Hidden Dragon: 4

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Hidden Dragon

Welcome to the world of Syn City, where magic is a thing, a host of races walk the streets, and the hardworking detectives of the SCPD are tasked with keeping the peace in a city where, on occasion, shoplifting means lifting an actual shop.

Looking for the beginning of the story? Click HERE.


Hidden Dragon-4

“Wait. You know this guy?” Bast asked, straightening. 

Kai huffed out a breath, then winced as the dream, in which his breath had incinerated a man, flashed to vivid life in front of him. “This is—was—Ashlan Delavan. Professor Ashlan Delavan, ThD,” he amended, still staring at the half-charred body and trying not to be relieved it was only half-charred. “I arrested him yesterday, right here, in this spot. He was dressed at the time,” he added, referring to the corpse’s lack of clothing. 

“That’s—” Lena began.

“Weirdly coincidental,” Bast finished.

“Also impossible ,” Kai told them, tearing his eyes from the remains. “He was raving at the time of arrest so Alex and I left him in the psych wing at University Medical Center. He was still there when we clocked out.” 

“I can check with the hospital,” Lena offered. “See if they can tell us anything.” 

“Please,” Kai said.

 Lena stepped out of the tent, already activating her commulet. 

Somewhere, behind all the worry, Kai was impressed at how fast the newbie was acclimating, but as her voice receded, indicating she was stepping away from the tent, he turned to discover Bast staring at him. “What?” 

“You should pass on this case,” Bast said.

“And why would I do that?”

“Let’s start with this being a burn victim, and you being you.” 

Kai glanced down. “Half-burn victim,” he corrected. “And anyway—”

“I remember when Ama brought you home the first time, after your birth family’s building burned down,” Bast cut in, his voice low. “You still smelled like smoke, and you were freaked.” 

“I was also all of four at the time—” Kai pointed out.

“You had nightmares,” Bast continued, as if his brother hadn’t spoken. “For years. You wouldn’t even do birthday candles until you were eleven, and that was because Ayesha dared you,” he added, speaking of their older sister. 

“Yes,” Kai said as, in his hind brain, wings flexed. “I remember. But Bast, I arrested this guy, in this alley. That makes him mine.” 

“And you’re one of mine,” Bast said, tapping the side of Kai’s head, “enough mine for me to know there’s something else going on under there.” 

“Yeah,” Kai said slapping Bast’s hand away, “there’s something that really wants to know how a man in medical lockup ended up burned and frozen in the exact same place where he was arrested the day before.” He glared at the half-scorched, half-frozen corpse, and thought something was missing… something besides the hospital gown. 

Then he took of the warm air in the tent, and hit him. “Why doesn’t it smell?” he asked. “Shouldn’t there be a smell? From the burned half, anyway.” He looked up, saw Bast’s expression shifting from worry to irritation to resignation. 

“Right,” his brother said, turning to the body. “As you say, the frozen bit wouldn’t have an odor, but there’s no odor of burned flesh because the part that was burned isn’t flesh anymore, but pure carbon.” 

“That would have to have been some fire,” Lena said, sliding back into the tent in time to hear the explanation. 

“And then some,” Bast agreed, crouching to pull a thaumic spectrometer from his kit, presumably to measure any trace magics. “There are records of this kind of pyrolytic reaction in Nagasa.”  

“Which is why we have the Thaumic Non-proliferation Act,” Lena pointed out. 

Kai looked at the tent’s roof, then back at the body, then sighed. “And what is a pyrolytic reaction, exactly?” 

“The thermal decomposition of organic materials to carbon,” Bast explained as he began to run the spectrometer over the body, careful not to touch anything. 

Since his brother was focused on the vic, Kai turned to Lena and indicated they should give him some space before heading outside.  

“How do you think they’ll transport the body?” Lena asked, glancing back as she followed him out of the tent. “If it’s as cold-slash-hot as it is, there’s nothing that can touch it that won’t also end up burned-slash-frozen.” 

“Haven’t got a clue,” Kai said, then asked, “What did the hospital have to say?” 

“I spoke with the ward nurse on Delavan’s floor,” she began. “According to her, when the power went out, she and most of the staff were focused on keeping anyone on any sort of support breathing until the backup generators kicked in.” 

“So, no one was watching Delavan,” Kai guessed.

“His ward was on monitors, but the monitors crashed with everything else. Since Delavan was stable, restrained, and not on any supports, no one checked his bed until I called.” 

“And?” Kai prompted as she paused for a breath.

“His bed was empty…” she glanced back at the tent, “… obviously. But,” she added, “there was no sign of the restraints being compromised, and no one reported a naked dryk walking out of the hospital.” 

“Maybe,” Kai said, “but this guy was a wizard, and I can personally attest he had more than a little talent. Could be he was able to charm the restraints, maybe employ a shroud.” He paused as his brain presented images of dragon fire and scorched sheets. “Did anyone say anything about the condition of Delavan’s bed, or his room?” 

