The red haired woman staggers down the sidewalk of a well-kept neighborhood. Her heel turns in the crack of the sidewalk. Cursing, she kicks the heel aside. She stumbles forward another step, and then kicks the second heel away as well. Bristling, she stomps away, leaving her heels behind.
She eventually turns into the grass outside of an old antebellum home. She pauses and wriggles her toes in the grass, taking a moment to enjoy the feeling of it, then makes her way to the front door. The redhead fumbles around in her purse, muttering to herself, then carefully eyes the keyhole. She misses the first two times, but third time’s the charm, and she manages to get the key in the door. The door swings open and the woman scuttles inside, tossing her bag on a nearby high-backed chair. She stretches lazily as she makes her way down a hall, kicking empty bottles out of her way as she goes down a hall and into a bedroom. She crashes face first into a large unmade four poster bed with satin sheets. Then, the alarm on the nightstand begins blaring.
Her long fingered hand picks up the alarm, then daintily drops it into the small trashcan in between the bed and nightstand. It lands with a thud, and continues blaring. Then, a pillow is shoved in over the top of it, dulling the sound. The woman pulls a blanket over herself and begins to snore lightly.
A few short hours later, a tall thin man in a dark suit pulls up to the house in a plain gray sedan. He waits a few minutes before honking the horn. Realizing that the woman is not forthcoming, he ruffles his hair a little, ruining its ruler-perfect part, and climbs out of the car. Approaching the door, he sees that it’s slightly ajar. His eyebrows flicker slightly upward into an expression of concern. He walks inside, then calls into the dark, quiet home “Amber, are you all right?”
There’s no response, so he ventures further into the house, thence into the bedroom where the redhaired woman is sawing logs to the tune of the dully buzzing alarm. His concern evaporates, and is quickly replaced by exasperation. He calmly walks to the attached master bathroom, fills a glass usually used to rinse one’s mouth with water, then returns to her bedside. He looks down at the contently snoozing Amber, and considers her for a moment, as if considering waking a hibernating bear. He takes a cautious half step back before splashing her face with the glassful of water.
Amber flails awake, knocking the glass out of the man’s hand as she falls out of the bed and onto the floor with a squawk. She sputters, pushing her water bedraggled curls from her face, then glares up at him. “What the hell Gavin?!”
Gavin eyes her dispassionately. “You’re late. Get ready.”
One abbreviated cold shower and quick change of clothes later, the two are sitting in the car giving each other the silent treatment. At least, Amber is giving Gavin the silent treatment, her arms crossed over her generous bosom in the classic gesture of childish defiance. Gavin, however, seems completely unconcerned. He may even be rather relieved at the thought of having a cup of coffee before her incessant chattering starts back up.
Amber’s gaze slides over to her partner before darting away to look out the window again. This furtive glancing continues for a few minutes, before she finally blurts out “Fine, I’m sorry!”
“I’m not.” Gavin says, his lips turning up ever so slightly at the edges. “The beached mermaid look suits you.”
Amber hisses slightly through her teeth, smacking his shoulder. Gavin chuckles a little, “Touchy this morning, are we?”
“My head hurts” she mumbles under her breath, shading her eyes with her hand. “And don’t lecture me. It’s a waste of both our time.”
Gavin nods a little, knowing that – at least in this case – she’s speaking the truth.
They soon arrive at the offices of Grimoire, proclaimed to be “The source you can trust for the stories you actually want to read about!” on the sign creaking slightly in the wind just outside of the red brick building. The building itself was obviously new, but designed to blend in with its antique surroundings.
Just inside the entrance, a young blonde haired man in a vest, white shirt and grey pinstriped pants tailored to fit his willowy frame, is sitting at a long desk studiously typing away at his computer. His thin fingers dance across the heavy brass keyboard with its strange symbols, red velvet wrist rest, and crystals that glow different colors, the purpose of which would be lost on the average denizen of the small, historic city of St. Augustine. Viewed from one angle, the nameplate on his desk says “Brandon White,” from another it bears the same symbols as his odd keyboard, but in a flowing script. He looks up briefly, his fingers pausing above the keys as the two scan their ID badges, then after shaking his head, he refocuses on the task at hand, keys clicking down into place with slightly more force.
Amber slinks over to the desk and leans on it, smiling down at the young man in an altogether too sweet manner, greeting him with a “Good Morning, Brandon. How is the Chief doing today?”
The young man looks up and returns her cloyingly sweet smile with interest and responds in a fair, fluting voice “Maybe if you had been here for this morning’s meeting, you would know.” Before turning his thin, pale face and large round blue eyes back toward his computer screen with a sniff and flick of his ponytail.
Amber deflates a little, giving a pout. “Oh come on, Brandy. Give us something.”
Gavin rolls his eyes behind her back and continues on past the blonde gatekeeper and down the hallway toward the break room to get himself a cup of coffee.
“Is it really that bad?” Amber pouts at him. “He’s not any more blustery than usual, is he?” Gavin can hear her whining as he walks into the office with ‘Faust and MacSweeney’ on the door.
