. She was searching for a Relic. And someone who would treasure her like one in turn.

“I think that covers it on my end,” Drake said. “Do you have any questions for me?”

“Each chapter has its quirks. Are there any unspoken rules I should be aware of? Hazing rituals to watch out for?”

“We save the hazing for the bluebies, mostly,” Drake said. “As for unspoken rules… well. You’re a detective. I’m sure you’ll know them better than I do before long.”

“No further questions,” Jecia said.

Drake nodded, satisfied, and extended her hand. Jecia took it.

“Next Lunday, you’ll report to Watch Commander Fischer and she’ll introduce you to Harker and Freeman. Welcome to the AKF, Detective Singh.”

“Good to be here, Chief.”

—Lunday, Aries 7th. 6:58 AM—

On Lunday, Jecia reported to the watch commander’s desk where a tall, sharp-nosed woman was chatting with a younger officer. Her clearance badge read “Fischer.” Jecia stood at attention at a respectful distance, taking in the building’s aging architecture. It had a warm sort of Inherence, but it was vague and indistinct. It had seen too much—been a part of too many different lives—to have the focused material memories of discrete objects.

“Ah. You must be Detective Singh!” Fischer said, turning to acknowledge her.

Jecia nodded and gave a crisp salute. Fischer smiled, seemingly genuinely, and gestured for Jecia to follow her.

“I’m Commander Azna Fischer. I’ll show you to the Fridge.”

They exited the west entrance’s reception area and walked deeper into the precinct, past the locker room, General Patrol, and hall of interrogation rooms.

“Where did you transfer from?” Fischer asked.

“New Amsterdam,” Jecia said.

“Wow. I’d kill for that appointment!”

Fischer went on about Broadway, and shopping, and food for a few seconds, with Jecia nodding and smiling at appropriate intervals, but otherwise zoned out. I’m not being impolite. She just wants to talk enough for the two of us.

“Why come to Arroyo?” Fischer asked.

A faint smile quirked Jecia’s lips. The question used to be so devastating despite its innocuousness, but now it was just sort of funny. I was outed on an undercover op. and had my brain scraped for three days straight. Every time I hear a train rush underneath me, I’m back in that dental chair, no longer alone or secure in my own mind. More often than not, I dream I’m still in the chair. Or maybe I’ve cracked and this is the dream. But that was a mouthful and a little much besides, so Jecia left it at:

“Just needed a change of scenery.” A half-second later, she realized that was brusque, and added: “My folks also live out here and they are getting on in years. Want to be able to check in on them more easily.”

“Ah, nice. Well, I’m sure Arroyo is quieter than Newam, but we’re surprisingly lively for a little city. Had that Unbranded terror attack a couple years back. Actually, Harker was—” Fischer caught herself, perhaps too late. “Well. He was involved in the case.”

Jecia decided to let the thread drop. If lips were that loose around the precinct, she’d know the full story soon enough without needing to pry.

They threaded through the hardwood hallways of the precinct and arrived at an aging cage elevator that looked too old to be up to any kind of code. But Jecia could tell all the guts had been replaced with modern hydraulics and gygics. They went through the trouble of preserving the cage because its grating is enchanted with deeply entrenched, incredibly powerful defensive enchantment. Gunfire would be as effective as fleabites against those wards. And they could take a lot of punishment from spells too. A team of artificers must have performed a week-long ritual to get that spell-weave so tight.

Jecia realized she had spaced again, and tried to come up with a topic of conversation as the elevator descended to the basement.

“What is your impression of Harker?” she asked, just as the elevator dinged.

“Harker? He’s good police, and a real sweetheart, but he also runs a pretty tight ship.”

The doors opened to the Cold Case division’s cubicles. It was a large, wooden sub-basement; part of the original craftsman structure built just over a century ago, but it had been ill-preserved since. There was no need to keep up appearances in the basement, after all. The air was stagnant and musty, though Jecia didn’t completely hate it. A lot of that dust was from paper, and it reminded her of a library. She found it ironic that Arroyo’s morgue was one level above them. The Fridge is for things that are even colder and deader than cadavers.

But something’s off. There was a tension in the floor’s Inherence… but before Jecia could determine the source, a metal door labeled “Evidence” at the far end of the room burst open, propelled by a tall, Black Keeper staggering backwards. He thrashed and used sorcery to tear at something on his face; a dark brownish, green rodent-looking thing with far too many limbs. After a half-second’s struggle, the thing leapt off his face and disappeared into the cubicles with a reptilian shriek followed by manic chittering.