“They didn’t mention anything unusual, but I had them lock it down for us.” 

“Which gives us two crime scenes,” Kai observed. “But neither were—”

“Neither were the scene of the crime,” Lena said at the same time.

“That’s adorable,” Bast said as he emerged from the tent. “Also correct,” he continued. “Even if it turns out neither the freezing or burning is the cause of death, the extremes in temperature necessary to cause the transmutation of flesh would also have affected the environment. But there are no signs of freeze damage, cracking, burning, spalling, or melting in this location. There’s also no trace of a shielding spell, but there is a trace of—something unusual. I’ll have to review the readings back at the lab. Meanwhile,” he continued, “I’m confident in saying that, whatever happened to Professor Delavan, happened someplace else.” 

“Making this a dump spot,” Kai concluded. “But why here?” he added, mostly to himself.

“At least we have a relative time of death,” Lena offered after a beat. “Unless he’s a time traveler as well as a teleporter, TOD has to be sometime between oh-four-twenty-one, when the power outage occurred, and oh-four-forty-three, when the patrol officers called it in.” 

“Luckily time travel’s not a thing,” Kai said, then added. “And neither is teleportation.” 

“That’s not—” Lena began.

“Entirely true,” Bast finished. 

“Adorable,” Kai echoed his brother’s comment while Lena and Bast beamed at each other. 

“But seriously,” Lena explained. “There are a handful of studies worldwide on the viability of matter transfer.” 

“Including one here, at SCU,” Bast said.

Lena gaped. “Syn City University is building a teleporter?” 

“Not exactly.” Bast glanced in the general direction of the university, which was barely visible as a series of blocks, spires, and snow-capped domes. “But they are working on thaumic entanglement theory.” 

“That sounds dirty,” Kai observed. “Ow,” he added, when Bast thumped him in the arm. 

“And,” Bast continued, focusing on Lena, “one aspect of the research is the possibility of matter transfer by means of said entanglement.” 

“Still dirty,” Kai muttered, but stepped out of the way before Bast’s fist could find his shoulder. “That said,” he continued, “can you determine cause of death?” 

“You mean, which came first, the fire or the ice?” Lena asked. 

“Et tu?” Bast gave her a sorrowful look. “But no,” he continued, “though I can say that aetheric and thaumic degradation both indicate that whatever caused the damage hit at the same time—oh-four-thirty.” 

“So, that’s a no on the time travel,” Lena guessed. 

Kai checked his commulet for the time. “We’ve got some time before the neighborhood starts waking. Let’s use that to clear the scene.”

“Crime Scene Division—” Bast began.

“CSD isn’t here,” Kai said, shortly. “You can take the alley,” he said to Lena. “If it’s a dump spot, someone might have dumped something besides the body.” 

“You do realize no one could have safely touched that body to move it,” Bast pointed out.

“Not physically,” Kai said. “But the vic was a wizard, so it’s not ridiculous to think he knew some other wizards. Maybe he pissed one of them off.” He glanced at Lena. “I’ll take a walk around the block, see if there’s anything, or anyone, that can be of help,” he said. “Once we’ve got whatever we can get from here, we’ll hit the hospital, vic’s house, his office—and notify next of kin.” 

“Have fun with that,” Bast said, heading back to the tent. “I’ll finish up here, then reach out to SCT&E.” 

Kai and Lena, already splitting up, turned. “Why?” Kai asked. 

“They work with thaumic reactors,” Bast said. “They’ll probably have a way to transport an untouchable corpse.

Lena and Kai looked at each other. 

“Add a visit to SCT&E to the list,” Kai said.

Lena nodded then, surprising Kai, pulled out a notepad and pencil, on which she scribbled, presumably, a list.  

He didn’t know whether to be pleased or worried that Lena also kept some analogue tools to hand, rather than depending entirely on her commulet’s recording function.  

Most of the other detectives, Alex included, got a lot of mileage out of teasing Kai for having his pencil to hand at all times. 

He watched Lena walk to the end of the alley, flick on her light and activate the catch-all charm—a must with all the snow on the ground—and thought that, if nothing else, there’d be another cop at the precinct sharing the heat for having a pencil to hand.

But thinking of heat once again had him thinking of fire, and burned, or half-burned, bodies… and nightmares. 

Turning to round up some uniforms, he pulled out his own notebook and pencil, and scrawled a reminder to speak to his mother, as soon as possible.

For the first time since becoming a member of the Chance family, Kai had questions about the fire that had, as Bast so vehemently reminded him, left him an orphan. 

Want to help grow Outrageous Fiction? Just hit Like, and Subscribe or Share on your favorite social platform using the handy buttons below.
You can also Buy the authors a Coffee. Or buy an ebook.
Every little thing helps.

Thanks for reading!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: