It was only a ten minute walk between my home and the station. It was cold outside, but I didn’t mind in the slightest. I walked up the stone stairs to the door of the station, my high heals clacking against the cold cement steps.
Of course, I found the door to be left unlocked. I let out a sigh. It was lucky Jaden bothered to think twice about the door while he was out. Still, I would need to go in and have a look around to make sure that everything seemed to be in place.
I turned the doorknob, making sure to open the door slowly enough as to avoid the creaking of the hinges. I examined the main entrance of the station before stepping inside. So far, everything seemed to be in place. Once I felt confident enough that I was alone, I took a step inside and took a better look around as I walked to the back of the building, my shoes poking out from under my cloak as I went in. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary.
I pulled my hood back. My black hair fell out in heaps, standing out against my pale skin. I made my way to the large office at the end of the hallway. There were twelve desks, six on each side of the room. I assumed that this would be the only room that would have been left unlocked since it would have been the only one that Jaden would have been using. I paced to the back of the room and back to the door a single time, analyzing each desk for anything suspicious. There was nothing out of place.
Just as I was locking the door, ready to leave the station, I heard footsteps coming from just down the hall. My head jolted back and I held my breath for a moment, silencing myself and straining my ears for more sounds. The faint sound of shuffling could be heard. Someone was quietly but quickly making their way to the exit.
I ran down the hall, leaving my keys in the door and trying my best to step lightly but knowing that speed would be more important in this case. I wasn’t careful in my entry. They were bound to already know I was there. The shuffling changed direction, as if the intruder didn’t know which way he, or she, were going. Or perhaps the intruder was just playing with me, trying to scare me.
“Who’s there?” I called out, slowing down to a cautious pace.
There was another change in direction.
“Show yourself!” I demanded, but there was no response other than the confused shuffling of footsteps just around the corner. I stopped.
“Jaden?” I asked. “If that’s you, you can stop now. No one likes being spooked in the middle of the night. This would be a new low, even for you.”
The shuffling stopped and there was silence. My body tensed as I waited for a response. There was none. It wasn’t Jaden. Jaden always broke into laughter as soon as he realized that he had gotten anywhere near scaring me. A simple startled stare would have been satisfactory enough for him. Whoever this stranger was in the station was not meant to be there, at least not during those hours.
“I’m coming out now,” I warned. “I want your hands in the air!”
I could hear the front door open and immediately broke into a run. Rushing out the door, I dug my heels into the ground and skidded to a stop, just barely avoiding the steps before me. I saw nothing as I turned to look to my right and my left. I could run in any direction, in hopes of finding the intruder, but with every turn I took there would be more turns to come, lessening my chances of finding the intruder. It would be nothing more than a game of luck, and I wasn’t willing to play.
I reluctantly took a step back inside, still straining my ears for any sounds that might have lead me in the intruder’s direction, but all was silent. All I could do now was go back inside and check for anything out of the ordinary, but I already did that. I looked around the entrance hall, this time checking each drawer of the front desk. Nothing was wrong. I placed my palm on the mouse of the computer, wiggling it to see if the computer would wake up. As far as I could tell, it was off. I ducked my head below the desk just to be sure. The little light that would have been green to indicate that the computer was on, or at least orange to say it was asleep, was also off.
The intruder wouldn’t have had the time to shut the computer off in a rush. If he had already turned it off, I wouldn’t be finding anything. There were others up to the task of going through these things to see if anything had been previously meddled with. All I knew was that the computer would serve me no purpose in finding anything of what the intruder was looking for. I myself wouldn’t have been able to tell what was touched or used, unless…
I wandered away from the desk and around the corner, following the black cord. I sighed when I realized that my theory led me nowhere. The computer was still plugged in. What else was there to check? I walked to the back of the building again, only this time I had my eyes peeled for anything and everything. I tapped each door as I walked past, checking to see if any would open.
It was when I nearly reached the back that I found my own door open, swung all the way up against the adjacent wall of the frame. I stepped into my office, feeling a pang of embarrassment. Had I forgotten to lock my office? I scratched through my memory of the previous night. I thought for sure that I locked it, but now I couldn’t be sure of anything at all. There was evidence against my own memory right there. It was possible that the intruder knew how to pick a lock, but that would be another assumption that I wasn’t at liberty to make. There were too many unknown variables.
I analyzed the room; the floors, the shelves, the desk, even my chair. Everything seemed to be in order, everything but one small thing. In the center of my desk, resting on top of my calendar, was a tiny cardboard box. I opened it up, carefully. Inside was my own detective’s badge. I stared at the gold metal piece that had “Hollowville Detective” engraved at the top. I was the only official detective of the district, so it couldn’t have been anyone else’s badge. Even so, I checked the pockets of my cloak. I found my wallet and opened it up. My ID was sitting in its place, the picture of my solemn face was looking right back at me, but there was no badge.
