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My name is Moses Crosby. Interesting name, I know. There’s a story behind that, but I’ll get back to it later. I was a fraud investigator in Cypress Orchards, Texas. I’d investigated all kinds of bank fraud, wire fraud, insurance fraud and tax fraud. I had a nose for sniffing it out.
The story behind my name came from the fact that I was found in a river by my adopted parents. I had nearly drowned and as a matter of fact, I have no recollection of anything before age 7 or so. My true age was actually a mystery and my birthday became the day I was found. The doctors said I was lucky to not have lasting brain damage, but missing so much of my childhood was tough for me.
The Crosby’s found me and took care of me in Riverdale, about a stone’s throw and a few skips from Cypress Orchards, where I was now living. Riverdale was nowhere near as exciting as Cypress, fraud-wise.
There are no shortage of interesting cases here. My last case was the most interesting of them all. My boss, the director of the Municipal Bureau of Investigation, put me on a rather unorthodox assignment.
I was investigating self-described medium Maven Richards because of a claim made against her by Bob and Carol Doe. They filed a million-dollar lawsuit and have also pressed criminal charges. The accusation was that she mislead them intentionally for over 10 years while bilking them for over a half million dollars during that period of time.
She had apparently held weekly seances and spirit readings for their son, Larry. After years of stringing them both along, they began to suspect her to be a charlatan. By the time they came around to their senses, they’d nearly gone bankrupt.
I began my investigation as I always did, by interviewing the accused party first. It gave me a very good idea about the kinds of questions that got deflected and the kinds of answers that just seemed- off.
I expected to enter the abode of a woman with a false turban, beads for doors and crystals everywhere, but I found her place of business (her living room) to be quite modern and normal. Of course, making 50 thousand dollars a year off of a single couple made lots of things possible, furniture-wise.
“Hi, please come in, I’m Maven,” she said warmly while shaking my hand. She looked short and round with a wide, charming smile. I could tell why someone would feel comfortable with her- she gave off a very caring vibe. She wore a dark purple track suit that somehow seemed okay-looking on her.
Her eyes were blue and her hair was curly and red. It was an unnatural color that most likely came from a bottle and not from communing with the spirits.
“It’s nice to meet you,” I replied.
“I’m sorry that it had to be under these circumstances.” She offered me tea, or rather insisted upon it. “Let’s begin. How does this usually work?”
“I’m going to ask you a few questions about Carol, Bob and especially Larry. First off, how long have you known the family?”
“About ten years, maybe a little bit more. Maybe twelve. I did not know them prior to their son going missing. He went missing four years before they first came to me. They couldn’t cope. Who would? ”
I took out my notepad and went to a fresh sheet. I tried to scribble as much information that I found pertinent as possible. The interviews were always recorded, but I knew the kind of stuff that was going to be important better than the recorder did.
“Missing?” I asked. “I thought he was dead- or else why would you be holding spirit readings?”
“Well he is dead- now. The chances weren’t good for him at any rate. Kidnapped individuals don’t have a good prognosis, I’m afraid. That’s just statistics.” She took a sip of her tea as if we’d just been chatting about the weather.
I stopped writing and learned that I should have done some more homework first before meeting with Maven.
“How do you know that he’s dead? Was a body ever recovered?”
She looked at me like I grew two more heads.
“No, but during an especially vivid seance, I felt his soul pass on. That was about 7, 8 years ago. He’d been kidnapped and malnourished for a good 4 years at that point.”
“Fine. Let’s assume that’s true. I’m trying to verify whether you, either intentionally or unintentionally mislead the Does in order to extract a large sum of money from them. So if you’re sincere, Miss Richards–”
“Mrs. Richards. My husband might be dead but that doesn’t mean I’m not still married. Between you and me, we get along a lot better now. But go on, I apologize for interrupting.”
I scratched my head unintentionally.
“If you’re sincere, Mrs. Richards, that means that you met Carol and Bob while their son was still alive. Did you, through your powers, ever try to locate him? And if so, to what success?”
She finished her tea and poured more hot water over the same tea bag.
“I was very successful. It took a very long time – my abilities are not the way you would imagine from comic books or television. Things are a lot fuzzier. It took many tarot card readings, many specialized crystals and mind maps, to find his location. We even told the police exactly where to look. But they refused.”
“And where is that?”
“San Antonio. He was kidnapped by the owner of the San Antonio Captains, Buzz Fingle.”
She was off her rocker…but that didn’t matter. Even if she believed the things that she was saying, I had to make sure I could prove that she was wrong. It had to be falsifiable. That would be very hard to do.
“I don’t mind telling you, Mrs. Richards, that I find it convenient for you to have picked a villain that was as untouchable as Mr. Fingle. Why would he kidnap Larry Doe?”