Amber spends a few more minutes squabbling with Brandon before retreating back to their office to lick her wounded pride. She slumps hard into her chair, causing it to squeak as she spins around toward her partner. She puffs her cheeks up, then slowly blows the curls of red hair out of her face, before asking “After you’re done with that first cup of coffee?”
Gavin nods, taking a sup from his square white mug. “And after you finish at least one report. He might be more lenient if it looks like you actually make some kind of effort to do your job.”
“My job is to solve cases. These reports are just gloss for the mundies.” Amber grumbles a little, turning toward the folders haphazardly strewn across her desk. “I guess I should get started on that case with the tree sharks…”
Gavin’s eyebrow twitches slightly in annoyance and he puts his coffee mug down, so he can fix his serious eyes on her. “Amber, that was three months ago.”
“So I’m a little behind.” She says flippantly, not meeting his eyes. She grabs up a folder and starts sifting through the papers inside of it, and mutters just loud enough for him to hear, “You could help, you know…”
Gavin’s eyebrow twitches a little, “You don’t just want help, you want me to do it for you.”
“And how would that not be a huge help?” She says, giving him a hopeful smile. “It would keep the chief off both our backs. And you’re a better writer than I am.”
Gavin takes a moment to think about this, then shrugs, “Fine, give me a few of the cases.”
Amber and Gavin soon take their seats across a fine mahogany desk from the Chief, a man so large that he makes his executive sized desk look child sized. His hulking form is squeezed into a button down shirt and tie that looks like it would cut off blood circulation to his head if he were too irritated. Even now, his cheeks are ruddy with mild annoyance. “It’s about damn time you turn these reports in.” he says in a voice edged with the gruffness of a long-time smoker.
“Sorry, Chief,” Amber says, looking down at the hands folded in her lap, wondering if the Chief even bothers to read the reports. She knows that he signs everything Brandy gives him, even if it’s with the scrawl of a man who never quite mastered the art of writing his own initials without crushing the pencil halfway through.
“And speaking of being late, I hope you have a good excuse for why you two idgits weren’t at the meeting with the big wigs this morning. They wanted to talk with all the spinners. There’s been strange things going on lately.”
“Sir, strange things are our business.” Gavin pipes in before Amber can open her mouth and spout off a feeble excuse. “What could be stranger than what we already deal with every day?”
The chief snorts and slides a fresh folder across the desk to Gavin. “What indeed.”
Gavin and Amber look at each other, then Gavin takes the folder.
Gavin flips through the folder as the two of them walk back toward their office. Amber tries to read it over his shoulder, “Well, what is it this time?”
Gavin stops dead in the middle of the hall, and Amber smacks into him, her chin against his shoulder. “-Gah!”
“We have a serial killer.” he says grimly.
Amber and Gavin are taking the items in the folder and setting them up on combination cork and white board on the back wall of their office.
“All right,” Amber says, backing away from the board after carefully placing the last red tack onto a large map in the middle of the board. “So…what do we have, break it down for me again.”
“Over the last five years, this object,” Gavin says, motioning to a picture of an urn “has been making the rounds. It first came up for auction after the death of an old woman who claimed that her husband’s spirit was trapped inside of it. She told anyone who would listen about it that she could hear him whispering, pleasing to be freed, but the lid was sealed tight.”
Amber lets out a low whistle, “Poltergeist? Maybe a demon? What else?”
“Djinn, perhaps.” Gavin tosses out.
Amber shakes her head a little, “Not likely. Djinn have physical presence and power. The urn looks like porcelain, not the right material to support the sort of seal you would need for that.” Amber leans in to get a closer look, but he picture of the urn is black and white and not particularly clear, “Although, I’d have to get a closer look to be sure of it. I suppose it could be orichalcum.”
Gavin nods. “Well, we know where it’s been. The old woman died in New York, where the head office initially got wind of it. Then, it started traveling south. The new owner must have figured out how to open it somewhere around Maryland, because that’s where the first killing took place. People have died in these small towns all along the eastern seaboard.”
“So why do they think St. Augustine is next?”
“We think that it was bought by a carnival, one that travels south to north in the winters. It’s actually a joint case between us, and a few other branches, since there’s actually several carnivals that make follow similar north-to-south routes down the eastern seaboard this time of year.” Gavin snorts, “Most carnivals have at least a few mythies on crew, even if they aren’t entirely aware of it. Some are entirely mythie. But, we’re not sure what kind of carnival it is. They usually police themselves, we don’t have to keep a close eye on them. Either they aren’t aware of the danger of the urn, or they do know and are using it to purpose.”
Amber grins a little, ignoring his gloomy overtones, “I did want to check out the carnival this weekend. I guess I have a good excuse to eat cotton candy and ride the giant swing until I puke now.”
“Like you ever need an excuse to act like a child,” he replies, trying to suppress a small smile of his own.
“Come on, hot stuff” Amber says, smacking Gavin’s rear and making him jump. He looks around, hoping no one saw that, and is relieved to see that the door to their office is safely shut.
She grabs the jacket from the back of her chair, and heads to the door. “Let’s get a move on.”