“Oh,” Mayoi blinked as she processed the scene in front of her. “This kind of clientèle.”
The “middle of the afternoon” crowd had the tavern half filled to maximum capacity. Given that the total bar population at the moment was an equal mix of men and women of all races across the whole interior, Mayoi wasn’t surprised by the size of the crowd, but rather what it was made up of:
Half of both sides of the gender coin were smoking in the back while gambling away their life savings; meanwhile, the other half of the divide were those drowning their sorrows in liquor and waitresses dressed in maid costumes.
What also was surprising was that the maid-costume aspect wasn’t fetishized up like one typically saw in taverns and bars like these- all being the same dress uniform across all races hired and all consistently skimpy. In here, each uniform was tailor-fit to a given waitress’ body needs, and weren’t all that flashy or skimpy. That meant that the owner of the place had enough coin to spend on custom fit uniforms, and was of the opinion that they didn’t need to make sexualized outfits for their staff to gain revenue.
It was rare to see a place like this, Mayoi noted.
“Hey,” Robert motioned over to the girl at the tavern’s bar- “Where’s the owner?”
“Upstairs,” The Undine motioned with her head towards the stairs in the back.
“There’s an Upstairs?” Mayoi asked.
“I don’t see my father anywhere in here,” Sahha scowled. “It doesn’t surprise me any, though. He’s probably upstairs as well.”
“Well, at least we’re getting into the thick of things,” Mayoi rolled her eyes.
Through the back of the building was a staircase that lead to the upper floors- it was like a miniature hotel… of a sorts.
“They’re licensed for it,” Robert explained as they walked past the rooms of loud couples coupling. “I think the building’s even reinforced or something?”
“It is,” Sahha nodded. “I had to approve the sound proofing ward paperwork for it last month.”
“Wonderful!” Mayoi rolled her eyes. “I’m so glad you left the kids back at the Mayor’s office! No way they could possibly get into trouble there.” She paused mid step for a moment as she realized, “Aw, crap, I just cursed them, didn’t I?”
“Mizar be willing, I sure hope not,” Sahha grumbled. “My waiting room is not the place for squabbles of any kind.”
Caria Calvert, once Mayoi, against the better judgement of both her jail-breaking Lawyer and her wealthy merchant friend, stormed up the steps towards the Mayor’s office with a determined growl emanating from her throat.
As for where those two were? Lost, looking for her in the maze of the town’s dock yard. They had no idea that she was about to hunt down the largest problem in her life right now. The pest who had so obviously hypnotized her daughter into ‘taking care of’ her.
Well, Caria didn’t bother to fight back the cruel smile, she would take care of that one fairly easily. Caria stalked up the stairs, through the main entryway, and then into the familiar waiting room where her daughter had slapped her senseless with her tail. She scowled as her eyes locked in on the dragon girl working on paperwork at her desk before the Mayor’s office.
No sense letting her raise an alarm this time.
Stealthily (or what Caria thought as stealthily), she marched towards the desk, hands itching to grab the nearest object and– crinkg, a loose tile protested.
“What the-?” Alexa looked up in surprise as she recognized Caria. “You!! GUARDS! GUARRRKK!!” And then Caria’s hands closed around Alexa’s throat in an attempt to silence her.
“Shut. UP!!” Caria snarled at the poor secretary. Alas, Caria knew the alarm was raised regardless. She had a limited amount of time now. “Where the hell is that Lycan girl!?”
“I-” Alexa squeaked in protest- unable to get the air to talk even if she wanted to. Caria didn’t seem to notice the paradox.
“TELL ME WHERE SHE IS! NOW!” Caria gripped tighter- choking, further and further-
“Put the poor girl down,” Said a chillingly familiar voice from behind. “I’d hate for her to get blood and scales splattered all over her.”
“…” Caria, hesitantly, relaxed her grip on the girl- not enough to have completely let go, but enough to let her breathe again- Alexa gasped for air- and then looked over her shoulder to see… “You again.”
“Me again,” Tyler Obonz said, pointing that stolen flare gun straight at her head with a faintly amused smirk on his lips. “I take it you recognize the thing I’m holding?”
“One of John’s flare guns,” Caria observed. “Nasty piece of work. He once told me those things were used during the Cataclysm war by the Pyromanders. A way of reaching beyond their magic range, and burning ships ten fold… They’re Illegal to use against a living being, you know.”
“Then you probably know what will happen to you if you don’t let Alexa go right now,” Tyler insisted.
“You’ll be arrested for murder,” Caria pointed out. “Cold Blooded. First Degree. So step aside and let me torture the location of the Lycan girl out of this sad excuse of a dragon, maybe you’ll get off easy when I kill them both. No, I know you will. I know people who can get us off-”
“Third degree,” Tyler interrupted with a pun, “given the burns your face will be suffering from if I actually fire this thing. So Let Alexa go, and I won’t shoot you where you stand.”
“Grr…” Caria scowled- getting tired of holding both the now-struggling girl in her hands, as well as keeping her head turned at an awkward angle over her shoulder- then relented, “Fine.” With that, she let Alexa fall to the floor, and turned around so as to face Tyler directly. “I take it you’re going to kill me now, regardless? Did you kill John after I left him? I can’t imagine he gave you that gun willingly.”
