By Frederick Chagnon
Crazy Salmon Factory, Combs, New Daedalia
Red lights were flashing. Alarms were ringing. Footsteps were approaching. No exits in sight. Unless they found something quick, Walt and Calvin would soon discover what was on the other side.
“What do we do?” nervously asked Walt.
“Now? Now we run,” replied the detective. Walt looked around, but didn’t move.
“There are no exits. The ventilation shafts are filled with the deadly nanobotic gas and I can already see guards coming through the only door. ”
“Doors are too mainstream. Come on.” He started running towards the railway that was giving on the basement.
“Do you have a plan?” asked Walt without moving.
“Maybe!” replied Calvin, while jumping over the ledge, his overcoat clapping behind him.
“Damnit,” cursed Walt, before following him.
Walt landed in something soft, pink, and moist. He quickly sank to his knees. He couldn’t see Calvin anywhere. And the smell, arghh, the smell was everywhere. He was pretty sure he’d have to clean his lab coat with a blow torch. To his horror, he began to move and fell back in the mysterious substance. He couldn’t prevent himself from swallowing a fair amount of… salmon? They were a salmon cannery, so it made sense he supposed. He struggled to sit down and saw Calvin comfortably sitting on the edge, while the scenery behind him was slowly moving.
“Genius plan, right? Let’s hide in the salmon leaving the factory, I thought. Gangsters won’t look there, I mean it smells like crap. Don’t want to ruin their uniform and all.” He picked up a handful of fish and presented it to his friend. “Hungry?”
“Nah, man. I’m fine.”
“Your loss mate,” replied Calvin with his mouth full. They were moving painfully slow and they could see the evil henchmen searching for them. A few seconds later and the garage door opened, revealing the sun rising above the skyscrapers.
“Hey! Who opened the door!” they heard from above. Calvin tugged on Walt’s coat, they jumped down and ran straight outside, where Calvin’s car was conveniently waiting for them. They had somehow survived the night. What would the morning bring them?
Daedalia Ledger Tower, Old City, New Daedalia.
Elva had a plan. She had strong suspicions that entrepreneur/philanthropist Lee-Sun Chen was secretly the Dragon of Death, the mastermind behind the sinister plot to create a mind-controlled army to “take over the city”, whatever that meant. All she needed was proof. Proof, she knew she would find at the charity gala he had organized for tomorrow. Not everyone could get in those things, you had to be one of the “cool kids”. She wasn’t important enough to be invited, but she could maybe get a press pass.
“You think Lee-Sun Chen is a criminal mastermind?” screamed her editor. “We’re not the Daily! We’re a respectable publication, we publish news, not random overblown things.”
“What’s the worst that could happen Luis? You publicly apologize?”
“I… don’t know what you’re talking about…”
“What else are you going to publish? Marc is late with his tech piece anyway.”
“I pushed back the deadline. He’ll be fine.”
“Look, if I can’t get anything, at least you’ll have a recap of the evening with plenty of ass-licking. Think of the ads we’ll be able to get!”
Luis thought about it for a bit and finally gave up.
“Fine. I’ll get you your press-pass, but it better be good!”
“Isn’t it always?” she teased while storming out of the editor’s office.
Now, on to step two, she thought.
Calvin Baker’s car, somewhere in New Daedalia.
“Well that was fun, right?” unconvincingly asked Walt. The pair was sitting in Calvin’s car with the windows open, trying to get rid of the clinging fish smell. “Didn’t learn much, but hey, what can you do about it? Right?”
“Well, we learned a few important things. First, their henchmen are insanely cool bro. They also, in all likelihood come from outside the city, which indicates that the organisation might not be as solid as we thought. Need to hire outside muscle. Second, they have a name: the Children of the Sun. Suddenly, all that solar imagery we’ve seen makes sense. Third, their leader is indeed the Dragon of Death. Dragon imagery now explained,” enumerated Calvin.
“Fine, we know how they call themselves,” started Walt. “We still don’t know who they are. ‘Dragon of Death’ is obviously an alias. Who’s really behind it all? That we don’t know anything about yet. The clock is still ticking. They’re only getting closer to distributing the drug.”
“Mmmm, you’re right…” pensively said the detective. “The investigation is far from over. The Crazy Salmon lead didn’t account to much. There’s still one that we haven’t pursued yet…”
“Our friend Dark Blood. In all likelihood, the last person to have seen John Smith alive and who left the crime scene with a bullet in his or her shoulder. ”
Walt looked around and asked: “And why did we not start by tracking down Dark Blood exactly? That sounds like a much better place to start the investigation.”
“Because now… Now we have some specific questions to ask. What’s the link between John Smith and the Children of the Sun? And more importantly, who shot him or her or it?”
