The evening starts with a slow trickle of people and builds until the fairground is filled to the brim with lines of people waiting to go on the best rides. With people coming out in full force for the first night of the carnival, the carnies are busy keeping the lines moving and the guests plied with all the usual sweets and artery clogging snacks. With the carnival crew sufficiently distracted, Amber and Gavin edge their way to the shadowy outskirts of the camp where the carnival’s RVs are parked.
They make a round of the camping area, surveying the outside of each RV. Most of them are older models, a little beat up from hard use, but obviously well cared for. After finding nothing particularly suspicious, they double back to where they started.
“Well, if there are mythies in this camp they can probably disguise themselves without much effort, and they don’t require anything large of particularly odd to sustain themselves,” Amber says, eying a kitschy hula girl in the window of the nearest RV. It sways slightly as the pendulum ride whirls around.
“That doesn’t mean that no one in this camp wouldn’t have the know-how or ability to use the urn, though. Plenty of mythies can wield magic and still appear human to the undiscerning eye,” Gavin responds, trying the door of the RV. “Locked.”
“Darn,” Amber grumbles, before realizing that Gavin is looking at her expectantly. “What? You think I can pick the lock? I’m not that kind of a bad girl.”
Gavin sighs a little, looks around furtively, then takes the pin from his tie. Amber’s eyes widen as she watches her partner display a talent she never suspected him of having. “Seriously? And just where did you learn to do that?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” he says with the ghost of a smirk as he trips the lock. He steps back and holds the door open for her. “Go on and take a look. I’ll stay out here and keep a look out.”
Amber hurriedly scoots on into the RV and the door creaks closed behind her. She takes a cautious step forward into the RV, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the low level of light filtering in through the half open blinds. Once her eyes have adjusted, she moves carefully through the small motor home, careful not to disturb or move anything. She pokes around for a few minutes, then emerges from the RV, startling Gavin a little.
Gavin breathes out hard and triggers the lock before pulling the door to behind his partner. “Nothing?”
“No, nothing. But that doesn’t mean anything, it’s just the first one. We should search a few more tonight, but I don’t want to push it. Let’s just come back tomorrow if we don’t find anything tonight,” Amber replies. And that is just what they do, and also what they find – nothing.
Amber manages to get Gavin to buy her another cone of cotton candy before they head out, and busies herself on the ride home with licking the sticky fluff from her fingers. Gavin wrinkles his nose at this, but refrains from verbally expressing his disgust with this behavior. Despite this, Amber can tell that she’s annoying him.
“Did you never eat cotton candy as a child?” she asks, an eyebrow quirking up and a smile playing across her lips.
His expression softens a little and he clears his throat before responding, “No…I’ve never been a big fan of sweets. Even when I was a kid. My sister loved it, it meant she always got double.”
She nods appreciatively, “You must have been a great big brother.”
“What makes you think I am the older one?” he says, glancing at her as he pulls up to the antebellum home that they started their morning off in.
“It’s obvious,” she says, shrugging a little.
“You must be an only child, then?” he says with the question hanging on the slightly upturned tone at the end of the phrase.
Amber laughs as she slides out of the passenger seat, “Guess again, hot stuff!”
Gavin shakes his head a little as he watches her walk down the sidewalk a ways to retrieve her abandoned heels. She waves him off as she heads into her house, but he waits until the door is safely shut behind her and the lights come on before he drives off into the night.
Amber locks the door behind her as and surveys the house in the warm light cast by the lamp on the table by the door. Bottles are scattered across the floor, some broken and left as they were; she hadn’t even bothered to pick up the pieces of glass. The furniture is antique, and probably had been well cared for at some point in time, but is now coated with a fine layer of dust. She takes a deep breath and slowly lets it out, then goes to retrieve a broom from the hall closet.
Once the house has been tidied up enough for her to walk around safely, she stows the broom and goes to the fridge. It’s mostly empty, with a few old boxes of Chinese and a lot of beer. She reaches for a beer, and hesitates for only a moment before grabbing it.
Unbeknownst to Amber, a shadowy figure is watching her from outside through the lenses of a pair of binoculars. He’s young, wearing a faded pair of jeans in danger of falling to pieces at the knees, and a shirt bearing the mantra “The Truth Is Out There!” As she pops the top off of the beer and takes a pull from it, he shakes his head and makes a note. His writing is the kind of chicken scratch that might only be considered legible by doctors, or the nurses who have to decipher their notes in any case. The man himself actually has a hard time reading his own writing sometimes, though he would never admit it.
