Pierce Coldshore is a detective from the City of Fae. A troll has been imprisoned under suspicion of stealing a priceless artifact: the Cornerstone. Pierce is determined to prove the troll innocent for, being a vampire, he knows how it feels to be hated.
~ Chapter One ~
The City of Fae. Home of the Fantasy Folk. Whether they had horns, fangs, wings, or scales, they lived here. All 7,000,000 of them, as neighbours.
On paper, welcoming all walks of life looked a great idea, but when next door breathes fire, and you live in a house of sticks, it’s hard to keep the peace. Try putting lions and sea-lions together. Instant war!
One cause of the tension was magic overload. The air sizzled with power as more and more magical neighbours jostled for space. It wasn’t unusual for your fur stand on end.
But the main reason was simple: Fantasy Folk just don’t get along. Or at least, the city ones don’t. Those in the country were undoubtedly happier. They weren’t overpopulated, so no one felt invaded. Problem solved.
The City of Fae had lots of problems, and all were left to the police to solve.
The City’s police force was under a strain it had never seen before, and one officer feeling it most was Detective Pierce Coldshore.
Here he is at his desk in a dimly lit office.
Pierce was in his early thirties but he looked younger. He had dark-brown hair, black eyes, and so happened to be a vampire.
It’s very unusual for vampires to become police officers; they’re as untrusted as a mosquito bite. But Pierce had got there under special circumstances.
There had been rows, of course, from the other officers, but after firm insisting from the boss, Canter, Pierce’s colleagues accepted him. Over time, they grew to trust him completely.
The main reason vampires aren’t trusted is their highly developed senses. For instance, they have a kind of eyesight that allows them to see into people’s homes.
That would make anyone paranoid.
The use of this vision was strictly outlawed, except by the police when investigating crime scenes.
It was skills like these that made Pierce such a useful and successful officer. He ensured the guilty got caught while the innocent were safe.
There was a knock at his door, and someone entered the office.
Pierce looked up from his paper-work.
A centaur stood in the doorway, but Pierce was hardly surprised to see him.
The centaur was Pierce’s boss, Chief Canter. The horse-half of him was ashy grey, and he had a long, glossy black tail, black hair, and blue eyes.
Canter beckoned for Pierce to follow him out.
Pierce swept over.
Canter clopped down the corridor with Pierce beside him.
The vampire caught glimpses of his colleagues in the rooms either side. They were all talking and laughing together, the sun streaming in.
Pierce snapped back to Canter, “What is it, sir?”
“We’ve just brought someone in,” Canter said in his deep voice, “someone who we think is charged of a very serious crime. I need to know what you make of it all, because I for one ...”
Pierce looked at him, questioningly, but the centaur just shook his head.
“Well, you’ll see,”
Canter opened a door to their right and gestured for Pierce to go in.
The detective entered a room behind a one-way sheet of glass, through which he could see the interrogation room.
The interrogation room contained a simple, metal table, and a cold, metal chair.
On the chair sat a short troll with long, brown hair.
Pierce thought the troll looked shaken and jumpy.
“His name is Bill Bayleaf, and he’s suspected of theft,” the Chief explained.
“Theft of what?” Pierce asked, narrowing his eyes at Bayleaf.
Canter didn’t answer straight away, he just said, “I want you to watch and listen,”
He left the room, and a moment later, reappeared in the interrogation room.
The troll looked up at him, nervously.
Canter put on an angry expression that made the troll shrink back.
Ah, Pierce thought, you're playing bad cop today.
Chief sat on the specially modified chair opposite, and spoke into the tiny microphone on the table.
“It’s 10:00am, May 26th 3013, interview commencing with Chief James Canter and Mr. William Bayleaf. Where were you at 10:30pm, Mr. Bayleaf?”
“Bill, my name’s Bill,” the troll mumbled, his tail twitching, convulsively.
“Where were you, Bill?”
“I was out for a stroll,” he said.
Canter raised his bushy eyebrows.
“A bit late to be out walking, don’t you think?”
Bill looked puzzled. “What do you mean? We’re nocturnal,”
The Chief did a double take, then blinked and muttered apologies.
“Where did you go on this er - walk?” the Chief asked.
Bill shrugged. “Nowhere in particular. I was just walking, you know. I went for a walk,”
It was the Chief’s turn to be baffled. Going out for the pleasure of walking confuses city folk of any species. Travel in the city means getting from A to B; the bit in between just doesn’t exist.
Canter got to the point.