“I see…” Walt was beginning to understand Calvin’s plan. Dark Blood was much more likely to talk when specifically asked about the Children or the Dragon of Death than a general “Who are you working for!” while banging his or her or its head repeatedly on the floor. He was also beginning to understand what he needed to do next. “So you want me to track down Dark Blood, while you go off running after the Dragon?”
“Pretty much,” replied Calvin. The rest of the journey was made in silence. The time for banter and silly jokes was over.
Calvin dropped off Walt at his suburban home and headed to his own apartment. The sun was now just over the horizon, its rays failing to warm the cold morning air. The city was just waking up and the sounds of the daily routine were just starting. How much longer would they go uninterrupted?
He had slept all day and the sun was starting to descend. He had just got out of the shower thinking about how to get to the Dragon of Death when the doorbell rang. He ignored it at first, he never had any visitors, even less at this hour. He put the kettle on the stove and stared at his “evidence wall”. His thoughts were once again interrupted by the overly excited doorbell. This was not a mistake. He opened the door to find Elva on the other side carrying several shopping bags.
“Why does it smell like fish?” she asked while stepping in uninvited. She threw her bags to one corner and noticed that Calvin was only wearing a towel. “Good, you already showered! We leave in 15… What the heck is that?” she exclaimed seeing the evidence wall.
One of the walls had maps and pictures linked to the John Smith investigation all connected with different coloured strings. All the strings were converging to a post-it in the middle marked “Dragon of Death”. Directly below it was another marked “Children of the Sun”.
“I forgot to bring my tin foil hat,” she said smiling. “But you’re missing the most important piece.”
“Which is?” She wrote something on another post-it and pinned it under the central one. Calvin read it out loud: “Lee-Sun Chen? You can’t be serious…” A quick glance and he saw that she was indeed serious. “How are we going to prove this?”
“Why do you think I went shopping?” she said pointing to the pile of shopping bags. “I hope you have a suit ready, because we’re going out tonight.”
Chen Manor, Apollo Hill, New Daedalia.
Although wealth inequalities had been considerably reduced compared to a thousand years ago, they hadn’t been complicated eradicated. Rich people still like to live together and flash their wealth. New Daedalia was no different. Apollo Hill had survived all the disasters that time could throw at it, but had always retained its prestige and wealth. Mansions and spacious manors were sitting atop the hills to the east, looking down at the rest of the city.
Everyone that was anyone was converging to Chen Manor that night. Chen’s charity galas were notorious for their rowdiness and no one wanted to miss out. Elva was glowing, the white of her dress contrasting with the blackness of her skin, while Calvin looked as if he wanted to disappear.
“Did you really had to wear your overcoat?” asked Elva while they were in line.
“It still smells like fish! And a bowtie? Really?”
“Bowties are cool.” They had reached the front of the line.
“What’s that smell?” asked the bouncer’s deep voice. “Invitations?” Elva showed him her press-pass and he let them in. “Told you,” she whispered as they went inside
Luxury. Everywhere they looked, luxury and glamour blinded them. Waiters were sliding through the crowd, offering appetizers and drinks. Everyone was trying to one-up everyone. One of these things could make or break careers. The world was indeed a stage, thought the detective. What was behind all of those fake faces? How many of those had already been compromised by the drug?
“Stay here,” whispered Elva in Calvin’s ear. “I’ll go get ourselves some drinks.” Before he could protest, his companion disappeared in the crowd. Standing awkwardly by himself, he scanned the party-goers to find Chen.
“I’m surprised to see you here, Calvin.” He turned around to see a small chubby man with yellow-streaked brown eyes with a scotch in his hand. Calvin immediately recognized him. “Not exactly your crowd, is it?”
“You better not be behind all of this Orwell.”
“I don’t pull those kinds of stunts anymore. I’m surprised it took you this long to get here to be honest. You’ve slipped off my friend. You’d have solve this one ages ago in your prime.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t play innocent Cal, you’re horrible at it. You’re still looking for the puppet master, the one pulling the strings. The Dragon.”
“Who is he?”
“Oh Cal. You’ll never change.”
They were interrupted by the toast. On top of the central stairs, a handsome Asian man with orange alligator shoes requested a toast. It was their host, Lee-Sun Chen.
“I never would have believed that our dear friend Chen over there was such a big family man. Did you?” said Orwell not paying attention to the toast.
“What are you talking about?”
“I heard he has many many children.” Orwell smiled and disappeared in the crowd.
“Oh.” Calvin finally understood. The Children of the Sun, as in Lee-Sun Chen.
Lee-Sun Chen’s office.
Elva never got those drinks she was supposed to bring. People had seen her and knew she was at there. The perfect moment to slip away to Chen’s office. She’d be gone for only a few minutes, no one would realize she was gone. No one except Calvin, but he was a big boy. He could take care of himself. Plus, she already knew how she wanted to apologize. She had looked at the maps of the Manor before coming and already knew where to find the office. Using a good old hair pin, she unlocked the door and slipped inside unnoticed.