He watches Amber until she disappears from his line of sight, then crawls out of the bushes. He has to pause to free himself from a particularly thorny bush, and nearly trips over his own untied shoelace before he makes it to the curb, where an old moped is parked. He hops on the moped, and it gutters to life noisily. He looks over his shoulder nervously, wondering if the sound of the engine coming to life might alert his prey, but all seems quiet apart from the sound of his engine. He is slightly disappointed by this, but considers that he is simply cleverer than the agents; after all, they have yet to catch him or shut down his website. And he’s certain they follow his work, him being the foremost expert on paranormal activity. In the St. Augustine Area anyway.
The man scuttles off into the night, Amber watching him go from the crack of a drawn shade. She shakes her head a little and has another sip of beer before retreating to her room.
In the morning, Amber arrives to the office looking fresher and considerably cleaner than she had the previous morning. Her hair is still wild with curls, but she has at least made an effort to tame it back into a bun with bobby pins and copious amounts of hairspray. She has two coffees in hand, and sets one down on Gavin’s desk moving to her own to sit down.
Gavin seems pleased, though his expression doesn’t change. He opens the coffee to check it; it looks black. “Did you add anything?”
“You take it with two sugars, right? No cream?” she asks, seeming confidant that she already knows the answer. He nods, and she smiles smugly before saying, “I’m more observant than you thought, huh?”
He shrugs a little, “Not particularly. We’re hired to be observant. You wouldn’t be a Grimoire agent if you didn’t have some observational skills. And we’ve been together long enough now that it would be odd if you didn’t pick up on some of my preferences.”
“What kind of coffee do I like then?” she says, lifting an eyebrow in challenge.
“The Irish kind. More booze than coffee, really.” he replies, much to her amusement.
“Oh, come on! That’s not fair.” she protests, her easy laugh rising to the surface. He focuses his intense gaze on her, but she can see the glint of teasing hiding behind his serious brown eyes. “Ok, ok, sometimes,” she says, waving her fingers at him a little, as if to dispel his laser focus. “But not often.”
Amber settles into her chair, which definitely had a bit of Irish flavor to it this morning, and perks up a little. “Oh, I almost forgot. I had a visitor again last night.”
Gavin pauses from reading over the bit of typing he had just finished, looking up. “Again? I thought he had finally given up after the last time…”
“He’s got some spunk, you have to give him that. He doesn’t give up easily,” she unlocks one of her desk drawers and draws out a case file.
Gavin looks over at her, the pinched look he gets when he’s concerned but trying not to look it crawls over his otherwise calm expression, “I know that you think he’s harmless, but what if his behavior escalates? You’ve seen his website. The kid is nearly delusional.”
“He would be delusional if the foundation of his beliefs weren’t actually true. But I do think it’s odd that he hasn’t managed to get at least one case right. As many as he’s written about, you’d think he would have gotten close to the truth at least once by now – even if it was just by accident. I wonder what the statistics are for things like that,” she says, finding the page she had marked as her previous stopping point. She had folded the edge of the paper down, a habit which would make Gavin cringe if he knew about it.
Gavin thinks about this for a moment before saying, “It is kind of interesting just how wrong he always is. Even with details that were reported correctly by the news outlets. What do you want to do about him?”
Amber shrugs with all the nonchalance of a cat, more concerned with the file she’s reading over than with any danger that her stalker might pose, “I think it’s about time we told Brandy about him.”
“Not the chief?” Gavin asks, scribbling a note down.
“And how exactly do you think the Chief would react to a situation like this?” she says, booting up her laptop.
“Good point. Let’s tell Brandon, and he can tell the Chief,” Gavin says, speaking aloud what Amber had been thinking all along.
As different as they are, it sometimes surprised Gavin how in sync they had become. They’d only been partners a few months now, but he could already feel himself becoming more relaxed around Amber. Because of his condition, Gavin had never really let himself relax around anyone, not even his family – or perhaps especially not his family – but there was something about Amber that both amped his guard up and caused it to crumble. He wasn’t even sure that Amber was aware of his condition, what with the way that she’s been treating him, but how could she not be? Everyone else was.
There was a look that people would get in their eye when they knew about his condition – a certain avoidance of eye contact, a barrier that people subconsciously put between themselves and him. But Amber had no such barriers, and when she looked at him it was with the same brightness and curiosity with which she approached everyone else. She spoke as her thoughts came to her and acted almost entirely on instinct. It was refreshing, and at the same time terrifying. If she already knew, then it made no difference. But if she didn’t know and he told her, it could change everything. The part of him that was rigidly, compulsively honest balked at the thought of this dishonesty, but the smaller part – the part so quiet that he didn’t even hear it talking to him – comforted him with the idea that this is small secret is not a lie. It is simply private information, which Gavin has every right to keep to himself. God only knows that Amber has her own secrets.