“Oh, no, I’d never go so far as to do that,” Tyler laughed. “I borrowed it from the crate his secretary was checking before I even came to pay you a visit this morning.”
“Oh? Is that it?” Caria laughed. “So you could have killed me at any time this morning… Clever, holding it back until now.”
“Consider me an opportunist,” Tyler narrowed his eyes at the girl behind Caria. “And besides… do you want to know a secret?”
“What’s that?” Caria asked.
“It’s not even loaded,” Tyler smirked.
“What do you mean it’s not–?” WHAM!!!
And then Caria Calvert fell to the ground, stunned by a blow to the head courtesy of a large box of files held by none other than Ayako Mayoi- the angry Lycan granddaughter.
“Feel better now?” Tyler asked even as he pocketed the flare gun and pulled out a pair of hand cuffs to arrest Caria with.
Ayako simply huffed before putting the box of paperwork down on Alexa’s desk. “What do you think?” she replied, even as she went to check on Alexa’s status.
“Th… that was great,” Alexa gave a smile and a weak thumbs up, even as she tried to regain her breath.
“Urgh…” Caria groaned, even as she felt the handcuffs being slipped around her wrists, “What hit me…?”
“That would be us booking you for the attempted torture and murder of Alexa Izala and attempted murder of Ayako Mayoi,” Tyler replied with gusto as he tightened the cuffs a bit more. “Also? Escaping jail. But did I mention the attempted murder?”
Kana Mayoi felt like laughing all of a sudden.
“I think,” she began as they approached the room that they’d been told the owner of the building was in, “whatever I cursed them to? We just missed something awesome happening.”
“I’m sure that kid of yours will tell us all about it when we get back,” Robert said, then knocked at the door. “Tobias Izala?” he called in, and waited for a response…
“Just a moment…” There was a pause, then the door opened, revealing Tobias Izala. “Who is it?”
“Guard Chief Hoss,” he introduced himself. “I’m here with Mayor Morgan and Detective Mayoi from Mystr-” and then the dragon on the other side of the door slammed it into his face and then ran. “DAMN IT!” Robert swore before he kicked the door open, just in time to see their target fleeing out the window.
“I hate it when they rabbit,” Mayoi said as she and Robert entered the room, and headed straight for that window. “Go around!” Mayoi ordered, “I’ll chase him!” And with that, she leaped out the window, while Robert ran back the way he came.
Sahha entered next, observing the room. It was the standard fare for the building. A single bed, a table and some chairs- with a surprised, older Lamia man sitting there holding a set of cards- and an open window leading out into a fire escape.
“Sahha?” The Lamia asked, surprised, upon seeing his son enter behind the two detectives. “What’s going on?”
“Father?” Sahha blinked as he recognized that it was, indeed, his father, Ju’Rahk Morgan, sitting there at the table. Sahha wasn’t really surprised, but it bared asking anyways, “What are you doing here?”
“Tobias and I were just playing our weekly card game,” Sahha replied. “What’s happened? Why is Robert going after Tobias?”
“I should be asking you that. Why did he run, Father?” Sahha asked.
“That’s…” Ju’Rahk looked down sadly at his drink.
Mayoi leaped over the side of the fire escape- which Tobias was already half-way down, having been skipping steps by the threes- and flared her wings so as to glide down to the same level he was on just as he got there. She landed on the railing and ordered, “Tobias Izala! STOP!”
“NO WAY!” The other Dragon growled at her- and then went to push her off of the fire escape’s railing. Mayoi jumped off to the side, landing on the escape’s landing. This had the side-effect of letting Tobias flip over the railing all by his own stupidity, saved only from falling flat on his back by Mayoi grabbing at his tail and keeping him from going any further.
“Okay. But have you considered, ‘Yes Way’?” Mayoi rolled her eyes, even as Robert came running around into the alley from the front of the building.
“Damn, I’d say you caught that cat by the tail,” Robert joked.
“It hurts, please… can you let me go now?” Tobias whined in pain. “Please, I’ll talk.”
“You sure about that?” Mayoi asked. “It might hurt a lot more if I let go right now.”
“JUST DO IT!” Tobias yelled, panic fully formed in his eyes. “I’LL TALK! I SWEAR TO YOU, I’LL TELL YOU EVERYTHING!!! JUST LET ME GO NOW!! PLEASE!!!”
“All right, fine, geeze,” Mayoi let go of the dragon’s tail- and he fell. Almost immediately, however, he flared his wings, and corrected his short fall so as to land on his feet.
As he did such, however, Mayoi caught sight of the tears in said wings. It wasn’t enough to prevent him from successfully arresting his fall in the way he did, however… They were large enough that Mayoi suddenly understood why the dragon had run down the fire escape rather than taking the leaping glide as Mayoi had.
Someone had clipped his wings, with a shovel, if Mayoi was reading the curve of the cuts right.