“Fuck!” The officer shouted, and when he noticed Jecia and Fischer, he added: “Close the goddamned cage!”

“What the hell, Sev?” another voice called from the opposite cluster of cubicles.

“Got attacked!” He said, examining the fresh gashes on his cheeks and forehead.

The owner of the other voice emerged from his cubicle cluster; a wheelchair-bound Black officer, younger than other.

Attacked? By what!?”

Gremlin, I bet. Little shits love munching on things that are theoretically valued, but ignored.

“Spider gremlin,” the older detective, probably Harker, called back: “Or some kind of fucked up spider-rat chimera. I dunno. But we can’t let it out of here. I found it eating our ballistic evidence like bonbons. If it escapes, that’s at least four cases down the drain.”

Definitely a gremlin,” Jecia said quietly.

Fischer snorted.

“Here I was just about to tell your new hire how competent you are, Harker!” she called.

“Hard to stop monsters that can spontaneously generate!” Harker snapped back.

Jecia smirked. A common enough misconception. Monsters can’t spontaneously generate, but they can spontaneously be born from other species. Detective Harker turned to greet her, wearing a quick, but seemingly genuine smile:

“It’s a pleasure, Detective Singh. We’ll do proper introductions in a moment.”

“There!” Jecia said, spotting the critter just as it vertically leapt from one of the cubicles to the lighting tracks that hung over head.

Sev fired a generalized binding field—strong ripples, good focus—at the critter and the lighting track. The thing screeched and chittered in a way that confirmed, in Jecia’s mind, that gremlins were proficient in profanity, even if they had no other language.

“Oh shit!” the officer in the wheelchair shouted and pointed at the evidence room.

Everyone spotted two more gremlins—also born from some kind of spider, judging by the extra limbs and eyes—carrying plastic evidence in their chicken-feet like paws. Sev swore; his lapse in attention seemed to allow the first gremlin to escape his binding.

Jecia sprang to the far aisle of the cubicles, trying to get a fire-line on the monstrous pests. She fired a focused blade of sorcery at the nearest gremlin. As it darted toward an air vent, the thing ducked her blade with incredible reflexes, but lost two out of its eight limbs in the process. Blood splashed the hardwood floor and carpeted walls of the cubicles. The creature dropped the evidence bag it was carrying and unleashed an earsplitting screech of pure rage.

It was a hideous little thing, even by gremlin standards. In addition to its normal mouth—a snubby beak lined with disturbingly human teeth—it had a pair of arachnid mandibles. And its normal pair of yellow eyes had been multiplied by three. For better or worse, its characteristic, bat wing-shaped ears were unchanged.

Jecia fired a follow-up slash of sorcery just before it leapt at her face. The telekinetic blade cut it in half at the torso, spattering her with brackish blood. But the top half of the gremlin managed to grip her uniform, and chittered savagely, literally too angry to die. Jecia grunted, grabbed it, and flung it against the wall with sorcerous strength and a disgusted sneer. Thing might as well have been a water balloon.

A blast echoed through the basement and Jecia turned to see the officer in the wheelchair holding his smoking Locke, and the remains of the gremlin he’d shot with it.

“Vadon! What the fuck!” Harker roared.

“Hey, it surprised me!”

Then how did you have time to reach for your gun?

“So use your wyrd! Use your fucking head at the very least!”

“I mean. It was a good shot though, right?” Vadon asked, appealing to Jecia and Fischer.

Fischer sighed. Jecia gave him a wordless thumbs up. Enjoy your firearm discharge paperwork, I guess?

Before Harker could continue his reprimand, the remaining gremlin leapt from the lighting tracks, and scrambled back into the evidence locker.

Jecia’s wyrd sensed a quiver in the building’s Inherence, the same reticence she sensed when she first walked in. Harker ducked inside, gathering energy around his hands and cackling something to the effect of “I’ve got you now you son of a bitch!” Jecia tried to focus on the anomaly in the building’s Inherence. The building is weak in that room. No. Part of it is… dead.

“The pipes!” she shouted. “Don’t let it touch the pipes!”

“What?” Harker called back, followed by a heavy slosh, a steady stream of rushing water, and: “Oh shit! Shit-shit-fuck! Oh god! Vadon!”

The aging pipes of the basement’s fire extinguishing system had rotted through, which, for the purpose of Inherences was like necrotized flesh. The building was in pain. And now, God knows how many gallons of water is flooding into our evidence room. To say nothing of—The Gremlin’s shriek exploded into a roar.

