The security guard at the gate frowned hard at them. The mansion beyond the gate belonged to the Weiss family, and this was the address that Agent Bennett had left them.
"We're here to look for Miss Ella Weiss," said North at the gate.
"She doesn't have any guests here today, kiddo," said the security guard. "And if you are her friends, I'll tell you this: Mrs. Weiss has forbidden any friends to visit."
"Tell them your real identity, and Mrs. Weiss will obey," Fire leaned close to whisper to North.
"Idiot! No way!" North grunted. "My identity's not going to do anything, and that's because no one would know what I really look like. I mean - I'm glad about that, but still, I'm not going to use my identity to get us in."
"Then we've got no choice but to abandon the case," said History.
North grimaced, then looked at Slayer grimly. All Slayer did was smirk in return.
"Then tell her that Taylor Irving is here to visit Ella Weiss," said North finally.
The security guard stared at him. "You're joking, right?"
"I'm not," said North. "That is my name. And yes, the Prime Minister Irving's son." He put much emphasis into that last part, despite feeling irritated about it.
"Y-yeah, hold on a minute, I've got to talk to Mrs. Weiss first."
The guard hurried off.
North dropped his head, shaming himself. "Now I've done it. I'll bet my father's going to hear about this soon."
"Well, he knows you're in Swallowtail, so if you said that, he might forgive you," said Slayer.
"You of all people know that he dislikes me using my title, idiot," said North, snapping his head up to glare at Slayer. "And I have a lot of reason to worry about it!"
"We'll just explain that it's Mrs. Weiss' fault that we can't get in, and there, done," said History.
"Yeah, that should do," said Fire.
"I can't understand how dense the three of you can get, it's like you're all ganging up on me," North snorted. "I'll better warn my father first." He pulled out his phone and tapped on the screen keyboard. He was sending his text message when the guard reappeared, now meek.
"Please enter, sir," he said, opening the gates to let them pass through. "I apologize for my rudeness."
"It was nothing like rudeness, you were just doing your job," said North with a sigh.
Now that they were inside, Fire scanned their surroundings.
The garden was spacious, with blossoming trees scattered around in spaces, and there was a patio not far with some barbecue tools and a huge grill sitting in a corner. There was also a huge pool not far from the patio, and the water looked clean.
A well-kept house.
They were now at the door, where a well-dressed woman arranging her hair stood. She then stared at North. No doubt she recognized him.
"Mrs. Weiss, was it - three months already?" North asked, smiling. "Since my father's banquet, that is. You attended as a guest as well, didn't you?"
"Yes, it's been a while, Taylor," laughed Mrs. Weiss, delighted. "Um - I didn't expect you to show up - with people-"
"I'd like to be quick," said North. "I actually came to meet Ella about her problems on the case."
At that, Mrs. Weiss' pleasant face turned serious. "You can't be suspecting her to be the kidnapper for Maya Cortez, can you? If anyone's at fault, it's that missing girl's fault that got her under the spotlight. Ella is a good girl."
"Don't worry, we're not here to accuse her," said Fire, noting the woman's accusing tone on the victim's name. "You know Agent Bennett, right?"
"Y-yes, that's right. My husband's bodyguard."
"Then I hope it won't hurt for you to know that she asked him to get help from a detective agency?" He handed over the letter. "That's for proof, if you need any. So - show us to where Miss Ella Weiss is, please?"
Mrs. Weiss opened the envelope, but before she begin reading the letter, History noticed a shadow from a flight of stairs next to them. She crept over to the side of the stairs, then flipped herself over the railing and charged up towards the next landing.
"History, don't make a fuss in someone's house!" North chided.
"Come down!" Fire yelled.
A girl yelped, and then History called, "I got her!"
Ten minutes later, they were in the living room.
"I'm so, so sorry about that, I've been trying to teach my sister to be polite at someone's house," Fire apologized to Mrs. Weiss and Ella. "History, you apologize, too."
"I mean it!"
"I'm really sorry about that." History's face fell and her eyes dropped to the ground.
"Uh - its okay," Ella cut in, a little panicked. "But - why are you-" She stopped when she saw the envelope in her mother's hand.
"Oh, that?" Ella blinked at it, then looked around. "Wait, you guys are - the Swallowtail Detective Agency?"
"You expected us to be wise old men, didn't you?" Fire huffed.
"Detectives? Ella, what's going here?" Mrs. Weiss turned to her. Then she noted Taylor and frowned at him. "You are involved, too?"