“The police found you outside Nostalgia Museum during a break-in to the museum where a priceless artefact was found missing. A bit suspicious, don’t you agree?”
“Suspicious?” Bill cried, and for the first time since the beginning of the interview, he sounded outraged, “Your officers found me outside! I never so much as laid a hand on the door-knob!”
“But why did you approach that particular building? Why not pass it by completely?”
“I'm a creature of habit. I always go that way,” Bill muttered.
“Did anything unusual happen while you were there?”
“Someone else was there. They arrived before I did. They were inside the museum,”
Pierce’s ears pricked up. So did the Chief’s.
“Who?” Canter asked.
“I – I don’t know, I couldn’t see them,” Bill said, fidgeting.
“You heard them?”
“Smelt them?” Chief sighed, his patience wearing thin.
“No, I – “
“So how did you know someone was inside?” Canter asked, stamping a hoof.
“I sensed them!” Bill cried.
“You sensed them?” Canter replied, sceptically.
“Alright, alright Mr. Bayleaf ... So how many were there?”
“Just the one. I think. Look, I couldn’t see them! I couldn’t tell what they were doing, but they caught me watching them,”
“Did you get a good look at them?”
Pierce was listening intently, but Bill looked awkward again.
“They were invisible,” he muttered.
“Mr. Bayleaf, I’ve had enough,” the Chief snapped, “Why don’t you just tell me why you stole the Cornerstone and where it’s hidden!”
Beneath all the hair, Bill’s face had gone white.
Pierce on the other hand, almost laughed. This was a wind-up! It had to be. You could tell from looking at this guy he was innocent.
“You don’t believe me!” Bill said, aghast, “Take a look at what they did to me!”
He rolled up his sleeves. Both Pierce and Canter looked.
There were bruises and cuts on his hairy hands and arms.
“You think this was an accident? You think I did this to myself? They got hold of me and dragged me along the ground!”
Pierce cringed. Another error. Why didn’t the chief ask how the intruder responded when they saw Bill watching them?
Bill rolled his sleeves back down. “Can anyone else confirm you didn’t have them before last night?” Canter asked, gently.
“Yes, my wife,” Bill answered, unhappily, “I want to call her anyway to let her know where I am,”
“All the same, Mr. Bayleaf,” Chief said, “You've been vague and unconvincing. Am I supposed to take your word that someone invisible, someone you could neither see, hear, nor smell got into the museum without so much as scratching the front door-”
“They scratched me!” Bill shouted, his green eyes wide, “Why’s everyone ignoring the obvious?”
There was a silence as the centaur and the troll had a staring match.
Then Canter leant towards the microphone again.
“Interview terminated between Chief James Canter and William Bayleaf at 10:12am,”
After Bill had been locked in a single cell, Pierce confronted his boss.
He had been speaking with his colleagues about the Cornerstone incident, and they had filled him in on some of the gaps.
“Sir, I’d like a word,” he said, seriously, “What happened in that room exactly? ‘Cause it looked like you weren’t playing bad cop, you were being the bad cop,”
Canter looked at him, swiftly, “Excuse me, Detective?”
“You didn’t ask him how the intruder in the museum reacted when he caught Bill watching, you didn’t know the guy’s a nocturnal, and you didn’t acknowledge that he was found outside at the scene,”
“His word proves nothing,” Canter argued.
“Of course it doesn’t! But how does a troll - I mean, how does someone go about beating the security system? The alarm didn’t go off! The only reason police knew anything had happened was because one of our new recruits just happened to be patrolling the area,”
“Yes, that was Esme, she’s new,”
“See? Not even the experienced officers knew a thing!” Pierce muttered.
“Listen, Pierce,” the Chief said, firmly, “I don’t pretend to know everything about trolls, but can you honestly say you know more than I do?”
“Let him go,” Pierce said, quietly, “for goodness sake, he’s not a criminal! He’s a witness! Just let him go,”
“Not yet. We need to know more,” Canter replied, sternly, “But first, there’s time for a quick break. Come join the others, Pierce, you never do,”
“That’s how I always get my homework done early,” Pierce replied.
“But the fun’s just started! We’ve got your favourite pizza,”
Pierce had his hand against the door of his shady office, and sunlight pooled out of the other room onto the floor. There certainly was plenty of chatter coming from inside.
“Sorry, boss. I don’t do sociable,” Pierce muttered and melted away into his room, the door shutting silently behind him.
The day of the robbery:
Bill Bayleaf was a troll in his mid forties. He had long, chocolate-brown hair, pointy ears, a lion-like tail, and green eyes.
