Chapter 1 Edit
---Sequim, Washington; June 4, 2016---
Glenda walked along the quiet, late-night sidewalk, her phone up to her face.
"Yeah, I know, I'm sorry I couldn't make it home in time Ross," she said apologetically, brushing some hair back behind her ear. "Mr. Hurston had a few of us stay behind to catch up on work and I could do with a few extra bucks this paycheck."
Glenda turned the corner and walked past a small loan shop. As she continued on past a fish and chips store, she failed to notice a second person walk out from the corner as well. The unknown figure watched Glenda silently as she continued on her way for a few moments before quietly following.
She passed a toy store, bookstore, beauty salon, and a short alleyway with a dumpster that led into a small offset parking lot. "I'll be sure to get there tomorrow, bright and early." Glenda assured Ross over the phone. "You know me, I'm never late. Okay, see you, and say hi to Arin for me!"
She hung up her phone and made to put it in her purse, but paused when she heard the sound of footsteps. Having been expecting silence, the sudden noise startled her a little. Reflexively, she looked up and around her, but saw nobody there. Looking both ways for a few seconds, she turned back around and continued returning her phone to her purse.
Before she could do so she was grabbed from behind, a strong arm pinning her arms and waist and another over her mouth, preventing her from screaming out for help. The figure dragged her, struggling, into the alley behind her, passing by a spray painted image of a phone on the wall. Soon both of them were gone, leaving only an empty alleyway and silent streets.
Chapter 2 Edit
---Leena's B&B; June 5, 2016---
Drake grabbed a scone from the platter on the dining table and put it in his mouth as he flipped through his book, the front cover of which proudly sported the image of two shirtless men embracing each other, with one looking forward and another with tattoos over his upper body looking off to the side at yet another shirtless man, this time with piercings on his chest and one in his nose. Drake seemed to be rather invested in his latest romance novel, as he didn't notice when half of his scone fell from his mouth and into his lap.
"Another cheesy romance novel?" Carl asked as he walked in from the living room. "What, do we not have enough spiciness in our own lives that you have to compensate with a gay book written by a straight woman?"
"Of course no-" Drake began, pausing when he noticed the scone in his lap. He picked it back up and took a bite out of it. "Of course not," he continued, "And hey, don't knock Myrtle Prende. She may be a she, but she writes the best romances." He swallowed the rest of his scone. "The love scenes aren't half bad either."
"At least tell me she has a basic concept of human anatomy?" Carl asked, leaning over Drake's shoulder to catch a glimpse of his book. "I'm worried she might not know how big 12 inches actually is."
"Not. A word." Came a younger voice from out of the kitchen. Garrett entered the dining room carrying a water bottle.
"Huh?" Drake asked.
Garrett shook his head and pointed at it. "Not you, sorry. Scott was listening in before you even said inches. Though I know Drake would say something similar," he said, nodding at him. He sat down across from the couple at the table and unscrewed the bottle cap, looking at the cover of Drake's book.
"You seriously read Myrtle Prende?" Garrett asked with aversion. "Are they any better than Rose Spume? Because my mom read her." he said, making a face that looked like he had just smelled a fresh bag of garbage.
Drake shook his head and chuckled. "I stopped reading Spume after Waltz with Wendigoes. Took 'eating out' to a whole new level I was not prepared for."
"Hello?" came Artie's voice from the living room, followed by the sound of the front door closing. "Drake? Carl?" His voice grew louder as he neared the dining room. He walked in carrying two manila envelopes and a small brown accordion folder. "Ah, there you two are," he said when he spotted them. "I've got a case for you both, in New Zealand."
Drake set down his book on the table and the pair took the handouts. "Our agents tend to stick to more local cases if we can, and besides Felix you're the only ones who know the country well. I figured you two would want to go together, so you are."
"What's the report?" Carl asked, opening up his envelope.
"Well," Artie began to explain, "a city councilman in Pegasus Town was recently found out to have been cheating on his wife. We don't know who he was cheating on her with though."
"Why is this raising red flags?" Drake asked. "People cheat on each other all the time, especially political people."
"Yes, well," Artie pushed up his glasses, "these two had been married for three decades, the councilman donated his kidney to his wife, and is a devout Christian who had gone on record saying adultery is one of the worst sins someone can commit."
"Maybe an artifact that makes one do the opposite of what you usually do?" Carl suggested. "Or something based on irony? We have a whole section for that."
