Red slammed the driver's door of the van. Lucy, Melee, Blackwood and Sepia all piled out of it, assembling behind him as he stared at the gate to Hra.
“Talbot!” He called out. A small door opened at one end of the gate and out shuffled Talbot, reluctantly.
“Can I help you?” Talbot asked softly. He was surprised by their visit. Red's face told him it wasn't a pleasant one.
Talbot flinched at the name.
“What did he tell you?”
“Nothing. Thanks for letting me know this was always about Hra, though.”
“Please, come inside.”
Talbot motioned for them to follow. Sepia kept scanning the area around him, looking for clues. Leads. Anything to suggest that he wasn't walking into anything but a trap.
As they entered Talbot's office, he sat down and offered the group a drink. Red declined, and shrugged.
“My name is Talbot Collins. Mitchell is my brother.”
“And he worked for Crisis Solutions.”
“And he knew something about Hra.”
“That he did.” Talbot stood up and walked over to the door. “If you'll excuse me, I'll be right back with everything you're after. I'm surprised you haven't heard more about it already.”
Red put a hand up to stop him, but he had already left the room.
“Well, that's suspicious.” Melee said to herself.
“I'm going to snoop around a bit.” Lucy said to herself, leaving the room. Red eyed her oddly before turning to Talbot's desk.
“Something here was apparently judgement worthy. Perhaps we can find something...” Red began rifling through some of Talbot's papers. He was thorough without disturbing anything.
“Do you hear that?” Sepia asked, slowly pacing the room. He couldn't quite tell what the sound he was hearing was. It seemed low, constant, steady. Barely there. Red and Blackwood both followed him as Melee began to take over his job. She began rifling through his papers as the men diverted their attention.
“I think it's outside.” Blackwood stated matter-of-factly. The trio stepped outside, examining the small building and it's surroundings.
“I found something!” Melee shouted out to them. “It's a shipping order!”
Sepia's eyes caught one of Hra's many statues. It was large, and unlike the wooden building, it was made from what appeared to be early concrete. It had something attached to it – they looked like wires.
“Oh my god... They were shipping the children!” Melee turned to the door. Sepia had reached out a hand, shouting for her to leave. It was too late. The statue's base exploded, sending it crashing down into wooden shack, straight through, down on top of her. Red stood in shock as Sepia quickly began pulling the wreckage away, piece by piece.
“C'mon...” He pulled scraps and fragments away, slowly revealing a leg. It was barely moving, slightly glowing. It had seemed Melee had protected herself with some form of spell at the last second.
“You two get her out and to a hospital. I'm going after Talbot.” Sepia stated suddenly. He raced off in the direction he'd seen Talbot moving. It lead to what appeared to be some form of communal dining room. It was on two layers, and on it's second tier he could hear soft footsteps.
“I do it for the kids, you know.” Sepia's eyes traced the source of the noise. He couldn't see Talbot among the pillars and ornate markings of the balcony.
“Oh yeah? You're kidnapping them, right? Shipping 'em here in the mystery boxes, telling them they were sent here.”
“They're not ready. Society can't handle people who are permanently children. I perform a service.”
“Is that what the parents think?”
“They aren't given the opportunity.”
“So that's why you needed judgement. Kidnapping.”
Sepia swivelled on his heels to find Talbot behind him. He swung a knife, and Sepia braced himself. A loud bang followed, and Sepia opened his eyes to see Talbot collapsed onto the ground, bleeding. In a corner, he could see Lucy, holding a gun.
“Melee.” He stated, and the pair left the room.
Red turned to face Lucille MacKaelan. She had just stepped into Melee's hospital room. Red was leaning against a wall, looking pensive.
“Oh, Red...” She adjusted her hair slightly. “I didn't see you there.”
“What did Talbot mean?”
“He said that he was surprised we hadn't already been told about his operation.” Red folded his arms. “Why was that?”
“I... I'm not entirely sure.”
“I think I know.” Red began to step towards Lucy. They were slow, measured steps. The walk of a man with intent. “Only one of us spoke to Talbot away from the others.”
Lucy maintained a straight face. That was vital, she had decided.
“Only one of us has unaccounted for movements in the last few days.” Red sighed deeply. “Only one of us left that room.” He produced a piece of paper from his pocket. "Only one of us was seen in one of Melee's dreamtime vision-things talking to a mysterious man with shipping ledgers."
“Are you suggesting...?”
“That you deliberately avoided informing us of the very solution to the problem we were faced with, an action that nearly killed one of our own?” Red raised an eyebrow. “Yes, yes I am.”
“Red... Please... I couldn't say anything. My daughter went missing seven years ago. She was a static were. It was my best bet...”
Red's face softened slightly.
“I was doing the only thing I could...”
“You should have told me.”
“I wasn't allowed.”
“When has that ever mattered?”
“Get out of my sight.” Red turned to Melee's hospital bed. “If I ever see you again, it will not be as friends.”
“Get out!” Red shouted. Lucy doubled back, running from the room.
Red stood at Melee's bedside. It would be long before he could handle that fact.
Sepia sat down on his couch, drinking a whiskey. It had been a long day. Talbot's death had been swept under the rug, his control of Hra being taken temporarily by Marianne, the young (in theory) girl they'd met. They still had no leads on Mitchell Collins or the judgement cult he'd hired.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
Sepia sighed and took another sip.
“You've done well so far. Caught and killed the wrong criminal, had one of your own crushed by a statue.”
Sepia turned to glare at her. A knock at his door broke the silence.
“I think you'd better leave.” He growled.
“Fine.” Addy walked calmly over to his front door and opened it. “He's mister sour-face today. Sorry.” She pushed past Darren in the hall and headed for the stairs. He could see the faint glow of her disappearing act on Darren's back as he entered the apartment.
“Who was that?”
“Can't say I rightly know.”