Jecia was already dashing for the evidence room, hand on her saber.

Gremlins are the raccoons of the monster world. They can be born to anything from flies, to rats, to actual raccoons, to god-only-knows what else. They are arch-pests. Until you get them wet. Then they are a capital ‘P,’ Problem.

Something about their fur enhanced water’s ability to nullify structured magic, as if it was a fast-coursing stream. Give them actual running water to work with and they are effectively invulnerable to magic. The cherry on top is that water also makes them bulk up and go berserk.

The thing had grown to the size of an extremely muscular, eight-limbed chimp; it’s fur seemingly melted into chitinous armor. Each appendage ended in raptor-like talons with opposable thumbs. It used four of its arms to rip a length of the rotted pipe free, and used two others to knock over one of the metal evidence shelves, pelting Sev with heavy detritus.

Harker jumped back, drawing his Locke. The thing leapt after him, winding up with its new club. I can’t bind the gremlin. But I can stop the club. Jecia focused all of her wyrd, appealed to all of the building’s pent-up pain, and channeled it toward immobilizing the metal rod in mid-air. The gremlin’s shoulder crunched at the acute resistance and it squawk-howled in pain. It bought Harker just enough time to empty his Locke into its bulk, starting at center mass and steadily ticking his way up to its head.

Jecia and Harker caught their breath as the last of the water in the fire extinguishing system trickled out of the pipes, onto the upturned evidence containers; their once-magical contents possibly ruined. Vadon wheeled to the entrance of the evidence room, looked around and then turned to Harker:

“So. Seems to me like I had the right idea.”

Jecia and Harker looked at him, disbelieving.

“Just sayin’,” he shrugged, and glided back out of view.

— 7:14 AM —

Half the precinct ended up coming down to the Fridge, alerted by Vadon’s single shot, followed by Sev’s salvo. Fischer and Vadon explained the situation while Jecia and Harker tried to retrieve the possibly ruined evidence. Most of what got soaked was bagged in plastic, which would preserve the objects’ magical traces well enough, but some larger objects with fainter Inherences had essentially been scrubbed clean. Also, the combination of dead monster and stagnant water was nauseating. Acerbic and sour to the point of making you tear up.

“I am very sorry this is how we had to say ‘hello,’” Sev said, as he hauled the last crate of soaked evidence out of the lockup.

Jecia smiled gingerly and remembered that she was spattered with monster fluids and viscera. She hastily tried to wipe away the stray flecks of blood from her face.

“You want to get cleaned up?” Sev asked.

“Probably a good idea. Can’t say I prefer gremlin blood to coffee, but it’s an interesting way to start your day.”

He smiled at her. He had a nice smile. Handsome. His face was scarred here and there, like most Keepers, and his hair was graying, but he was much younger than she originally took him for. Early thirties. The gray fade gave him a distinguished look.

“I’m First Detective Sevardin Harker. Cold cases lead, and your new CO. I swear we usually don’t keep gremlins in our lock-up. Nor do we make a regular practice of soaking our evidence and shooting monsters inside the precinct.”

“Second Detective Jecia Singh. It’s a pleasure, sir. Despite the circumstances.”

“Call me, Sev. Or Harker if you prefer.”

He reached out and as she shook his hand, she felt a charge. Or rather, a sequence of charges. Dozens of tiny snapshots. It was her psychometry… but for some reason, it was sensing his wyrd as if it was the Inherence of an object. But they aren’t his memories. What are they? What am I see—

“Jecia?” Sev said, eyebrow cocked and a confused grin on his lips.

Jecia immediately withdrew her wyrd, not even realizing that had started probing his with hers. Delving into somebody else’s wyrd without permission was only slightly more eloquent than one dog sniffing another’s genitals. Great way to make an impression on your new boss. Truly superb. The ambient fluorescent lights suddenly seemed impossibly hot against her skin. She released his hand and gestured respectful apologies in one motion.

“You, okay?” Sevardin asked.

“Yeah, I just—” Jecia coughed when she couldn’t think of an excuse, and gestured apologies again.

“No worries,” Sev chuckled. He was confused, but sounded good-natured about it.

“Uh. I’m going to get cleaned up.”


Sev nodded at her and gestured for her to go ahead, then turned to take stock of the enormous mess.

—|—

Jecia had regained her composure, if not her pride, by the time she made it back to the locker room. But as she changed into a fresh uniform, her mind was fixated on a more pressing question.