"Who knows, that's what you two are gonna figure out." Artie said. "Now go, hurry!"
Drake picked up his romance novel and the pair walked out of the dining room. When the front door closed behind them, Artie turned to Garrett, who had picked up a scone of his own from the platter.
Garrett looked up at Artie with a raised eyebrow. "You need me for something, Artie?"
"Actually," he started, "Mrs. Frederic does."
The redhead sat up in his chair, setting his scone down on the table. "I swear I didn't do anything, and if I did it was Scott." He said quickly.
"No, no, you aren't in trouble." Artie replied with a wave of his hand before putting it to his chin in thought. "Well, I don't think you are anyway. She just sent me to bring you to the Warehouse to speak with you. Disappeared before I could ask why."
Uneasy, Garrett got up from his chair and the two left the dining room.
Artie led Garrett to the Samhain Sector (as instructed by Mrs. F., according to Artie). When they reached the section the lights inside were dim and flickering. Garrett rubbed his arms as a cool breeze blew from the entrance, sending a cluster of leaves past a scarecrow guarding the opening. They swirled around both agents and back into the aisles, as if beckoning them to follow.
"So we just wait for Mrs. Frederic to pop up as soon as we walk in?" Garrett asked. "Fitting, getting jumpscared in the Halloween aisle."
"Actually," Mrs. Frederic said, appearing from around a corner next to the pair, "I'll just be walking in this time."
Artie and Garrett both eyed Mrs. Frederic warily.
They exchanged worried glances.
"Mrs. Frederic, is everything okay?" Artie asked nervously. "Anything, er, wrong with, y'know, Paracelsus or anything?"
"Please, Arthur, all is well," she replied nonchalantly. "Given the sensitivity to fear the artifacts behind me have, I thought it unwise to, as you say, "pop up", at the risk of scaring you. Perhaps you two should become used to it sometimes."
Garrett leaned sideways towards Artie. "I think seeing her walk scares me more," he said in a whisper.
"You're wondering why I requested to speak to you personally, Garrett." Mrs. Frederic carried on. "I have a special assignment for you. The both of you, as a matter of fact." She turned around and walked into the sector, and the two agents followed.
"Artie and me?" Garrett asked.
"You and Scott, actually." Mrs. Frederic replied, stepping towards a small jewelry hook on which a rosary hung. Taking a purple glove from her purse and donning it, she removed the rosary from its hook and presented it to Garrett. "This rosary belonged to Johann Blumhardt, who was regarded as a hero for saving a woman from a two-year long possession by exorcising her. It was once used by Bonnie Parker to split herself into two personas."
"Before her less pleasant half decided she wanted to stick around a bit longer." Artie added.
Garrett furrowed his brow and pointed at the rosary. "Wait, you...you want me and Scott to separate? Why? A-are you gonna Bronze him or something?" His voice was tinted with fear.
"No Bronzing for Scott," Mrs. F replied, "at least, not if he doesn't deserve it. I want to send you both on a case in Washington, and now seems like a good time to observe if Scott isn't as malicious as the last time you two separated, muffin-tin or not."
Garrett bristled a little at that, but carried on. "So, you're separating us to see if he can be trusted? What about me, I can keep him in check."
"Excluding recent outings, you mean?" Mrs. Frederic asked. Garrett recalled a certain visit to Montana a few months ago and rubbed his wrists. Although the nail scratches had since healed, he could still feel them itching at times - it bothered him, and he often had to wash his hands multiple times to feel clean again.
"Right." He muttered. "So, uh, what do I do? Do I have to recite a prayer or something? I don't know any hymns or anything."
"All you have to do is wear it." Artie told him.
The Caretaker nodded in agreement. "Just be warned, the process splits your pain and negative aspects into a new entity. The process is not exactly pleasant."
Garrett obediently stepped up to Mrs. Frederic, avoiding looking her in the eye as she lowered the rosary over his head. When it rested calmly around his neck, she took a few steps back, as did Artie, and watched. After a few moments Garrett's arm began shaking. He gripped it with his other arm, grimacing, before hunching over. He began grunting in pain, clutching his head, his chest, his arms.
His pain grew worse and his grunting became mild screaming as he hunched over, a blue glow and what looked like arcs of electricity covering his torso and back. Without warning, a hand emerged from it, glowing with a red and white aura. It braced itself on Garrett's shoulder and pushed, and soon a head and another arm emerged.