“Joan Hayamoto…” Tobias sighed as he sat back down at the table. “Yeah, I knew her. We were friends growing up, us and Frank. Me and him, we both liked her, but… she chose Frank over me. I never held it against them, but on the other hand, I never really talked with them too much after I found out Joan was pregnant.” He sighed in lament, “I was going to go to the wedding though. Frank asked me to be his Best Man. And Joan….”
“Go on,” Ju’Rahk said, patting his friend on the shoulder.
“Joan came to me that night, when I was on the late shift. It was just after sunset and there were only three of us working that late.” Tobias then listed them, “Me, Tu’Rahk, and…” he swallowed, “and Ba’rune, our supervisor.”
“What happened?” Mayoi asked.
“Joan came up to me, looking really concerned,” Tobias began. “She asked me if I would take her kid in as my own, in case something happened to her and Frank. I… I wasn’t sure what to say. I mean, I had my own girl with a kid on the way- Sorna- and…” He started to sob. “Reaper, why!? WHY DIDN’T I DO SOMETHING!?”
“My brother,” Ju’Rahk picked up where Tobias was unable, “saw the whole thing. Ba’rune saw that Tobias wasn’t working because Joan was there, talking with him. Ba’rune came after Joan, yelling at her to leave the construction site. Tobias tried to tell Ba’rune off that he’d get back to work after he’d answered Joan’s question.”
“I take it he didn’t take it very well?” Robert asked.
“By the Creators, no.” Ju’Rahk shook his head, even as Tobias continued to sob. “Ba’rune grabbed Tobias’ shovel from him and hit Joan across the head in a fury, and she fell into the trench. When Tobias went to help her, Ba’rune hit him too, in the back. And then again, and again- this time piercing his wings.”
“’Stay out of it,’ he said,” Tobias muttered, flinching at the end of each quote. “’I’ll take care of her,’ he said. ‘Mystryal won’t ever find the body.’”
“And then he started stabbing down at Joan with his shovel,” Ju’Rahk said. “My brother was already racing to stop him… but my Brother had been well down the line, working on a pipe valve for the Sewer line… by the time he managed to get there-”
“He’d cut Joan’s head off,” Tobias finished that sentence with a sharp growl. “Tu’Rahk was mad. I couldn’t do a thing and Tu’Rahk…”
“My brother killed Ba’rune by repeating the very same motion,” he paused to take a calming breath, “Tu’Rahk took a shovel and ran it through the bastard’s Neck. Except…”
“Except?” Mayoi asked.
“Except it didn’t kill him,” Tobias said. “Instead he just put his head back on and grinned at us while his entire body just… changed!”
“Changed?” Robert asked.
“His aura, my brother said,” Ju’Rahk confessed, “it became dark. Evil. He stopped being a Lamia.”
“The next thing I knew he was a human,” Tobias said. “Then a Lycan, then a Gnome, and then a Sylph and a–” He started sobbing. “HE KEPT CHANGING WHO HE WAS!!”
“My brother said that the changeling left them then, gloating, and having become a hideous monster of fire and wood, and flew off into the heavens on wings of flame,” Ju’Rahk concluded in a whisper. “My Brother brought Tobias to me, explained everything that had happened. I wanted to issue an arrest warrant, but… how could I when I did not even know the man’s true identity?”
“Father…” Sahha looked at the older Lamia in dismay. “How could you keep this from me?”
“I thought… maybe if we ever found her body…” Ju’Rahk said, “but every time I managed to get some headway towards digging up that blasted sewer line, something impossible would happen and I’d be set back by years.”
“If a changeling could turn into anyone,” Mayoi guessed, “then he could probably forge all the necessary paperwork and block progress at will.” She frowned. “So… why now?”
“Why else?” Tobias sobbed. “To kill me.”
“Or me,” Ju’Rahk nodded. “It’s the only logical action that makes sense. My brother died of a suicide. But he wasn’t suicidal. A frame job, I’m sure. He told me he was going to talk to Detectives over the phone and then he was just… gone.”
“Frank died of a heart attack, but he was healthy. He wasn’t in any danger of dying,” Tobias said, “and Joan…”
“It’s a coverup,” Mayoi’s eyes widened. “The Changeling has been trying to hide itself all this time.”
“Wait,” Robert interrupted. “That still doesn’t make sense. Why would it let one of it’s older murders be uncovered then?”
“…Unless something changed?” Mayoi asked, frowning as she thought on it. “Something recent… not just with the town, but in the world…?” Her eyes widened in surprise. “Wait a minute.” She turned to Ju’Rahk. “What happened to the murder weapon?”
“He left it behind,” the former Mayor answered.
“And…” Mayoi’s eyes glimmered as a smirk began to form on her face. “Did you keep it safe?”
“My brother brought it to me, yes,” Ju’Rahk nodded, a smile starting to form on his face as well. “I hid it away for safe keeping in the hopes that we’d catch the killer one day.”
“Perfect,” Mayoi smiled. “I know how to find that son of Kyiahlnah.”
“I’ve never heard that expression before,” Robert remarked.
“I’m improvising,” Mayoi replied with a smile. “Now someone tell me where I can find a phone.”