“I don’t know what’s in the mind of lunatics, I’m not that kind of psychic, Mr. Crosby. I am however a woman who doesn’t appreciate rudeness or accusations, especially if she is asked to be cooperative during an investigation into her person. This is an investigation and not a trial, correct?”
So I was forced to apologize, or she would clam up, basically.
“You’re right, Mrs. Richards. I didn’t mean to over-imply anything. It’s just that you must understand what this sounds like to someone from the outside. Someone not in the know.”
She swallowed half a cup of boiling tea at once. Then she added some milk and sugar to the remainder. The look in her eyes was distant, and I don’t mean otherworldly. It didn’t take a psychic to realize she was unhinged. What were the Does thinking in giving her their hard earned savings? Then again, grief propels us all towards anything that might give us hope. But when that hope is exploited- you deserve your money back.
“I’d like to do a reading on you, Mr. Crosby, to prove that I’m the real deal. There is so much that the spirits are already telling me.”
“Like what?” I wanted to amuse her, and besides, her doing voodoo gave me a chance to organize my notes better.
“For example, I can tell that you are lost. There is a big piece missing in your life and you’ve been searching high and low for it. You’re very driven.”
“Do I have that Lost Boy look about me?”
“No, you give off an air of supreme confidence. It’s the spirits that are telling me otherwise.”
Spirits, shmirits, I thought. There might be a spirit realm and we might be able to receive information from them, but I was sure that she wasn’t. I do have that Lost Boy look about me, no matter how hard I try to fake it. She hasn’t been the first to notice. Every time I looked into my past to find out where I came from, I’ve hit a wall. Some investigator I am.
But I digress, and she masterfully attempted to move the conversation in another direction. She was a very good manipulator. That was her craft.
“Thank you. I will consider having a reading when this is all over, but for now let’s get back to the investigation.”
“Alright.” She folded her hands over the cup of tea.
“Why did Mr. Fingle finally make the decision to kill Larry?”
“It wasn’t his decision. He kept him prisoner for a long time. Larry just died from years of maltreatment.”
“Forgive me for being a little graphic but what happened to Larry? Where’s the body?”
She leaned in close like she was about to reveal a big secret, and then looked right and left as if we weren’t alone. Maybe she wanted to make sure that no spirits were eavesdropping. She whispered.
“At Fingle Stadium. Under Home Plate. Back in San Antonio!” She sat back into her chair, proudly.
“Did Bob and Carol do anything with that information?”
Maven sighed. “It took a few years to locate Larry’s spirit, to be quite honest with you. Sometimes, when someone passes on, they don’t know that they have, and they’re confused. Usually they’ll come around, but it takes some time. You can’t rush it because it is what it is.
“When we contacted him and finally convinced him that he was dead, he began to remember. Slowly. He told us that during the baseball off-season, Fingle and his men buried him under Home Plate. I advised the Does to let it go and find some peace, but they reached out to the police, again. After they spoke to the police, I stopped hearing from them. The next time I heard from them, they were suing me. And there you have it, Mr. Crosby.”
She looked depressed all of a sudden. And tired. This was all that I was going to get from her, but it was enough. The interviews would be only part of the investigation. The rest was research.
The next thing for me to do was to speak to Bob and Carol, as heartbreaking as that would be. They had been an affluent couple. Bob was a former jeweler, and Carol was a former advertising executive.
I didn’t know where they used to live, but now they lived in a cozy…okay, small, one bedroom apartment that was more like a studio.
It was in a particularly seedy area of Cypress Orchards, near the bridge that connects Cypress to three other towns.
They let me in and welcomed me warmly. They were very nice people who had been grieving for the better part of a decade. They’d been given false hope, which was almost as bad as being given poison.
Carol had short blond hair with blue eyes and Bob had light brown hair with brown eyes and glasses. They were a regular Texas couple who had gone through a tragedy without any closure.
“We hope you like pizza, Mr. Crosby. We ordered a lot of it.”
I smiled. As little as they now had, they still offered me lunch. We ate and we talked about some minor things in the news, politics, sports – small talk. When lunch was over, I helped Carold put everything away. Now the interview would begin and I could tell that the sorrow had returned just as soon as I took out my notebook.
With them, I began at the beginning of the story.
“When and where was the last time that you saw Larry?”
Bob began to well up silently and sniffled but no answer came out. Carol rubbed his back and turned to me.
“16, 17 years ago. He would be 24 years old now. We stopped over at Cypress Bridge for a picnic. There’s a landing there, off to the side. Bob and I turned our backs for a minute and he was gone. We were talking to a couple and we thought that Larry was with their son, playing.” She shrugged her shoulders. “That’s it, that’s the last time we saw our baby alive.”
I shuddered. I felt like I’d heard the story before.
