I wasn’t sure of how to proceed. Everything was running out of control and no one knew what was going on. The station was busy enough without having to worry about the mystery person that had slipped into the station and managed to escape. There was already speculation that the stranger had something to do with the strange cases that I was already dealing with.
I didn’t consider it likely. I already knew what I was dealing with when it came to the other cases; this intruder was something new–something unexpected. I was uneasy. The uncertainty and lack of straightforward, definite answers was causing me to stall. Mrs. Jacobs was waiting for me in my office, but I wasn’t moving. I was standing by the front desk, facing the hallway that would lead me to my own office, but I wasn’t moving. I was hesitating.
“Check everything,” Roy was ordering. “I want to know every little thing that is out of place. Check the files, reread all of the files, check for prints. Check the whole station!”
“Y-yes sir,” a woman was stuttering. Her quiet voice barely scratched its way through my own thoughts.
I knew that Roy was directing the wrong woman. I couldn’t blame him; it was a complicated and unprecedented situation for us in Hollowville. Not only was the situation new to us, but it was also sudden. Roy had just learned that we had an intruder; It hadn’t even been five minutes since I told him. He had immediately slammed his desk and stood up. I tried to tell him more; I tried to discuss things and consider possibilities or solutions, but he hadn’t given me the chance. He just stood up and stormed out of his office. He didn’t even pause for a breath before barking orders at any and every employee that was in his line of sight.
“Chief,” I interrupted, sternly but respectfully. “I don’t mean to give you orders, but you may want to consider talking to someone else. That young woman you are speaking to is just a secretary. She wouldn’t know how to handle this, or who to go to for that matter.”
Roy took a deep breath. “I’m sorry,” he said to the woman.
Roy might overreact or take things too far, but he always knew when to step back once he realized it. He knew better than to continue on a useless spurt, even if it was one that he started.
“Would you like some help, sir?” I asked. “I could assist in getting everyone together as well as investigate a few things myself.”
“No, Lily, that is quite alright.” Roy took in another deep breath and let it out slowly. “Go speak with Mrs. Jacobs. She has been waiting long enough.” I barely heard him continue to say. “Celestia knows that we need her out of our hair today as quickly as possible.” Roy raised his voice again, so that he could clearly ask, “Could you send Jaden over?”
I gave him a nod and walked down the hall. My office door was left open just a crack, so I just tapped the door with the back of my hand, and it swung open. Seeing the back of Mrs. Jacobs’s tall red hairdo had me wanting to walk right back out, but that wasn’t an option. Jaden, who was sitting in my own chair, looked up at me and gave me a cheesy smile, one that he seemed to be forcing. His eyes were begging that I get him out of there.
Mrs. Jacobs took notice of Jaden’s averted gaze and turned her head to look at me. She met my gaze and gave me a sweet but mostly sour smile. I smiled back, doing my best to hide my growing frustration with the client. I then looked away from her to direct Jaden.
“Roy needs you,” I told him.
“Oh?” He hopped out of my chair and mouthed a “thank you” as he passed Mrs. Jacobs.
I stopped him before he left with my hand on his shoulder.
“Really,” I said. “He is asking for you.”
“Why would he think you weren’t being serious?” Mrs. Jacobs asked, sounding suspicious. “Do you all have a tendency of joking around and slacking in your work?”
“Of course not, Mrs. Jacobs,” I assured her. “I am only meaning to stress the importance of the matter. He needs to hurry.” I let my hand fall and Jaden nearly ran out. I shut the door behind him. “Things are very busy down here at the station lately.”
“I see,” Mrs. Jacobs said, but her gaze warned that she wasn’t really letting it pass.
“Shall we get straight to business?” I asked. “I need to get as much information from you as I can.” I walked around my desk and took a seat. I pulled my chair close to the desk as I spoke. “You said you were attacked?”
“Indeed,” Mrs. Jacobs said, “and it wasn’t by a human.”
“Oh?” I asked. “Well, Mrs. Jacobs. Do you know what it was?” I opened a drawer and pulled out a small notepad and pen. I didn’t need it, but with a client as nit picky as this one, it was best to fake a little extra diligence.
“What do you mean, what was it? I just told you that it wasn’t a human.”
I didn’t know how to respond to that. I must have stared at my own client for an entire minute before proceeding.
“Mrs. Jacobs, if it wasn’t a person, it just makes this whole situation a little more difficult to figure out. If you were attacked by some animal, to be honest, there isn’t much we can do. If this animal was a pet, the best we could do is notify the owner and ask that they keep them on a tighter leash from that point on.”
Mrs. Jacobs’s face went red. She glared at me with intense anger. “Do I look like a fool to you?” she asked. “I was not attacked by some PET and it wasn’t some wild animal. This was something worse-—something dangerous. Do you think I would come to you to report some dog chasing me in the middle of the night? I was attacked by a monster!”
I sighed. “Mrs. Jacobs, forgive me, but I am going to need you to elaborate a lot more than that.”
Mrs. Jacobs let out a huff.
“Could you tell me what this monster looked like?” I asked. I couldn’t believe that I was going along with it.
“Like a person,” she told me.
“Like a person?” I asked.
“What made this monster different from a regular human?”
The response caught me off guard. “Pardon?”
“Its eyes. They were red, and they were glowing.”
