Locals report that several prominent members of their town have vanished into thin air. No notes, no clues, and no suspects.
That was the only information that was printed on the page tucked inside the crisp manilla folder with its neatly printed label. Soft blue eyes darted from the stark white page to the window of the carriage. It was rare that a member of the Special Circumstances Unit was dispatched for a case with no evidence. Perhaps that was why the head of the special unit had decided to dispatch only one detective, rather than the whole team.
Detective Adelaide Tompkins was the rookie of the unit. Her role here, as her boss had told her, would define her role within the unit and the team. Not knowing what her own specialty was seemed to be a hindrance. Sighing softly Adele could hear the voice of the carriage coachman as it permeated the air around her. It was a grating sound more akin to screech owls than actual human speech, and it was giving her a headache.
“Shouldn’t be more than five more minutes miss.”
Nodding her head but not verbally responding, Adele kept her gaze on the page. Her destination was a remote town called Fae’s Watch. There was not a single map that actually displayed the true location. Instead, she had boarded a train from Manchester to London. From there she had been put on a fifteen-hour flight to Kathmandu.
It was a two-day layover before taking a smaller plane to a remote outpost inside the Sahara. Its name eluded her. That had been twelve hours ago. Now she was in a carriage as it traipsed through the desert sands looking for a town that very well could be nothing more than nonexistent.
Suddenly as if the sands of time were parting the town came into view. Rustic was the only word that popped into her head upon first glance. As the carriage came to a stop, Adele could see the sand blowing around and yet this town looked untouched by it all.
Climbing out, paperwork in one hand, identification in the other, Adele approached the lone figure guarding the gate. He seemed stalwart and determined. Dark eyes bore into blue but no words were spoken.
“I’m here on assignment from SCU. I was told to speak with Lester about accommodations and information.”
With a nod of his head, the guard moved. For one brief moment, Adele paused taking in the sight. Outside, the world seemed harsh and desolate; inside it was almost as if time forgot the town. Stepping over the threshold, she could tell automatically that something was strange about Fae’s Watch. Here inside its walls, the air was crisp and fresh. Grass rose up around the buildings, still fresh with morning dew. Trees seemed to sprout up everywhere and the rich scents of flowers filled her nose.
Casting her eyes from right to left Adele was trying to determine which way to go. Closing her eyes and taking a deep calming breath, the detective moved to the right. Looming on the hill up ahead was the tavern. Eire Via Dormo emblazoned above the large oaken door in gold overlay. Below that, as if they knew she was coming, were the words Fae’s Watch Tavern.
As she pressed open the door the clank of the bell signaled her entrance. Inside the tavern was warm and filled with a strange sense of relaxation. For a town that was reporting its locals missing, no one here seemed all that upset. In fact, it seemed as if the town was deserted. Aside from the guard standing watch, the young woman had not encountered anyone else, as of yet.
Haggard and worn was the visage of the second person to be seen. Watching as he moved from the stockroom to the bar, as if unaware that anyone else was in the room, Lester went about his work. Clearing her throat to gain attention, Adele smiled softly at the aging man. He reminded her of the caretaker that looked after the family estate back in Manchester. As the man fixed his beady eyes upon her, Adelaide felt a chill. It was clear that this man knew something about why she was there.
“You must be Lester. What little information I was able to gather advised me you would be in the tavern. I do hope I am not imposing. I could use a room for the night and a place to freshen up before I delve too far into this case.”
“I happen to have a room yes. I know why a detective was sent here but I know not why it was you. This town bares secrets and I am the gatekeeper.” Lester spoke.
She would have to be stupid to not notice the inflection in his voice. Taken aback the brunette bit her bottom lip. Emotions suddenly overwhelmed the tiny woman. For as far back as she could remember Adelaide had always felt out of place. The world in which she grew up never truly feeling like home. Yet here in this place that no one knew existed she felt at home.
“Perhaps its because I am the youngest on the team. Callahan likes to send me to the most remote areas of the world. I sometimes wonder if it's his way of seeing if I will ever come back.” She chuckled.
Watching as Lester schooled his features, Adele wondered if she had touched a nerve. This was their world and she was an outsider. Flicking her baby blue eyes to the paperwork still in her hand, Adele took a seat at the table. She honestly needed to get started with her investigation. How or rather where to begin was the question of the hour. For all she knew, she was too late and only Lester remained untouched.
Such were the burning questions that ran through her mind Before she could ask them a bottle of soda and a set of keys were placed in front of her. Perhaps it was the inquisitive look or it could have been the need for him to clarify his actions before doing anything else that forced Lester to respond.
“One soda and the keys to room twelve. Do not go into any of the other ones. They aren’t done with the remodels.”
Nodding her head in understanding Adele sighed before taking a sip of her soda. Everything about this place put her on edge. If she was going to have any luck she needed to relax. Letting the sugary drink hit her throat the young woman contemplated her options. She was here, safe and alive; which was a plus. Yet there was something dark and sinister hovering above it all.
“How about I get a burger and some fries and you tell me about the missing people? This town seems too much like a ghost town for its own good. If anyone is truly missing from here, one could not tell.” Softly the words tumbled out and filled the silent space that formed. Everything was about to change again and Adele had no idea why.
Fate was never something that the woman believed in. She was after all very pragmatic. She watched as Lester moved to the grill to prepare her food. Why did he seem to know exactly what she wanted? To her that alone made Lester creepy. Here she was in a mostly deserted town with, as of the last count, only two occupants.
Tapping her fingers gently upon the face of the table, Adele grew impatient. Nervous habits were always hard to break and this was one of her worst. While Lester has his back to her, Adele used the opportunity to make notes. In tiny block print, she scribbled across the same stark white paper as before. Only two life signs have been detected so far. Can sense a rather large energy fluctuation not too far from the tavern. Will check out more tonight after dark.
When the sound of feet moving reached her ears, Adele quickly puts away the document. It had been far too long since she had smelled a fresh burger and the one that was placed in front of her looked mouthwatering. Leaning forward she soaked in the smell before picking up the burger and taking a huge bite.
Moaning in ecstasy Adele felt only slight embarrassment. Food tasted so good that she had if only for a moment, died and gone to heaven. Still, she was curious how he had the means to meet her needs when the town held no people and was almost impossible to get too.
“There is much to tell and very little time my child. Everything is not as it seems. I fear that you are almost too late. The world has forgotten us here in Eire Via Dormo. Fear, not all your questions will be answered in time.”
As she ate, Adele watched as Lester left without truly answering her questions. The room seemed to grow increasingly warmer and her vision blurred for a second. it wasn’t until now that she realized just how tired she truly was. Nibbling on her fries Adele began to wonder what was causing all of the strange anomalies. Missing people, energy fluctuations, the strange feeling of being home. She needed answers but her head was fuzzy and unresponsive. Sleep would do her well and yet she resisted if only for a little longer.
Slowly the food disappeared off her plate and the woman grew even more tired. While the idea of sleeping in a town where the population was two, she didn’t see any other choice. Danger seemed to scream at her but she was partner-less and alone.
Shoving away the empty plate Adelaide stood up from the table. Taking in the look of the room, she headed towards the stairs on the left. Alighting them the woman noticed the room numbers. They were grouped in threes and there seemed to be rows of them. It didn’t take her long to find the right room. Twisting the key the door opened quickly for her.
Room twelve was more grandiose than anything else she had seen. There was already a fire blazing and it looked like she had been living there for a while. Why was everything going the way it did? Too tired to think for much longer the woman sat her paperwork on the nightstand by the bed and fell onto the bed. Her bags were still at home, she realized just as her eyes closed for the night.