Hidden Dragon: 6

Reading Time: 6 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-6

Kai wasn’t sure what he’d been looking for at the hospital, but he didn’t find it.

No, he reminded himself, that wasn’t true. 

He’d expected to find scorch marks on the sheets, similar to those he’d discovered in his own bed. 

But as Lena recorded their findings, Kai stared at the rumpled-yet-unscorched bed and reminded himself that any fire that could completely alter the chemistry of Delavan’s flesh—if he understood what Bast had described as a pyrolytic reaction—would have decimated the bed, the floor under the bed, and possibly a few floors beneath that.

Plus, in Kai’s dream, Delavan had been reduced to ash, which was what fire generally did, in Kai’s experience.

And that didn’t even begin to account for the frozen half—which, again, went  as far beyond your basic ice cube as the burned half went beyond a charcoal.

Anyway, the hospital bed showed no signs of either burning or freezing. 

Instead, all the detectives had found were the standard hospital-green coverings resting over an empty hospital gown.

Kai even discovered Delavan’s ID bracelet laying on the sheet next to the unopened restraints, making it appear that the patient had simply vanished from the bed.

“Another check mark for the teleportation theory,” Lena murmured, scribbling into her notebook.

Rather than respond, Kai activated the thaumic reader on his commulet, which continued the theme of underwhelming when it failed to blip even once.  “If someone’s teleporting, they’re not using magic to do it,” he said, holding up his wrist so Lena could read the flat lines.

She frowned, scribbled another note, then stared at the IV unit next to the bed, its tubing dangling uselessly to the floor. “It’s possible that whoever moved Delavan is using a different source of magic.” 

“Right, because after thousands of years of everyone everywhere using thaumic energy, someone suddenly discovered a new source of magical power.” 

“Maybe the power isn’t magical,” Lena countered. 

“So, what? They used a solar battery to move him?” Kai shook his head. “It’s just as likely the perp has strong masking capabilities, or they have an unregistered thaumic cleanup charm.” 

Lena said nothing, but Kai doubted she’d given up on her teleportation theories.

After speaking to the duty nurse, and asking her to keep Delavan’s room sealed until the Crime Scene officer could run her own scans, they headed back to the car. 

Outside the sun had fully risen, but the persistent cloud cover rendered the city in shades of white and gray. The only color seemed to come from Lena’s bright red hat, which she tugged further down over her ears as they crossed the visitor’s lot to the car. 

Once inside the vehicle, Kai linked his commulet with the GPS and programmed in Delavan’s address in an upscale section Greenwitch Village. While he pulled out of the lot, Lena used her own commulet to pull up any data she could find on the vic. 

Once again Kai was impressed by how quickly she slid into the investigative routine.  

“How long were you on the job in Au'xian?” he heard himself ask.

“Two years uniform, one undercover, two as a detective,” she said. Then, before Kai could comment on how fast she’d moved up the ranks added, “Delavan works, or worked, rather, in the theoretical thaumaturgy department at Syn City University. He’s a tenured professor, and has been on staff for thirty-eight years, not unusual for a drykk,” she murmured before adding, “He went to SCU for undergrad, then went to Enki University of Raman, where he received his ThD.  He was primarily a research fellow at SC, but he did have one lecture series and was co-running a theoretical physics study.” 

Kai frowned. “Why would a thaumaturge be working in theoretical physics?” 

“It’s not that odd for researchers with different specialties to work together,” Lena replied. “If they didn’t, thaums and techs would never have gotten together to make our commulets. And if the physicists hadn’t teamed up with thaums, we wouldn’t have our knightsticks, or the pocket universes for our armories they link to,” she continued, clearly warming to the theme. “We’d be stuck with whatever weapons we could carry, like in the way back, when it was practically all lethal force.” She shuddered at that, then glanced out the window. “I wouldn’t want to be stuck with only a crossbow or sword on every single confrontation.” 

 “Good point.” Kai eased to a stop behind a delivery van as he worked out what else the combination of magical science and the much less reliable science of physics could create. “What’s your go to?” he asked, as the light changed from orange to blue and he followed the van down the street. “From the armory, I mean.” 

“Depends on the circumstances, obviously,” Lena said, still skimming the data hovering over her commulet. “I do like a bola for fleeing suspects.” 

“That’s a good one,” Kai admitted, picturing the weighted rope that, thrown by an expert, could tangle the legs of a the biggest perp. “When you have space enough you’re not going to hit a bystander, anyway.” 

She looked up, at the streets which were already beginning to fill with morning commuters. “I guess there’s less of space in Syn City,” she admitted. “What’s your take-down tool of choice?”

He grinned at the description. “When they’re running in a crowd? Mostly my feet.” He shrugged. “Our CQC training is significant. But once Delavan was cornered in the alley, I used a dart rope to contain him. The knightstick chose well,” he added, thinking back. “Especially given I didn’t know he was a wizard when I tapped into the armory.” 

“I bet the SCPD’s thaumic engineers designed the system with a prognostication algorithm,” Lena said, returning to her commulet. 

“Say that five times fast,” Kai murmured, taking a left, then seeing the street where their victim had his home, let out a low whistle.

“What?” Lena asked, looking up, then her eyes widened at the row of elegant townhouses standing shoulder to shoulder along the tree-lined street. “I’ve never seen that much stained glass in my life,” she murmured, studying the windows they passed, then frowned. “Their gardens are the size of shoe boxes. Why do they bother building fences?”

“I guess rich people like their boundaries.” Kai shrugged and found a parking space two houses down from their destination, saving the trouble of double parking. Not that he minded double parking on the job, but he just wasn’t caffeinated enough to enjoy a pissing match with the privileged of Syn City.

They both climbed out of the car. Lena, he noted, was still careful of the snow, but this block didn’t seem to have any underlying ice. Probably the whole shading street was charmed against ice, or mud, or anything else that might inconvenience the residents. 

“I didn’t think professoring would pay this well,” Lena observed as they made their way to Delavan’s house.

“Professoring?” Kai smiled. 

“Sounded better in my head,” she mumbled, then engaged the commulet again, scrolling through the holo. 

“Well, Delavan comes from old money,” Kai pointed out. “Alex dug out some of his history when we made the arrest, yesterday.” 

“Money’s a strong motive for murder,” Lena observed.

“One of the big three,” Kai agreed as they approached Delavan’s address, where he opened the ubiquitous garden gate. 

“Money, sex, and revenge,” she nodded, stepping through, but waiting on the steps for Kai to join her before they climbed together to the front door. “Wonder which of the three did for the professor?” 

“Too early to say,” Kai determined as he pressed the doorbell, which gonged with what he supposed was a suitably wizard-like resonance. 

“He’s listed as single, no co-habs of record,” Lena said as they stood, waiting.

“Yeah, but look at this place,” Kai gestured at the gleaming stone of the townhouse. “I bet there’s a housekeeper, or butler—some sort of staff in residence.” He thought about that and added. “But no romantic history bumps sex down on the motive list.” 

The words had barely left his mouth when the door opened and Kai got an eyeful of a supremely fit young woman with the faintly blue complexion of a siren sleepily dragging a robe over an otherwise unclothed body. 

“Or not,” Lena said, as Kai activated his shield and prepared to ruin a stranger’s day.

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