I let out a laugh. I just couldn’t help myself. “Mrs. Jacobs, can we please be reasonable here.” I took in a breath and managed to hold back the remaining chuckles. “I understand that you have had a lot going on here, but you really need to understand that we cannot help you with a story like that. What do you expect me to do? Request that you receive bodyguards to protect you against some supernatural creature?”
Mrs. Jacobs stood from her chair. “How dare you insult me like this!”
“Sit down, Mrs. Jacobs,” I said fiercely. “If you want my help, you are going to need to accept the fact that I just do not do supernatural investigations. If you want me to find someone for you—fine. I can look into that; however, I will not sit here and listen to you speak of fairy tales. You have two options here, Mrs. Jacobs. The first is that you speak with me like an adult and give me a description of this person that you saw and tell me whatever usable and realistic information you can. The second option is that you leave and forget about the possibility of receiving help from anyone here. Do you understand?”
“Who do you think you are?” Mrs. Jacobs shrieked.
“The only one that bothered to listen to you, and that was before you brought in your supernatural additions.”
Mrs. Jacobs gritted her teeth and took her seat.
“Now tell me what you can about the stranger.”
With a sigh, Mrs. Jacobs reluctantly began her description. “I can’t say much. It was too dark and he hid his face well. He wore a leather, hooded coat.”
“You at least saw enough to be certain that your attacker was male though?” I asked her. “You must be able to do better than that.”
Mrs. Jacobs shook her head. “No, I didn’t see enough. I just heard his voice. His voice was definitely masculine.”
I leaned back in my chair and crossed my arms. I took in what information I could. “What did he say to you?”
Mrs. Jacobs took in a deep breath and let out a nervous laugh. Her face flushed a light shade of pink.
“Mrs. Jacobs?” I pressed.
“Perhaps I should go,” she said suddenly.
“Before you do, I would highly advise you tell me what he told you.”
“It doesn’t make sense,” she told me. “I probably heard him wrong.”
My curiosity was beginning to nag. I leaned forward rested my chin on my palm. “I won’t brush what you thought you heard aside. If you heard wrong, so be it, but if you didn’t, it may prove useful. I would like to know what kind of person you found yourself with. This may all be a practical joke.”
Mrs. Jacobs shook her head. “I’m sure I heard wrong.”
I sat back again. “If you aren’t comfortable, you may leave. The best I can suggest right now is that you come back and speak with me again after you’ve gotten over your shock.”
Mrs. Jacobs gave a few quick nods and stood. I was baffled by her sudden desire to leave after putting so much effort into finding time with us. She turned around and put her hand on the door knob. As she pushed the door forward, I called out to her.
She stopped; the door was open only a crack. “Yes?” she asked shakily. The evident fear was concerning me.
“Please refrain from leaving your home after dark. Until everything is sorted out, precaution will be your best friend.”
“Of course,” Mrs. Jacobs agreed, and then she left, closing the door behind her.
I leaned back in my chair and pressed my palms against my forehead. “What is this?” Nothing made sense. It would be so easy to brush Mrs. Jacobs’s claims aside as nothing more than cries for extra attention and focus toward her own cases, but her fear had me wondering if her new claims were sincere. Could she just be losing her mind? Could it all have been nothing more than imaginings? That was the only explanation that fit, unless someone out there was coincidentally adding trouble at the worst of times. Whatever the explanation was, I didn’t have the time to focus on it just yet.
I spun my chair and hopped up to my feet. I left my office and made my way straight over to Roy’s office. He was finally resting after an afternoon of running himself mad over the situation of the intruder.
“Did you find anything?” I asked.
Roy shook his head. “Are you sure you saw someone in the station?”
“Well…” I said.
“I didn’t see the intruder, but I did hear him.”
“You heard him?” Roy asked, as if he couldn’t believe his ears. “Sounds could mean anything. How do you know it wasn’t just the wind?”
“I know it wasn’t the wind,” I said firmly. “You know I would never make a claim that I am unsure of.”
Roy shook his head again. “Lily, all of these happenings lately have everyone a little off. You may very well be over thinking everything.”
“Lily, please. We didn’t find anything missing, and you have no real information that I can work with.”
“Are you sure you checked everything?” I asked.
Roy nodded. “We are still double checking a few things and going through a few other procedures just in case, but as far as I can tell, nothing is out of the ordinary. If there was someone in here, you scared him off before he got to anything.”
“I suppose that’s likely,” I said.
“You can get back to your own work now, Lily,” Roy told me. “There is no need for you to worry yourself over anything past your own work right now.”
“Thank you,” I said.
Roy just waved me out.
I went back to my office. I wasn’t sure of what to do next; what I needed was to clear my head, but that would have to wait until I was off duty. For the time being, I decided to add Mrs. Jacobs’s new claims to her case file.
“J” I mumbled to myself. I looked at my drawers mumbling, “J-J-J.”
H-K was labeled on the bottom drawer of the tall cabinet on the wall to the right of my desk. I opened it and shuffled through the collections of folders, looking for the J tab, which was near the back. I shuffled through the J folders—twice.
“Where is it?” I asked myself in frustration.
I checked the J folders a third and fourth time before going through the rest of the drawer. I looked through the entire drawer twice and then proceeded to look through my desk drawers and then the rest of the cabinet.
Mrs. Jacobs’s case file was missing.