Both of them were staining and yelling now, both in pain and struggling to separate. The second head looked down at Garrett determinedly before, with a final shout, it pushed the rest of its body out. Both of them fell to the floor, gasping heavily and grimacing in more pain.
The second being, identical to Garrett in almost every way, from stature to clothes except with slightly messier hair, pushed himself off the ground and staggered to his feet.
"That. Was. Horrible." Scott said, out of breath.
"She did say it wasn't gonna be a walk in the park," Garrett said, getting back to his feet and hurriedly removing the rosary from his neck. "But yeah, I thought I was gonna split in half, and not in the way you intended."
"Mrs. Frederic," Artie said, eyeing Scott rather warily, "Are you sure, absolutely certain this is a good idea? I mean, you know Scott's temper, how unstable he can be when he gets-"
Scott regarded Artie with an annoyed expression as Mrs. Frederic interrupted him by holding up a tied circle of what appeared to be some kind of wire.
"John Dovaston's Cello Wire," she began. "Scott will be wearing this, and it will ensure he'll return to us so long as he wears it."
"No offense, Mrs. F?" Scott said, crossing his arm. "I may be part fox, but I don't enjoy being collared and tied to a pole when I can easily make the decision to come back on my own." He spoke very bitterly, recalling a recent conversation he and Felix had involving the Regents.
"This is merely a test on how well you two can get along together, but apart." Mrs. Frederic explained calmly. "The wire is merely a safety precaution, given precedence. You're free to remove it yourself whenever you like, but I'm afraid it will only bring bad luck to you as a result."
Scott eyed the wire bracelet maliciously, knowing the only other alternative would be going back inside Garrett's head and letting an opportunity to experience the world on his own again go to waste. "Fine." He took the wire from Mrs. Frederic's hand and put it on the non-watch wearing wrist. "This metal better not chafe."
"Oh, it's not metal," Artie said, "it's made from fibre found in the intestinal walls of certain animals."
Garrett and Scott looked at Artie, the latter looking suddenly like he wanted to soak his hand in a bleach bath.
"Anyway," Artie continued, "Mrs. Frederic, the case you wanted to tell them about?"
From her purse, Mrs. Frederic produced two envelopes. "These containin all the information the Warehouse had so far. Several disappearances in and around Sequim, Washington." She began, crossing her hands over her waist. "Most recently, Glenda de Cotis was reported missing today. You two are to investigate what's going on, find these people, and, if possible, save them."
"You think they're ready for something like this?" Artie asked concernedly. "It could be incredibly dangerous."
Mrs. Frederic turned to the pair of redheads approvingly. "I believe past evidence has shown these two can handle their own in dire situations once or twice."
"And we've been taking lessons from Myka," Garrett told him. "I can finally do a high kick without getting a cramp!"
Artie sighed in resignation. "All right, all right. Just," he pointed to Scott, "don't go on another insane rampage, and you," he pointed to Garrett, "keep him in line. And don't get killed, either of you, or else you'll be stuck without the other forever. And I don't care which one of you is gone, we all know what happens when a person loses a part of themselves."
Chapter 3 Edit
"Glad you came along Felix," Drake said, "It's nice having another Kiwi on board who knows his way around. No offense, Carl."
Drake, Carl, and Felix parked their car on the side of the neighborhood road and exited the vehicle.
"No problem." Felix replied, sticking his hands in his pockets. "I also wanted to check out some artifact rumors I've been hearing about, so why not kill two birds with one stone?"
The trio walked down the road until they reached a somewhat large two-storied house with a wide driveway that had a little grass island in the middle. They went up to the door, and Carl knocked.
"If you're reporters I already told the last group to shove off!" A blond middle-aged woman snapped as she opened the door.
"Sorry to bother you, Mrs. Hyan," Drake said, "I'm Mr. Hosfelt, this is Mr. Kyles and Mr. Grey." He gestured to his two partners on either side of him. "We're actually private investigators."
Lilith Hyan crossed her arms and leaned against the doorway. "Private investigators?"
"We've heard about the incident with your husband Joffrey," Felix said, "and from what we know of him and your marriage, we have reason to suspect he might not have had an affair willingly."
"What? Like, blackmail or something?" She asked. "I don't know about anything Joffrey would do that could be used against him."
