2.01: Accusations

“I want to make sure that I understand everything. You were brought to this village by a mystical and inexplicable force beyond yourself which you don’t understand. You have a magical piece of jewelry which wards off evil. You fought off half a dozen wolves, and dug up the remains of one of our oldest founders. Let’s see… Clair is also a magical person. She can fly, and create glowing weapons to scare wildlife. Together, the two of you battled and ultimately defeated an otherworldly storm centered entirely around the local park.” 

“That’s right.”

Leia rubbed her temples above a mountain of scribbled notepaper. “Is there anything else?”

“You need to take a look in the lighthouse,” Henry said. The manacles had been sprung from his wrists, but he was under no illusion that he was at liberty to leave the minuscule interview room. One of the deputies stood guard on the other side of the door.

“Because I’ll find the remains of some sort of Satanic ritual inside.” 

“I never said anything about Satan.”

The sheriff leaned back in her chair, and glowered. “Do I seem like some sort of moron to you?”

“I never said -”

“What about how I act makes you think I’m a moron?”

Sweat beaded on Henry’s forehead. His back ached from hours in a straight-backed chair. He didn’t know how long he’d been out, or how he’d come to be in the Tortus Bay jail. “I don’t understand. You must have seen it.”

“Seen what? I didn’t see any shiny weapons. I didn’t see any wolves. I sure as hell didn’t see any hole in the ground in the park.”

“That all went away!” he said, and she threw her hands up. “But you saw the storm.”

“A couple of dark clouds.”

“It was a tornado.”

“You would think a tornado might have damaged a few trees. These aren’t even good lies.” Leia slammed her open hand down on the table. “You’re wasting my time, and I’m going to figure out why.”

“I’m telling you the truth.”

“You’ve clearly been hanging out with Kara. You think this is the first time I’ve heard shit like this? I just can’t figure out why she would get herself involved. She’s always been smarter than that.” She folded her notes in half, and shoved them roughly into her jacket pocket. “You helped Clair break out of this jail, and the two of you are doing something in that park. Was it a late-night rendezvous, or do you have something hidden in there?”

“Neither.”

“You’re being a smart ass, and it’s not a good move.” Abruptly, the sheriff stood and opened the door.

“Where are you going?”

“To check on a report about this lighthouse of yours. And when I hear that there’s nothing there, we’re going to continue our chat. You’re not leaving until I have real answers.” She stormed out of the room, leaving the door open, and passed the deputy outside with a sharp “watch him!” 

The man nodded, and stood a little straighter. Henry recognized him from outside of Horizon Foods, where he had helped arrest Clair. He had short-cropped dark hair, and a chin that disappeared into his neck. As Leia’s footfalls trailed off down the hall, he fell back into his unconcerned slouch.

“You normally keep people in the interview room?”

He craned his neck to look through the doorway. “Your friend left a hole in the wall when she took off. Now the stonework is crumbling in both of our cells.”

“She left a hole in the wall?”

“Blew out the window, as far as we can tell.”

“And you think I had something to do with that.”

The deputy peered down the hallway, waited for a beat, and then stepped into the room. He closed the door behind him. “The sheriff thinks you did.”

“But you don’t?”

He took a seat, laid his right forearm down flat on the table, and lifted his sleeve to reveal his wrist. There, centered over his radial, was a tattoo rendition of Kara’s protection charm. “I believe you.”

“You saw the storm?”

“No, none of us did. The sheriff wasn’t lying about that.” He shook his sleeve back out, and leaned back in the chair in an exact approximation of Leia. “Per her instructions, we tend to stay inside on festival days.”

“Then why did you come?”

“We started getting reports about the oddities around the park early in the morning, and advised people to stay inside and away from the area. Then we got an anonymous tip that someone had seen Clair in the area.”

“You came to make an arrest.” Henry ran a hand through his hair. His shoulder throbbed. At least they hadn’t asked him about that. “I don’t understand how the sheriff of a place like this doesn’t know.”

“Kara didn’t explain anything?”

“There was a storm.”

“Right.” He rapped his knuckles on the table. “It’s difficult to explain. I’m probably not the one to do it. Hell, maybe nobody understands it well enough to explain. But you’re new, and you deserve something. I remember what it was like. 

“We can’t talk to outsiders about it. You’ll experience that for yourself, at some point. But as far as I can tell, anybody who’s been around long enough has the chance to see the magic. A lot of people choose not to. They’re scared of it, or scared of themselves. It’s only one day a month they have to close their eyes, and normally there isn’t a tornado.”

“I’m not following any of this. It’s the people who don’t have magic who refuse to see it?”

The deputy shrugged. He raised his left hand, and passed it through the air. It left behind an arc of twinkling golden light, which hung suspended over the table for a moment before winking out of existence. “It comes to everybody differently, and at different times. Most months, that’s about all I can muster. Sometimes, nothing at all. Kara is famous amongst us because of what she’s figured out how to do with her powers. All intuition, that. And a little experimentation, I suppose. Only the Bramble women are more powerful.”