What the hell did I see when I touched him? They were material memories but I didn’t see him wearing any relics, or any obvious antiques… I saw a motorcycle, for example. Or rather, I saw memories through the perspective of a motorcycle. Her eyes widened. His wyrd must collect traces of material memories, like an Inherence. Except he has an Inherence for other Inherences. She smiled a stupidly astonished smile.

That is so strange. That is so cool.

She had run into people whose bodies possessed material memories before. But usually, those memories were born from extreme trauma… or athletes who had reached the absolute apex of their skills. In fact, it was most common in people who had a powerful understanding of their bodies and later sustained a life altering accident.

The scholarship suggested that a period of bodily disassociation could catalyze the phenomenon. But the subject was still muddy at best. Most arcanists believed that it was a type of urdic quirk; just a strange extension of a person’s normal wyrd. But Jecia believed that it was something much cooler. That the bodily disassociation allowed a person’s body to gain an entirely distinct magical field of Inherence. Which had some huge implications…

Jecia shook her head. This is bigger than my embarrassment. And communication is key to a successful partnership.

—|—

When Jecia returned to the fridge, Vadon had disappeared back into his cubicle and Sev was sorting the sopping wet evidence into different piles. Jecia approached him and cleared her throat. He looked up at her like everything was normal, and that she didn’t just get high off his fucking wyrd like a lunatic.

“Sir, I just wanted to apologize for earlier—”

“Seriously, don’t worry abou—”

“Your wyrd has a very unusual property,” Jecia said, speaking over him.

He fell quiet.

“Oh?” Sev asked, uncomfortable again.

“I have a talent for psychometry. My wyrd can sense material memories. It’s how I knew the pipes were rusted.”

He stared at her strangely. Most amagia were familiar with the general concept of psychometry but were fuzzy on the details. Contracts could be used to produce psychometric effects, and every Keeper was trained in the basics—usually you could get a rough idea of the owner, see if the object had been used to take a life, or subject to distinctive magic. But it was the sort of magic that required an in-born talent to really provide meaningful insights.

“You could tell the pipes in lockup were rusted? From out here?”

Jecia shrugged, slightly embarrassed.

“Wish I could have caught it earlier.”

“Nothing to help it. Honestly, better that they broke when we here to see it, instead of letting the evidence soak overnight.”

“I suppose,” Jecia said.

“Anyway, what is my unusual property?” Sev asked.

Again, Jecia found herself embarrassed, but she pushed herself to just keep talking:

“I’m not exactly sure yet. You seem to… carry things with you. Imprints of other Inherences. This is a kind of personal question, considering we just met but… did you ever suffer a traumatic injury?”

Sev looked slightly taken aback, then bowed his head as a sad smile stretched across his lips.

“I was held hostage about four years ago and had both my legs broken. I’m good as I ever was now, but the first two years of rehab were really rough. Still, I count my blessings.” He nodded over at Vadon who was wheeling his way over. “The same case put Vadon in his chair.”

Vadon nodded, his expression melancholic and resigned. Wow Jecia. You managed to really step in it.

“Second Detective Jecia Singh,” she said, extending her hand to Vadon.

He took it and shook it.

“Vadon Freeman. Second Detective.”

He was also good-looking. Tasteful fade haircut and a cocky, boyish smile. But she instantly knew he wasn’t her type. I mean, who uses their Locke as a first option? And while Vadon didn’t exactly leer at her, something about his expression was… aggressively appreciative about her appearance.

“Sev said you’re in from Newam. Why come to Arroyo?” Vadon asked, then added. “Not that I’m complaining.”

Jecia hesitated and shot a glance at Sev. As her receiving CO, he would know the details of her service record in broad strokes. Her leaked identity and subsequent abduction. The chapter’s settlement. Maybe it would be better to get it out in the open now and get it over with. Sev interjected:

“Our Mexican food is reason enough to justify a transfer. From what I’ve tried, New Amsterdam can’t make decent tacos to save its life.”

Vadon gestured ‘true that,’ and seemed to pick up on Sev’s deflection. Jecia was grateful for it, but decided to add her token excuse to appear polite:

“My parents live out here. Figure they could use somebody to check in on them regularly.”

“Well. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other while we re-catalogue this evidence,” Sev said. “Probably need to send half of this shit back to forensics to tell if it has any useful traces left.”

“My psychometry should help with that. If anything survived the water, I’ll be able to sense it.”