"Blackmail or not, we'd just like to ask you a few questions to get us started on the right track." Carl said. He nodded his head towards the door, "May we come in?"
"So," Drake began, leaning forward on a brown leather couch while Felix sat beside him and Carl perused the room, "before you found out about his affair, did you ever notice anything... out of the ordinary about him? Strange behavior, new activity, anything?"
Lilith thought for a moment, crossing her hands as she sat in a matching leather chair across from the couch. "Not really, no. Nothing that struck me as suspicious or out of character, anyway."
"Did he happen to come into contact with a new object, maybe an antique of some sorts?" Felix asked, resting his chin on his hands. "Any new people come into his life recently, ones that might have a reason to ruin his reputation?"
Beside the couch, Carl walked over to the fireplace and picked up a framed photograph of Joffrey, Lilith, and a group of several other people out on what looked like some camping trip. Beside it, a few other photographs of the couple adorned the mantle, including a backyard barbecue scene.
"I couldn't possibly imagine. None of the women I know from town or church seem like the kind of people that would do this. Sorry. And antiques?" Lilith asked. "We rarely go antique shopping, and we haven't bought anything in the last three months. The closest thing I can think of is when we went to get our wedding rings resized earlier this month." She leaned forward to show off her hand, which held a wedding band with a decently sized diamond on one finger and another ring with a green shield and the letters CTR on another.
"CTR?" Felix asked, looking at her ring. "What does that stand for?"
"'Choose the right,'" Carl replied, "It's the motto for the Church of Latter Day Saints, mostly given on rings to children but some adults get the rings too."
Lilith nodded. "We attend the church in Rangoria, about 10 minutes away from here. We've attended since before we were married."
The three thanked her, shook her hand, and left.
"I think for once in my life, I'm feeling particularly religious." Felix said with a smirk to the other two. "Shall we see if we might catch a sermon?"
The spray painted image of a phone was illuminated by the flash of Scott's camera as he took pictures of it from several angles. With him, Garrett looked in and around the alleyway.
"Seems like it must have been quick and simple, whatever happened here." Garrett said. "Nothing else here. This is where they managed to trace Glenda's last call to."
"Considering we were left with a literally call sign," Scott gestured towards the phone on the wall, "I think it's safe to say someone deliberately kidnapped her rather than an artifact made her vanish into thin air."
"You got the list of missing people?" Garrett asked.
Scott fished out a folded piece of paper from his pocket. "Gabriella Espenson, Bert Winemaker, and, most recently, Glenda de Cotis. Three people in two months, all with a phone painted somewhere at their last location."
"According to the transcript of her last phone call," Garrett said, "she had just gotten off of work. Her boss, Kenneth Hurston, was one of the last people to see her."
Scott finished taking pictures and put the camera in his bag before zipping it up. "I'll send the pics to Artie. Why don't we pay Hurston a visit, hm?"
The two left the alleyway, thanking the police guarding it for the access, and walked along the sidewalk together.
"Pretty ironic, isn't it? Getting kidnapped here." Scott said, putting his hands in his pockets as he walked. "This place is known for being calm and quiet, not to mention it being the 'Lavender Capital of North America'."
"We tend to come up with our theories pretty quickly," Garrett said as they turned the corner. "Any conspiracies so far?"
Scott tilted his head and squinted his eyes for a few moments as he thought before replying, "This town is known for being calm. Maybe people want to keep it that way by vanishing anyone who rocks the boat somehow. And everyone else turns the other way." He flipped up his hood. "For the greater good." He said in an ominous monotone.
Garrett side-eyed his double in confusion. "Could be, could be. I'll keep my eyes peeled for odd stares or open sewer drains."
"If we wanted to go macabre - and you know I do," Scott smirked, "maybe someone's in the lavender business and their quota wasn't met, and they found a new brand of 'fertilizer'."
"Are you always so grim?" Garrett asked, shivering as he imagined severed body parts sticking up out of rich, black soil.
"Do you have to ask?" Scott retorted. "I was created out of body horror and grimdark, what did you expect? I've got your fascination with the dark-"
"And I'm stuck with the weak stomach and late night urge to pull the blankets over my head." Garrett finished with an annoyed straightening of his mouth.