“Well, not necessarily, Mrs. Doe. Remember, we’re trying to discredit practically everything that Maven Richards told you. She was the one that said Larry was dead. But, pardon me for saying this, no authorities anywhere ever found him. There is a small, very small chance that he is alive somewhere. If, for example he ran away or even if he was kidnapped.” Now who was giving false hope? I thought sadly. Carol and Bob tried to perk up, but they weren’t buying it. I didn’t know why, but I strongly believed that Larry was still alive.
“Did your son have any identifiable marks? I know you’ve told the police already and I will review those files to be thorough.”
Bob got it together enough to say, “Yes, he had a, like a birthmark on his belly. On the right side.”
Carol smiled. “Yeah, it was like a splotch of paint was dropped onto his stomach. It was very cute.”
I stopped writing. That was all I needed to know. In a calm but confident way, I told them, “You are going to win your case against that con artist, Mr. and Mrs. Doe. But something tells me you might be inclined to drop the charges.”
“Why is that?”
“Because she’s going to reunite you with your lost son.”
How did Moses Crosby know for sure that Maven was wrong? Why did he say that the Does would be reunited with their long-lost son?
Moses was named such because he was found nearly drowned in a river but miraculously survived. He’d lost a good portion of his memory but while speaking to Bob and Carol, one thing clicked: the Cypress Bridge.
It was there that he’d fallen over the landing and into the river as a child and then found by the Crosby’s downstream in Riverdale. What confirmed his suspicion was Carol’s description of a very unique birthmark that both Larry and Moses had: the splotchy paint mark on his belly.
The Doe’s were to be reunited with their son, because their son was by chance their investigator- Moses.
Ironically enough, their reunion was a direct, unintended result of Maven’s scam.
Harold the imp is going to be an audio book, in production as we speak!!
Took a hiatus from posting for a little while due to the birth of my son, but stories will soon be added in the Ultimate Vampire storyline.
Keep an eye out!
We walked towards Central Park as the sun began to make its slow trek down to the underworld. As I understand, the park has a sizable body of water, perfect for location spells. Walt was guiding me to an area where he said no one would be at this hour. It was calm and peaceful.
He was right. Although there were some people riding bicycles, and others were running about for the sheer joy of running, once we got to our destination, all was quiet.
“I need you to do whatever you do to focus on the scarab,” he told me.
I did. I focused. I took a bowl that I’d brought with me. I put a drying autumn leaf on the surface. I plucked out one hair from my head and sprinkled it on the leaf.
The way the location spell works, at least the way that I know it, is that I can only travel in one cardinal direction at a time. If the object I seek is Northeast, the spell will take me north, and then I would have to cast the spell again to go east. The hard part is, I don’t know how far north to go. It could be 1 mile, or a hundred miles or a thousand miles. I could overshoot or undershoot, so it’s not the quickest way to travel.
However, if I knew exactly where something was, I could get there immediately. Just poof here, and re-poof there.
I concentrated. I spoke. “Find me the Horsehead Scarab.” I poofed in a cloud of red smoke for effect. When I re-materialized I was…back at the Central Park lake. “I don’t understand,” I told Walt.
“Me neither,” he said, scratching his temples. He was an older man than he looked when I met him. He was worn and tired, a man of maybe 65, 70 years of age. I on the other hand, was a middle-aged imp of roughly 1500, and I missed my wife of 400 years.
An Impsleep can last tens of years, and is akin to hibernation. Just like other animals that hibernate, it’s not a constant, uninterrupted sleep. We wake occasionally and then return. But the dreams…those are where she is, and I have to go back. Which is why not finding the scarab is such a setback for me. That damn ring is in his possession, and for the time being, so am I.
“It must not be in this world,” I offered. Maybe you can give me back my ring and we can call it a day, I meant.
The old man looked past me pensively. “He must be cloaking it somehow. It’s there, I know it is.”
I looked back at him, trying to catch his gaze. There was so much that didn’t make sense to me. “Walt. Walt! There shouldn’t be any magic on Earth any longer. All the magic realms are gone from here. How is he cloaking anything?”
“Your ring was here, therefore your impish magic remains. You don’t know what other things are still here, or what other magic remains. Vilmer is a mage, young as far as mages go, but very powerful. He can do things like this, cover his tracks.”
“Unless…” I began to think, which is hard after you’ve been asleep for years and years.
“Unless?” Walter seemed to be looking at the sky and seemed to become impatient.
“Unless the reason I can’t find it is because I’m not at full power. My magic could conceivably be waning.”
“You’re not getting your ring back until I get the scarab, if that’s what you’re after,” he said rather meanly. “Any other way to recharge your batteries?”
There were times that I was awake in the 20th Century on and off, so I knew what batteries were. “Yes. We have to find grimmle-berries. They’re kind of a cure-all.”