Facing the door was a large window offering a breathtaking view of the city’s skyscrapers. The desk and computer terminal directly in front of it. A wooden library occupied the large portion of the left wall, while an old grandfather clock was on the right wall close to the bar and the lit fireplace. The office was nothing extraordinary luxurious or modern and fit rather well with the Manor’s oldie charm. It took Elva only a few seconds to break into the computer, where she found absolutely nothing worthwhile. It was practically nothing more than a social media machine. She could probably filled several gossip columns about the stuff he was into, but it wasn’t what she came here for. She was about to give up and return to the reception when she noticed one interesting detail.
The grandfather clock didn’t work.
“I think we all know why we’re here today, so I’ll try not to bore y’all too much,” a few laughs answered Lee’s opening remarks. Every sentence was punctuated with a smile worthy of a campaigning politician. Calvin had seen enough of Lee’s type in his time. The power-hungry young wolves. The ones that tried to shape the population in their own image, not realizing that how futile their attempts at control were. Regular citizens were the heart and brains of any healthy society. People like Chen were nothing more than a cancer.
“We can all appreciate the wonderful job our city’s finest do each and every day to keep us all safe,” continued Lee. Another sentence, another empty smile thought Calvin. “No one has sacrifice more and care more about her city over the years, than our proud commissioner: Madeline Wong!” Chen started clapping with the rest of the guests as the commissioner walked up the illuminated stairs. Tan wasn’t too far behind. The sun tattooed on his neck clearly visibly above his shirt’s collar. Calvin looked at Chen’s guards and wasn’t surprised to see the same tattoo on most of them.
“For 28 years, Madeline has worked the streets of our beautiful city without much gratitude,” Chen continued. “Let’s take this night to celebrate a marvelous career that is ending far too soon!” He chugged his drink and people cheered. Chen was good, Calvin would give him that. It only means he was more dangerous.
Elva walked up to the grandfather clock. Someone as rich as Chen wouldn’t leave a thing like that broken. It meant something, she was sure of it. She went back to the desk, but didn’t find anything that might indicate a special time to put on the clock. She had to hurry up. People would begin to wonder where she went. She took a step back and bumped into the library. There was a single book on the middle shelf: an old beautiful illustrated leather-bound version of Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll & Mr Hide. She vaguely remembered reading it back in elementary school. She flipped through the pages and found the scene when the good doctor takes the serum for the first time.
It couldn’t be a mistake. There was a grandfather clock in the background of the image. The same one that was in the office. The clock marked 11:42. A lifetime of reading comic books had not been in vain. Carefully, she turned the hands of the clock to the same time as in the book… Nothing happened. It would have been too easy, she thought. She put the book back on the shelf.
Under the weight of the book, the stand tipped back, triggering a hidden mechanism. There was a muted sound from behind her. She turned around and saw that a portion of the wall above the fireplace had rotated, revealing a small niche with a small hand-written book. Elva smiled. She had finally found what she was looking for: Proof.
As soon as Chen’s speech was done, everyone went back to their drunken debauchery and Elva was still nowhere to be seen. Calvin felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. Walt had found Dark Blood. She was at the Walker General Hospital. He put his phone away when he saw that Chen was free. He took his chance, before someone else did.
“Inspirational speech, Mr. Chen.”
“Baker. Detective Baker,” completed Calvin.
“Ah! This is your night, Detective! My way of thanking you for your services. Which department, if I may ask?”
“Narcotics,” lied Calvin.
“Ah, I’ve seen the news about this new drug. Terrible, isn’t it?” Chen had slipped up. There were no mention of the new drug in the news.
“An absolute shame. We have no lead so far I’m afraid,” lied Calvin. Relief briefly flashed across the Dragon’s face.
“Too bad. I’m sure you’ll find something soon,” he paused for a few moments looking around at the crowd. “This is an exciting age, don’t you think? Soon, those problems will be long gone and this city will enter a new golden age. All it needs is strong leadership and a push in the right direction.”
“You don’t want to push too far though,” Calvin finally saw Elva, hiding behind a column making big signs in his direction. “Your boat might tip over. If you’ll excuse me, my ‘date’ requires my attention.”
“I understand Detective. You go enjoy your evening, while you still can.” There was just enough menace in his tone for Calvin to understand the threat. They both went their respective ways and he met up with Elva behind the column.
“What’s wrong?” asked Calvin
“We need to go. Now,” she whispered. She then proceeded to act very drunk, smashed a few drinks and hors d’oeuvre plateaus on the floor, forcing him to carry her outside. As soon as they were outside, Elva straightened up and picked a sprint towards the woods. That’s when Calvin heard the alarm starting in the Manor and the metal blinds sealing the house down. He caught up with her in the woods, next to his car.
“What did you do this time?”
“Me? I found proof,” she showed him the handwritten book she had stolen from Chen’s office. “What did you do?”