He was ... strange, but appealing.
Bill considered himself a man of good fortune, for he loved his job.
He promoted the revival of extinct and wonderful species, like dodos, unicorns, and punk musicians.
Only recently, however, Bill had started to feel less lucky (and this was before the night of his arrest!): Although he loved his job, he was unhappy with his new home.
He peeked out the living room window, watching the passers-by.
“Bill Bayleaf,” his wife called from the kitchen, “Will you get your nose off my living room window and into the outside world?”
“I’m just watching the world go by,” Bill called back.
“And it's going by without you,” Molly pressed, coming into the room.
She had a small, green watering-can in one hand.
“The world's got plenty of mates already," Bill argued, shuffling away from the window and sitting in a squashy armchair.
“I'd be with mine if they weren't all still in the country ... That said ...” his voice dropped, “I think they’re better off there than here with me,”
“Not again!” Molly sighed, pruning an immaculate plant, “You dreamed so often of moving to the city: ‘I want to see the big lights! The city's got all the fun stuff!’ And now you want to go back?”
“I've not got a problem with the place,” Bill mumbled. But he said no more.
The other day, a group of minotaurs gave him verbal abuse in the street. They had scared him, although they hadn’t been the first from the city to do it.
When his wife asked him why he’d looked so glum that evening, he told her he'd seen a dog get run over in the street.
He wasn't convinced Molly had believed him, but she hadn't asked anything else.
Keen to get off the subject, Bill took notice of his wife's watering-can.
“You been gardening again?”
“We live in the city now, darling, we don't have a garden,” Molly said, gently.
Bill eyed the rest of the room.
“And yet there's more greenery in here than the Eden Project,”
He raised an eyebrow, questioningly, at her.
“You can never have too many plants!” Molly said, matter-of-factly.
“You mean, because we can't have a garden here, you brought the garden inside?” Bill probed.
“Well –“ Molly blushed. “One has to ...”
“Make do?” Bill nodded.
“I was going to say ‘adapt’,” Molly replied, swiftly.
Then they both sighed, and she plunked herself down on the sofa beside him.
“Oh alright,” she said, “I miss the country too, and I miss our old home. But I don't think we should give up on this place so easily,”
“Mm,” Bill grunted, and Molly wasn’t sure if this was a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
To lighten his mood, Bill went for a walk that night, following the same route as always. Unfortunately, it was a decision that ended him in prison, so his good mood didn't last long.
He wandered, idly, over to the City museum, Nostalgia, its’ great, pale walls hulking against the deep blue sky. At this hour it was shut, its tall windows blank and lifeless ... except for one.
Bill’s step faltered as saw a glimmer of light deep inside the building.
Curious, he plodded over for a closer look.
The moment he drew close to the building, the hairs on his body slowly stood up on end, and his hackles ruffled.
He couldn't smell anything, but he sensed something deeply was wrong here.
Someone was inside the museum whom shouldn't be, and they weren’t there for a bit of art appreciation.
Bill ducked away from the window, fearing he might be spotted, but it was too late.
As if gripped by a pair of invisible hands, he was tugged to the ground and dragged towards to double doors.
Bill yelled and clawed at the ground, trying to stop himself. The jagged pebbles cut him as he scrabbled. He was helpless.
Next moment, Bill was whipped round so he was face-upwards, and then he was forced upright into a standing position. Like he was the victim of a voodoo doll, he was rooted to the spot, unable to move his arms and legs.
Next second, an invisible energy force blasted out through the museum doors, though it stirred not a splinter of the wood, it passed straight through Bill and vanished into the night.
The troll staggered, unable for move.
Barely thirty seconds later, an elf, Esme, who had been patrolling the area got hold of him.
Pierce seated himself at the table with the Chief and several other work colleagues.
“Why would Bill Bayleaf steal the Cornerstone?” Pierce asked everyone.
The officers stared at him, their glossy blond and red hair glistening in the light.
The vampire stared back, darkly.
“What?” he asked, annoyed.
The Chief leant forward.
“How much do you know about the stone, Detective?"
“I just know that it's a rock of immeasurable power,"
“And priceless value,” a nearby Elf chipped in.
“That's not even half of it,” the chief said, “The Cornerstone was invented by a sorcerer. He called himself a ‘Wizard Scientist’. He wanted to provide a solution that would end discrimination. He believed that the only way this could happen would be for everyone to be the same shape, and to have the same abilities. That is, he had to change people. So he made the Cornerstone, which has enough magic power to turn everybody human,”
Even Pierce paled.