There was a lined black fence encircling the portion of the lake where we were. Walt jumped on a bicycle that was lying against it. He put on a helmet and secured it tight. “I have to get going, but I’ll have a long think about how to find you your berries. In the meantime, scout Vilmer’s antique shop. He’s open all night, on 53rd street and Parade Avenue. See whatever you can find from there. But don’t get him suspicious about anything. Remember, he is very very powerful.”
With a boost from his right foot, he was off like a shot. He went so quickly that I lost him making a right turn after 10 seconds.
Vilmer’s power would be nothing to me. If I were at capacity, that is. As I took the long walk to 53rd street, I thought long and hard about my situation. We failed, long ago to rid this world of magical intrusions apparently. I thought we had succeeded. Earth doesn’t belong to us, it belongs to humans, I thought. Magic has no place in it.
And yet it’s here. As am I. And both of us are unwelcome.
“I don’t know,” Walt told me.
“Then how am I able to help?”
He was seated behind an old walnut-trimmed desk, tenderly handling old papers. He leafed through the lot of them and found the page he was looking for. Then he threw the page at my feet.
It began with the words, “An imp can find almost anything he is looking for by using a location spell…” It was written in the dialect of Mansfield.
“This was in the archives of Mansfield,” I informed Walt. “Those burned down. Every file should have been destroyed.”
“But these weren’t,” Walt smiled again. “These were kept in iron boxes. They were saved from the flames. Most of them anyway. They were so charred that they were nearly indistinguishable from the rocks around it. But on an expedition, I found the box and opened it. I read through it, and came to believe. And you, my good friend Harold, will be my salvation.”
I read through the page he’d given me. It was true. One of the many tricks I know is to locate lost things or people. It requires only a few ingredients. A strand of my hair. A leaf. And some water. Yet I did not trust this Walt, nor did I want to be in league with him. But Hyacinth was away from me so long as the ring was not in my possession. She had been my purpose for centuries and I remember no other purpose but her. Nor is there any greater for me,
“What is the Horsehead Scarab? What does it do? And what does it look like?”
Walt looked through some more documents. He seemed to be very organized. He also seemed to be quite patient and unhurried. “Here”, he threw me another old page that I thought had burned up.
Mansfield was a human kingdom which possessed an unprecedented amount of magical knowledge, all of which should have been burned but apparently some had not. I went to sit across from him in the empty chair facing his desk. I changed my clothing to be more modern.
As I looked out to the storefront, I saw a lanky man who Walt later told me was a “hipster” and I modeled my clothing after his. I wore bifocals that didn’t change my vision, a short sleeved button-down shirt with a thin purple tie, brown blazer and dark denim pants. My thick beard was also similar to the hipster’s. Voila’ – blending in.
I decided to help Walt find this article, part of his collector’s dream, as soon as possible. That way I could get back to my own dream, and to Hyacinth.
The page must have come from a tome, or a codex, or some kind of magical reference material. It had a painted inlay of the scarab, which was an ebony beetle whose torso was the head of a black horse with blue sapphires for eyes. It was beautiful, a work of craftsmanship. Then I read the description.
The Horsehead Scarab is the binding talisman for the kingdom of the Blue Elves…
I dropped the paper. “Blue Elves? If it has anything to do with them, it’s an object of darkness. What cause do you have to pursue this vile thing?”
He looked at me without a discernible expression. “I’ve asked you not to ask questions, Harold. I respect your terms, namely that I call you Harold and not your real name. I implore you to respect mine.”
“But the Blue Elves are no more. They were all defeated in battle. It is a ghost kingdom, populated by the wind. There are certain questions that I need to ask, that would make it more facile for me to find the damned thing.”
He sighed with old lungs. “Ask me within reason, Harold. What do you need to know in order to find the item?”
“For one thing, what makes you think it’s in your world? For another thing, if it’s here, where was it last? If you can’t
answer that, then I would seriously doubt the thing exists any longer.”
“It was worn by the Baroness Hilda von Bergenberg on a luxury ship that sunk in the Atlantic Ocean in the 1920s. Last year it was recovered by a salvage company and put up for auction. But before it could be sold, it was lost. I think it was stolen from the holding company’s storage facility. And I think I know who stole it. A competitor of mine, a fellow collector. Vilmer Gordon, who owns a shop just a few blocks away.”
“What makes you think that?” I dared venture.
“I have my beliefs and my sources, neither of which are your business, Harold. Anything else you ‘need’ to know?” His purple sweater was getting ruffled.
“Yes,” I said seriously. “What could you possibly want from the Blue Elf kingdom?”
He arose and began packing away all the old documents from his desk into a briefcase. “It might be empty, but the kingdom still holds many treasures. I’m after a particular treasure. We’ll leave it at that. Satisfied?”