"I'm actually in Swallowtail, too," said North. "You asked for us to help you out."
"Uh - I don't know now . . ." Ella stuttered. "You're - Taylor Irving, right? I mean - you're the Prime Minister's son, and his heir, so - you - why-"
"That's exactly right," said North. "I am a detective. And one of Swallowtail. And we're not here to fuss around with personal details about me, right? We have a case, and we're going to need you to tell us about it."
Ella turned pale.
"Can you find out who took Maya away?" she asked finally.
"Ella, I've specifically told you not to bother about that girl anymore," Mrs. Weiss snapped. "Do you know how your classmates see you as right now? And we can't let you go to school anymore or else they're going to give you bad views, because you're a suspect."
"That doesn't change anything if I stay known as a suspect, Mom," Ella protested. "I know about Maya, and she knows me. She's a my friend. My real friend."
"No, she's not, she's using you," Mrs. Weiss retorted. "She might even be a fake friend, for all I know."
"She's not! Don't say that! You don't know her!" Ella started to turn angry.
"Don't strain yourself," said North. "Your disease will kick up."
Ella turned paler.
"No need to be shocked," North huffed. "It was your dad who told my father you had anemia."
"Anemia?" said Slayer, startled. "So she's sick?"
"She's not sick, she just needs careful treatment, because of her illness," sighed Mrs. Weiss. "I'm afraid that if you try to hurt her, I'm going to have no choice but to complain to Mr. Irving about you four."
"Duly noted," said Fire casually, and sat back against his chair. History leaned against the arm of the chair, eyes intent on Ella. "So, North, you're willing to take this case? I suppose you've already made up your mind before we got here. Right when you saw who sent it? That is - if you knew the writer of this letter had anemia."
North looked at Fire calmly, then said, "You're sharp."
"Thank you," said Fire. "Okay, we'll find out who the kidnapper of Maya Cortez is. We're taking the case."
"You - will?" gasped Ella. "You will, you're not joking? You'll find her?"
"Enough of this nonsense! Please don't do anything to her," said Mrs. Weiss.
"Mrs. Weiss, you refused any visits from Ella's friends to come here not just because of her health, isn't that right?" said North. "There's another reason, isn't there? That is, because you suspect one of her friends to be the culprit."
Mrs Weiss looked uncomfortable. "Yes, that's right."
"But you're also afraid of knowing if Ella's the kidnapper, or the criminal, right?" said History.
At that, Mrs. Weiss' expression changed to offensiveness and she began to tremble. "N-no, but-" she cut off before blurting out, "Ella's delicate. She is not one to do something like that. She can't be the culprit!"
"Mom - we'll talk about this later-"
"No, Ella, I'm not letting you get more involved in this mess, got it? You are to stay safe at home!"
"I'll cut in right there," said Fire, sitting up. "Mrs. Weiss, we'll talk about that later. Right now, I want to chat with Ella for a while."
Mrs. Weiss' response was fast. "No, I will not move from here."
"Then sit down, and we'll start talking about this case," said Fire firmly.
Stunned by Fire's firmness, Mrs. Weiss slowly sat down reluctantly beside Ella on a couch.
"All right, firstly, I'd like to know the events that happened," said Fire.
"Um - you're the lead detective?" Ella looked from him to North in confusion.
"Yep," said Fire. "Take your time remembering everything. By the way, North's my assistant."
"Actually, we all go by pseudonyms," North sighed. "I'm North, that lead detective is Fire, the girl with him is his sister History, and that's Keiran." He pointed at Slayer, who twitched slightly at the name, but said nothing.
But of course, was the only thing Slayer's expression seemed to say.
"Why don't you use real names?" asked Mrs. Weiss, puzzled.
"It's the same like an online game," said Fire. "It works in alter egos, because having fake names makes you feel better about yourself. Except that I've had my pseudonym for a long time now, it's more like my real name. The same goes for History, too. And as for North - I mean, Taylor - he's just adapted to our world."
Ella inhaled deeply, then said, "Can I trust that you'll find out where Maya was taken to?"
"I think so," said Fire. "As long as you can cooperate. And yes, we'll be careful, Mrs. Weiss."
"And I've got to tell the truth, right?" said Ella.
Fire frowned now.
"Actually," Ella said with hesitation, "now - after two months, I - don't think she's been kidnapped, but - I think she's dead."