Sergeant Jim Moriarty was an average looking guy, something that had its uses in his line of work. He hid his badge, his magical ability, even his very nature, all for the purpose of being unassuming and thereby underestimated or ignored. He took great pride in the fact that he could observe the comings and goings of possible suspects, ambushing them when the time was right to arrest and ultimately convict criminals. Being a bit of an anachronism, Moriarty meticulously gathered evidence to ensure that he had the right culprit, and saw himself as a a guardian of the law. Some saw him as an unrealistic idealist, but his boss prized his loyalty to making the world a better place. Moriarty’s boss wanted loyalty to law and order, even above personal allegiances, but Moriarity had difficulty sometimes with this concept. Moriarity looked solely at the immediate time and place, and did not consider what actions he took as part of a larger system where law and justice needed a more utilitarian approach to ensure the most benefit for the most people. In these times, corporations drove forward not with these ideals, and often trampled the rights of individuals, endangering the entire system. However, in most dealings on a day to day basis, Moriarity’s moral compass was unerringly oriented to idealized principles.
Working for Quest Services, the company to which the city of Richmond contracted its law enforcement, placed an inevitable strain on Moriarity and his boss’ vision of helping the common citizen of the city. Profit, as always, took center stage, while law, order, and peace were secondary objectives. But Moriarty could always call on his boss to use her influence to ensure that their mutual objectives were always met. Moriarity cared deeply for his boss, not in any romantic way, but in a way that happens when two people shared such strong personal goals. In her position, Moriarity’s boss led Quest’s magical security officers and their magical group, giving her the authority and latitude to pursue her own own idealized objectives.
Today, however, Moriarity felt out of sorts. He was called in the early hours of the day to a scene of a homicide to investigate. Moriarty had seen all sorts of awful scenes, often crimes of passion, where one person killed another in the throws of grief, or jealousy. or desperate need. This scene was entirely different. Thirteen dead in a run down diner in the Petersburg barrens. The sole witness, a waitress named Wanda, reported a “ghost” as the killer, something that could not be corroborated with any evidence. It seems that every electronic recording device was somehow wiped clean, frying all the electrical systems in the block. Adding to that, the gang of thugs called the Rattlers were the unlikely victims. Moriarity had confrontations with them from time to time, but they were strictly small time, running a somewhat lucrative protection racket. The only possible motive might be a rival gang’s desire to take over the Rattler’s turf, but that theory was inconsistent with the limited evidence of the scene.
Moriarity carefully collected, tagged, and bagged any evidence. He took notes from the coroner. Took images, video, and captured three dimensional data of the scene for later reproduction and analysis. He consoled and spoke with Wanda, recording their interview for any scant details that she may have spoken but Moriarity somehow missed, something he rarely had happen. What struck Moriarity was the speed with which the Rattlers were killed. Wanda’s account strayed into the fantastic, nearly impossible to believe. She described a single assailant that she attributed with saving her life. albeit scaring her half to death and giving her nightmares for the rest of her days. This “savior,” her word, was an “angel sent from heaven to protect her” from the predations of the Rattlers. This “savior,” she said, “struck down” the villains saving her life. Moriarty was not convinced the Rattlers really intended her any harm beyond intimidating her. Random killing definitely was not part of the Rattler’s past and not likely a direction they would take. Push her around, scare her, perhaps, but kill her? No.
The sun just crested the horizon when a familiar, unmarked but unmistakably Quest police car drove up. Captain Katherine Parker stepped out. An attractive, blonde human with flawless porcelain skin, Katherine dressed pragmatically in a simple pant suit, carrying her badge, sidearm, and extra magazines strapped to her oversized belt. She wore a few simple pieces of jewelry that were in fact magical fetishes and items. Moriarity often wondered why she carried a pistol when she was far more dangerous as a magician. A powerful one. The one who led and taught the Quest magical services unit. She mentored all of the members, earning a title of “master” from her tight knit group.
“Well my gifted apprentice,” Katherine said with an almost ethereal, musical tone in her voice, “what do we have here?”
“Well, ma’am,” Moriarty answered in a slight Southern drawl, “I don’t know.”
“A first for you, isn’t it?” Katherine teased with a slight smile.
“I ain’t arrogant enough to say I know somethin’ when I don’t. None of this makes sense.”
“Mm…” Katherine sighed. “Postulate.” Katherine began looking over the bodies, neatly arranged on stretchers in the street outside of Max’s Diner.
“Two theories. The first is that a rival gang made a move and took out the Rattlers. That could be motive. But the scene is all wrong. No stray bullets. Every shot hit their mark. Trajectories put the shooters in the diner. Theory two, and one I find fantastic, is the waitress’ belief in a vigilante. One single assailant, kills the troll out front, tossin’ ‘im into the street, walks in, kills everyone in the diner, save the waitress who witnessed everything, and a cook who missed all of it. But, and this is where it gets crazy, the waitress says that the assailant was a ’ghost’ who could barely be seen. But that many dead in what is described as literally seconds also doesn’t add up.”
“Cybernetic or magical augmentation?” Katherine asked, in a way to lead a student’s thinking to learn something new.
“Yeah, I thought about that. Definitely not magical. There are much easier, and cleaner by the by, ways to kill a bunch of people using magic. This is messy business here. Cybernetic? Maybe. The wounds though don’t exactly match cyberspurs. These ain’t punctures, but cuts from three blades. The bullets look like a heavy pistol, ‘prolly a Predator. But what’s the motive? You can get cyberware, you got the money. You ain’t getting enough to be worth your time to kill a second rate group of gangers. Then we’re back to no motive. But…”
“Yes,” Katherine nudged.
“But this looks personal. Up close and personal. This ‘vigilante’ killed these guys close enough to smell their breath. This implies revenge? But revenge for what? And why save the waitress and the cook? They’re witnesses. You go through the trouble to somehow take out the power and electronics, but you leave them?”
“So, why are you opposed to the vigilante suggestion of the waitress?” Katherine asked, again leading the thought process.
“Why kill all of ‘em? For what? Pushing the waitress around? Seems a bit extreme. The Rattlers weren’t doin’ much. I’d have prolly just pushed them out with a warning for causing that tiny disturbance. This is hateful. Whoever did this was driven by emotion and rage, not trying to help the waitress.” Moriarty paused to think.
“It is a conundrum,” Katherine said softly with a bit of a laugh. She looked at Uni the troll’s body, running her fingers around the three closely placed puncture holes. “You are searching for answers, but like in all of your investigations, the one piece you must have is motive, even if it is simply that the killer is a sociopath. You can’t find an answer because you lack the ‘why.’ So, let’s look at this differently, shall we? We have some wounds that are like cyberspurs, but not, so something custom. We know that the killer must be enhanced somehow. He did, after all, toss a troll out into the street. There is the ‘ghost’ statement from the waitress, which is likely the result of some technology, though magic is not out of the question. And, the killer had some device that would destroy electronic evidence. You discount cybernetic enhancement because you do not believe someone with that much cyberware would gain anything from killing the gangers. Well, my apprentice, why not start with who could get custom cyberware and have the resources to find some type of suit that could camouflage a single individual?”
“You know who it is, don’t ya?” Moriarty replied.
“Mm,” Katherine said coyly. “Finish you’re work here sergeant. But don’t submit your report through normal channels. Bring it to me directly. I need to make a visit first.”
“And the press?” Moriarty asks, knowing the answer.
“No comment. Let them speculate and report what they will. That has it’s own uses. Good day, Sergeant Moriarty.” Katherine bowed slightly, then returned to her car.