In another room a door slammed open, and the deputy jumped to his feet. He winked, pressed a finger to his lips, and slipped back out of the door in an instant. As it closed, rapid footsteps announced the return of sheriff Leia Thao. Her voice followed, shouting commands to ‘tape off the area’ and ‘photograph everything.’

She barged back into the interview chamber without slowing her pace, and threw herself into the vacant chair. Her hair was tousled, her face the color of raw tripe. “What made you break into the lighthouse yesterday?”

“I told you: Clair mentioned something about it the night we met, and I thought there might be something inside that could exonerate her.”

“So the two of you are working together.”

“We’re not.”

She leaned forward. “Then why didn’t you come straight here after stumbling onto a crime scene?”

“I panicked.”

Leia exhaled through her nose. “I’m sure murders happened every day, back where you came from. They didn’t even make it into the papers, did they? It’s different here. We’re a family. We take it more seriously.”

“I wasn’t trying to be flippant.”

 “I could press breaking and entering charges. Trespassing. Destruction of public property. Do you understand that?”

“I do.”

Her eyes narrowed. “You’re not to leave the boundaries of the village. And if you see Clair again, you come straight to me with that information. No more panicking. I don’t want any more surprises out of you.”

***

Henry should have returned to Kara. He knew that. There was a lot that he had to tell her, and much more that he still wanted to hear. Instead, he found himself walking in the direction of Niles’ house. Tortus Bay was still a ghost town. The shops were closed, the homes all shuttered and dark. He wondered what sort of magic was happening behind closed doors. He wondered if everyone was watching him, the only moving figure on the street. Some kind of festival.

Niles opened his door with Bruce bounding at his heels, an apron slung over his shoulder, and a tray of chocolate muffins in his hand. “Henry! What are you doing outside?”

He blurted it out, without thinking and without warning. “Why didn’t you tell me anything about magic?” 

“What?” His eyes widened. “I couldn’t. Whatever it is, we can’t say anything about it to outsiders.”

“So you didn’t even try?”

“I’m sorry,” Niles said. Bruce whined, trying to squirm through his legs. “Will you please come inside?”

“Kara at least tried to say something. I didn’t understand it at the time, but she tried.”

“If people see us outside, they’ll call the sheriff.”

“What is it with you all?” Henry didn’t mean to shout, but couldn’t stop himself. “You can’t go outside at night, you can’t go outside during your festivals; what are you afraid of out here? Kara? Teresa Bramble and her daughters?”

“That’s how it’s always been. Please, just come inside. I promise to tell you everything that I can.”

He stepped through the door, begrudgingly scratching Bruce behind the ears on his way in. The dog didn’t do anything wrong. “So you’re able to talk now?”

They stood facing one another in the entryway, Bruce twirling in circles between them to press his wet nose against their legs in turn. “None of us are able to talk about -”

“I don’t really care about that,” Henry said. “I want to know why you pretended that you needed my help with Lucy Brihte, when you knew full well that I had no clue what was really going on in this village.” 

Niles missed a beat, his mouth hanging open. Then he swallowed, and snapped it shut. “I liked you. You were interesting. I’ve liked a lot of people who’ve come through Tortus Bay—who turn out to be only passing by. I didn’t want you to leave. I thought you were a journalist, and I wanted to give you a reason to stick around. Then it… well, then it got more real.”

“I don’t know what to do with that.”

“Will you take a muffin?”

They were still warm from the oven. He took a large bite, and rich chocolate flooded his mouth.

Niles watched him eat. “When’s the last time you had any food?”

“A while.” Henry wolfed down the rest of the muffin, and wiped his mouth. “Is this what you do during every festival?”

“I bake whenever I have free time. And this has sort of become a holiday for me.”

“Then I’m sorry to interrupt.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Are they magical?” he asked. “The muffins. Is that what you do?”

A timid smile bloomed on Niles’ lips. “I’ll take the suspicion as a compliment. I don’t know. I’ve never been able to create sparks, or make plants grow, or anything like that. But I’ve also never tried to do any of those things. It’s not all crazy here, it just gets a little weird every now and again.”

“I’d hate to live somewhere that wasn’t.” 

“I’m not going to be able convince you to hang around for a while, am I? Maybe tell me about what happened?”

Henry shook his head. “There’s a lot I still have to do.”

“Then promise that you’re still coming along on the hiking trip. Get some rest, and we can talk more.”

“It’s important to me that the people in my life are honest.”

“I’ve never lied to you about anything that I could tell the truth about.”

Henry skirted around the slobbering Bruce, and reached for the doorknob. “I’ll think about the hike.” He stepped out into Tortus Bay, and the world fuzzed around the edges. The buildings tipped, left and right, coming in and out of focus. 

He made it halfway down the street before the exhaustion caught up forced him to a crawl. The welts on his body faded just the same as the wolves which left them, but the pain persisted. He spat out thick, rusty saliva. There was only so long he could go on adrenaline alone. 

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