My heart sank. Was I being blackmailed? How had anyone managed to get to my badge? The fact that someone managed to get that close to me was putting me on edge. I wasn’t one to let my guard down. Of course accidents happen, even I lose track of myself at times, but had someone just been at the right place at the right time? Did they know me well enough to tell when I was at my weakest? The last thought didn’t make sense. No one knew me that well, and I couldn’t possibly be that readable.
I noticed a slip of paper resting below the badge. I took the badge out and quickly placed it back where it belonged before venturing to take the slip of paper. I was hesitant to turn it over. Expecting threats or demands, I turned it over to read:
Reading my own name on the little note sent my fears into overdrive. I calmed myself, waiting for my hands to stop shaking before reading on. I was horrified. What if this intruder knew something? I thought back to the cases I had been dealing with. I tried recollecting every name of the officers that had any involvement with my cases. For the most part, Jaden seemed to take on any new information if I wasn’t present at the office. When I dealt with things myself, I was sure to do it alone, but I would need to be sure to ask Jaden if he ever accepted or asked for anyone’s help.
I stopped myself from thinking any further. Before trying to come up with possibilities, I needed to fully take in the information before me. I went on to read the note:
Sorry I kind of just took this from you. I was just borrowing it. I didn’t think you would mind, but I also didn’t think I would have to give this back directly..so yeah. I’m leaving you a note and hoping you’ll forgive me, or at least forget, by the time we see each other again.
I sighed in relief once I read my friends name. All of the possibilities that had been sending my thoughts to chaos vanished in an instant, but were soon replaced with irritation. How on earth had Jaden managed to get my badge, and why would he even need it? I was growing angry at the fact that he had gone to so much trouble to return it to me. If I had caught up to him without realizing who he was, I could have lost control. I shook the thought out of my mind. Nothing of the sort happened and there was no use in thinking up what was avoided.
I tossed the box, along with the note, into the trash can below my desk. I let the relief sink in once again, brushing aside all current feelings of irritation. Those feelings could wait until morning. There was no way I was going to forget that night’s incident as Jaden hoped I would. Without another thought on the matter, I headed for the door and tripped over an open drawer of my desk.
I stretched my arms forward to catch myself. I managed to land softly enough, but my back leg rubbed against a corner of the open drawer. I rolled onto my back, wincing. It was only a minor breakage of skin, but it had been so long since I hurt myself at all. The pain was unexpected; I almost forgot what it was to feel pain at all. I moaned as I rolled back onto my knees and stood.
I kicked the drawer shut before examining my leg. There was no blood, but there was a shallow, nasty gash near my ankle. I let out another sigh. It was not my night. All I wanted to do at that point was to go home, but I still had more to do. The bakery wasn’t going to go anywhere, but any evidence left behind could.
I didn’t waste any time in getting my keys from the door I left them in and locking up. I locked the back office, my office, and the front door of the station before leaving. I jogged- nearly ran–down the streets. I was determined to get through with my work as quickly as I could. It would be nice if I could fit in a good dinner rather than a small snack. It had been too long since I had the time for a decent meal.
My hunger had already gone past the simple grumbling. I was now dealing with a constant burn. I could only hope that my work would be distracting enough to get my mind off of the hunger. If only it hadn’t been the other way around. It took far too long for me to notice the new twist of the night. When I did realize what was going on, I froze in my tracks.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I muttered under my breath as I walked towards the bakery.
The entire building was being fenced off. Short, wooden posts were struck into the ground so that the yellow tape, reading “CAUTION KEEP OUT” could be wrapped around the vicinity. Two officers were patrolling the area. I ran over.
“What’s going on?” I asked, reaching one of the officers, who didn’t even realize I was approaching up until I called out to him. His lack of focus ticked me off.
For a moment, he looked shocked to see someone out so late, but the expression was quickly replaced with a stern look. “This area is closed off. Noone is allowed in the area until further notice.”
I pulled out my wallet and flipped it open, revealing my badge. “Private Lily. I just came here from the station to investigate.”
“Do you know about what just happened?”
“Are you referring to the supposed cases of memory loss in this area?” I asked.
“Look,” the officer sighed. “If you don’t know what’s going on, then I’m not at liberty to inform you of the situation. This area is under strict precaution. I’m not allowed to permit entry to anyone. Orders are orders. You’ll have to put off your investigation. Unless I’m given specific permission allowing you past, I can’t let you in.”
I didn’t say anything. I was too angry to think straight and too hungry to focus at all.
“I’m sorry detective, but you’ll have to come back. Maybe you should talk to your chief about it tomorrow. If you really were assigned to investigate, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to get the permission.”
“I’ll do that,” I said, turning and walking away.