---Doodlebugs Art Supply Store---
The pair opened the door and walked inside, a little bell tinkling when the door swung forward and back. Inside, the little tile-floored store was decked with shelves and racks of glittery, patterned paper, stamps with hundreds of letters and designs, glue in more forms than one would expect, and more cards for more occasions than the two agents put together could count.
Manning the register was a balding man wearing an apron a bit too small for his frame, ringing up a customer's purchases. Or at least trying to. He looked like he had barely ever used a register and was taking quite a long time to figure out what to do after each product was scanned.
The two agents waited (one more patiently than the other, who had begun annoyedly and annoyingly tapping his foot on the floor) for the man, whose name tag read "Kenneth", to finally finish ringing up his customer's final items after several more long minutes.
"Excuse me," Garrett said as soon as the cashier was free, walking up to the counter. The man did a quick double take at the two identical teens in front of him. "Do you know where we could find Mr. Hurston?"
"Speaking." Kenneth replied. "Who are you two?"
"I'm Garrett, and this is my... twin brother Scott." Garrett said, gesturing towards the doppelganger to his right, who rolled his eyes. "We're junior interns with the local PI's, helping our bosses try to figure out what happened to Glenda de Cotis. We were told you're her boss?"
Kenneth nodded and sighed, lowering his head. "Yeah. I can't believe she's missing. If I hadn't kept her so late maybe she'd still be here working the register, safe and sound."
"Why did you keep her late?" Scott asked, leaning on the counter with his elbow.
Kenneth pointed to the other side of the store. "Minor quake knocked a few shelves over while we were closing down, asked a couple of employees to stay behind and help clean up. Glenda was one of 'em."
"Is it alright if we take a look at your security footage of the last forty-eight hours?" Scott asked.
"We don't wanna rule out the idea that whoever took her was at the store once?" Garrett concluded.
Kenneth nodded and led them to the back room, looking quite relieved to be even a foot farther from the register.
So far nothing that looked significant had happened in any footage on any camera from the previous day. Scott had quickly gotten bored and twice had to be forcefully halted when he started spinning his swivel chair round and round, singing "Glenda Glenda bo Benda, banana fanna fo Fenda, fe fi mo Menda" over and over again.
"Maybe we're just wasting time?" Scott asked, picking at his nails. "She could just as likely have been taken randomly because she was out alone at night."
"You were the one that had this idea!" Garrett said, exasperated.
"And you know that if I'm not invested in the first 30 seconds I lose interest for about a month or two." Scott replied.
"Better safe than sorry, anyway." Garrett said before sighing. "But you could be- wait." He paused when he saw Glenda leave the register, calling up another employee to take her place, then head to the restroom. Pausing at the door to the ladies' room with her hand on her purse, she looked both ways a few times before entering.
Scott straightened up in his seat and watched the screen more attentively now. "That wasn't the least bit suspicious."
"Looked like she was hiding something in her purse." Garrett said, rewinding the footage for a few seconds to see Glenda again and standing up to get his face closer to the screen.
"Fast forward until she comes out." Scott suggested.
Garrett did so. The clock in the corner of the screen counted forward more quickly, but Glenda remained in the restroom for nearly 10 minutes.
"What's taking her so long?" Scott asked, to which Garrett could only shrug.
After a few more minutes Glenda finally opened the door and left. Her hair was slightly disheveled and she was wiping her cheeks with her hands. She seemed to take a deep breath before forcing a smile back on her face and returning to her register.
The pair looked at each other for a moment> "Me thinks we should check the ladies' room." Scott said.
After getting permission from the owner it only took a few minutes of searching around before Scott spoke up.
"Aha! Got something!" Scott said proudly. Garrett peeked his head out of the stall to see Scott holding a pregnancy test in a gloved hand with one red line. "Two for positive."
"And one for negative." Garrett finished. "You think that's what Glenda was crying about?"
Scott jokingly held the test up to his ear as if he were listening to it whisper something to him. "Empathy powers say yes."
"She had to pee on that." Garrett told him flatly.
Scott pulled a face at the sudden realization and quickly dropped the test into a little plastic bag, zipping it up smoothly.
"Think we should talk to her husband next?" Garrett asked.
"Might as well." Scott agreed before looking around with a frown. "You were right, this place is cleaner than the men's room."
"Toldja." Garrett said with a smug smile. "You owe me five bucks!" He walked out of the restroom, holding his chin up high.
Scott stared after him in annoyance. "We're the same person, it's not gonna matter!"