“Well. I’m glad you arrived when you did then,” Sev said. “I’ll leave the larger, wetter objects to you. Vadon and I will check the bagged stuff for leaks and sort it back into the bins. This is priority one but we’ve got interviews lined up Merday, so let’s try to get this squared away by tomorrow at the latest.”

Vadon slapped the arm rest of his wheel chair decisively, and rolled over to the pile of boxes. Jecia gave Sev a crisp, wordless salute, which he seemed to find charming, or funny, which made her smirk as well. Something in her chest twisted. Or possibly untangled itself.

Ah shit. Why do I feel like this is going to be a problem?

—Jovday, Aries 10th. 7:03 AM—

Sev’s estimates were a little optimistic. They got everything sorted back into the evidence room by the end of Marday, as intended, only to be informed that they needed to clear the entire evidence lockup on Merday to allow the plumbers to make repairs to the fire sprinklers. The witness interviews had to be pushed back, and rescheduling would be hell, because people were far less willing to disrupt their lives to talk about old crimes.

But when Jecia got in on Jovday, Sev informed her that they had been summoned for a meeting with Drake. Jecia, Vadon, and Sevardin went upstairs to find another venture waiting in her office.

“Gibson, Connelly, and Grafton. This is Jecia Singh. She’s a new transfer who will be replacing Morris in the Fridge.”

They exchanged brief handshakes. The last detective, Grafton, a woman in her late thirties, held onto Jecia’s hand when she tried to pull away.

“You chose a hell of a time to show up,” she grunted. “This could be a doozy.”

“Indeed. Are any of you familiar with Glianna Garfield? The actress?” Drake asked.

Jecia and Sev shook their heads.

“Doesn’t she star in that symvision series? Borrowed Time?” Vadon asked.

Drake nodded, clearly uninterested.

“She was found dead in her bathtub last night. Coroner ruled it as an accidental death. She was on heavy cold meds, but there wasn’t enough for an overdose in her system. Rather, Arroyo PD suspects she had some kind of allergic reaction.”

Jecia frowned, though she didn’t know what to say. It’s sad, but starlets die from drugs all the time.

“I take it we have reason to suspect otherwise,” Sev said.

Drake’s expression was grim.

“Two days ago, Garfield reached out to the AKF. Somebody had sent her a Tower tarot card from the Lotus deck, with all the lotuses painted black.”

A chill settled over Jecia.

There wasn’t a Keeper or true crime enthusiast alive who had not heard of the Black Lotus Murders. It was probably the most famous unsolved murder case in the world after London’s Gentleman Ripper murders.

In 2253, five starlets met with seemingly accidental deaths, mere days after receiving Tower tarot cards from Ellerand Schweitzer’s Lotus deck—now the most common and reprinted deck of tarot cards in the world. Each card in the deck featured lotuses, normally white. But the cards the recipients received had been hand painted black. No cause beyond the card could be confirmed. The shocking thing about the Black Lotus murders though, was in 2307, the same thing happened. Five more cards. Five more talented beauties dead before their time.

Magical and scientific forensics were still fairly nascent when the first three murders were committed, and neither the asfalis police nor the Los Angeles Keeping Force could identify a credible suspect. The second trilogy of murders was a different story, however. There were simply too many people with grudges, or stakes in killing celebrities. But after the final girl died, the murders abruptly stopped leaving the investigation in a dead lurch.

There were allegations of mishandled evidence. Conspiracy theories that the authorities were involved and deliberately sabotaged the case at the whims of Hollywood’s elite. The case was the subject of dozens of documentaries and dramatizations.

“People send celebrities Black Lotus cards all the time as a prank,” Connelly said to Jecia. “But we saw the card did have a minor curse affixed to it, so we took it into forensics.”

“All they could tell us was that the charm was intended to instill fear in the victim. That’s it. We assumed it was a hedge witch trying to Garfield her a scare,” Grafton said.

“So why are we here?” Sev asked.

“Glianna’s family said that she was absolutely convinced she would die,” Gibson said.  

“And this morning, we examined the card again. The enchantment was gone, which isn’t surprising in and of itself. Did some contracts comparing this card to one of the ones from fifty years ago. And their composition, pigments… it’s like they are perfect copies of each other.”

Sevardin raised his eyebrows and scoffed, then looked at Drake.

“Are you seriously telling me the Black Lotus Killer woke up after a second, fifty-year-long nap?”

“That’s for you to figure out. Go to the archives. Here and at the LAKF. Compare the case files, and find out how this happened. Because if this is legitimate? We are dealing with something over a hundred years old. And Garfield will just be the beginning.”

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