“You mean everyone would - become mortal?” he stammered.
“Precisely,” the chief muttered.
“So what happened? Why didn’t they use it?”
“When he presented it to the High Wizard, he was appalled and it was banned from use,”
“I'm sorry, can we go back a few scrolls?” Pierce interrupted, “When the hell did all this happen, exactly?”
“It is now in a museum,” the Chief answered, “you get the idea, Detective. And Bayleaf’s refused to tell us where he’s hidden it,”
“Because he doesn’t know!” Pierce hissed, “What makes you so sure it’s him?”
The others were fiddling with their hair, nervously.
“He was the only one on the crime scene,” Chief replied, also avoiding Pierce's eyes, “Who else could it be?”
“Did he actually have the stone on him?” Pierce pressed, “Or are we under the assumption he teleported it ... even though trolls can’t?”
There were a few coughs, and the Chief flicked his tail, uncomfortably.
Pierce narrowed his eyes, but he didn’t want to say what they were all thinking.
He wanted them to own up.
“Look, I'm just as frustrated as you, Detective, but Bayleaf’s all we have. If he does know something, then you must return to the crime scene. Find some evidence.”
“I will, because it doesn’t look like anyone else is interested in defending the innocent, just in reinforcing stereotypes,” Pierce answered, and streaked out in a wisp of black smoke, through the keyhole.
The Chief rolled his eyes.
“Vampires!” he muttered, “it[s always about theatrics,”
“History, why’s it always about history?” Pierce asked himself as he glided in his shiny, black police car to the crime scene.
The city museum, Nostalgia, loomed overheard. It was an elegant, chiselled building of grey marble.
Pierce let himself in through the front doors.
It was cool inside, and the roof loomed to heaven.
“The Cornerstone’s old,” Pierce told himself, “but the only reason Bayleaf was arrested goes back to the year dot: Fear of trolls!”
He began Seeing the room. To See is a vision that only vampires possess, which could be switched on and off at will. It was a clever combination of infra red, ultra violet, and heat vision. He could pick up fingerprints, among other things.
“The only justification they have for locking Bill up is the notion that trolls are greedy and cruel. It’s so ...”
He had caught sight of the pedestal the Cornerstone had been placed upon.
It had a luminous police line taped round it now.
He approached at a steady prowl.
“Why did you let him go?” he asked the air, imagining the real thief to be here. “Bill was powerless, alone, and scared. Why not kill him? I’m guessing you didn’t want murder on your hands?”
He began Seeing round the pedestal, in all the nooks and crannies.
“You can move through solid objects,” he noticed, interested, “That's how you got in, and how you didn't trigger the alarm. You can also turn invisible, which is how you weren't caught on camera. But –“ he breathed in, deeply. “You have no scent, and that's impossible. Neither do you have fingerprints ... Interesting ... Very interesting ...”
He frowned round the empty room.
“So why attack Bill at all? Why not just avoid him? He wasn't in your way, and he couldn’t see you. He sensed you were there, and you sensed him ...
All I've got is what he’s told me about you, and so far, the facts fit: You're scentless, and to judge by what you've left, you make very little to no sound ... or, at least, no footsteps. I wonder ... How many people in the City of Fae can turn invisible, and pass through doors? I’m guessing several million. Time to Watch the city!"
Pierce shut his eyes and began Watching.
From outside, it looked like Pierce was doing nothing more than moving his eyes behind closed lids, but from his perspective, it was a rapid slideshow.
All vampires are endowed with the extraordinary vision Watching, a technique that allows them to see into people’s homes.
This was made strictly illegal by a Rights to Privacy Act made several decades ago, a law only bent if done for police purposes. Since then, every vampire had a tiny chip inserted in their temples at birth, which disabled the ability if performed illegally (The chip had been made by another Wizard Scientist of course. They knew everything!)
“Ok, 4, 847, 072 people,” he said at last. “Now, Bill said that someone moved him, dragged him, without touching him. There’s only one force that can do that. So, who in the city can turn invisible, pass through walls, and make magic?”
He repeated Watching.
“Phew! 21, 503, 62 people. Now, one last thing, and the most important ... How many people can actually use the Cornerstone?”
He did it one last time, and when he opened his eyes again, he was confused.
“That - can't be right,” he said, “None? I doubt it. No one steals something that’s useless to them. Someone's blocking me out. There’s nothing! Not a sausage! I can't even smell them,”
He scanned the spotless room as if awaiting it’s opinion.
“This is deadly serious,” he muttered, darkly, which is very dark when you're a vampire.