Part 24: Episode 23: Guillermo, Master of Time and Space!
Episode 23: Guillermo, Master of Time and Space!
Meanwhile, Somewhere on Democratan Tv… / Backup
What the hell just happened? We were seconds away from being sucked out the airlock. Next thing I knew I woke up face down in the snow with the others nowhere to be seen. Maybe I was dead. According to Dante, the lowest circle of hell is a frozen wasteland, reserved for traitors. If this was Dante's ninth circle, then I probably deserved it. I had brought about both Sera's death and the destruction of an entire planet, and that was just in one day. Or maybe all this introspection was a side effect of Headwork's power. I couldn't wait for the nightmares to begin.
I wandered, trench coat pulled tight around my ears, for what seemed like hours. I knew it would be useful eventually. Eventually,I stumbled upon a village. There are no villages in hell.
The moment I entered the village gate, a town member called out to me.
"Damn storm died down as soon as you stepped into town. Seemed like it was storming just for you. You might want to turn tail and try your luck elsewhere, son. Been a nasty rash of disappearances these last few months. Townspeople and such. There was one only a quarter hour ago. Hell, people are gonna be curious about a stranger like you stumbling in so soon after the kidnapping. You better report to the Burgomaster's Manor if you know what's good for you. Let him ask you some questions. Clear yourself of guilt and such. We aren't an unfriendly town, but we aren't dumb either."
He pointed to the big house just across the street.
Not wanting to get lynched for the kidnappings I went straight in and found the Burgomaster.
He said, "Oh, what trouble is this mayorship. Headaches upon toothaches. This whole kidnapping affair has been a burr in my backside for weeks. As if it wasn't bad enough that we haven't heard from the Ring-dwellers in six months."
Ring-dwellers? Somehow I had managed to get on the surface of Democratus.
The Burgomaster sniffled, wiped his nose, and said "I'd investigate the matter myself, but my mayoral duties keep me caged up in the manor. It's a shame. I've quite a detective instinct. Don't lift an eyebrow at me. I've extensively studied the Laugette Method of lie detection. The subtle clues to your truthfulness are painted all over your face. *sniff*. Shall I prove it? I'll start by eliminating you as a suspect in the kidnappings. I'm going to ask you a series of questions that will reveal your guilt or innocence. The Laugette Method of lie detection is foolproof. *sniff*"
"Alright, bring it on."
"What is your name, sir?"
"I'm a man with no name."
"How tragic. What a blight on your soul it must be to exist without a name. Rest easy, my son. I will give you a name so that you may live out the rest of your days in peace. I shall name you…'Guillermo'. Now then Guillermo, do you like to sneak up on people?"
"You're lying, Guillermo, I don't even need Laugette to see it. If you were telling the truth you would have snuck up on me just a minute ago, instead of tapping me ever-so gently on the shoulder. *sniff*. Yes, well, I suppose you check out then. Oh, it's so nice to talk to someone nearly my intellectual equal. Everyone around me seems to have lost their brain over the last few years. It's quite depressing. Really."
He turned back toward the window. "Excuse me… my thoughts are in motion. *sniff*. Yes, that's a good idea, Bennings. You're brilliant." Turning back toward me, he said, "Maybe you could handle some of the legwork for me out in the field. In exchange, I can offer you free room & board at the Fairweather Inn, an invitation to next year's Summer Hootin' Party. *sniff*. Let's see. Have you been to the crime scene yet? Why don't you take photographs of it- nothing too bloody please, I'm already light-headed. Bring them back here for examination and I'll solve this case from home."
Before leaving the Burgomaster's place and going off to investigate the town, I had a look around the rest of his house and found a Ring-dweller. Phew, this really was Democratus.
"What are you doing in here? I thought I locked that door. Look, as I already explained to the town, I have no idea what happened to the Ring-Dwellers. I know you're worried. I know you're scared. But I am too. Field liaisons are not privy to the inner workings of the High Council. Please, I promise I don't know anything. If they send word, you'll know about it as soon as I do. Believe me, I would love to go back home to the ring and see my wife and children. Please lock the door on your way out."
So the Ring-Dwellers had been out of touch with the rest of the planet for some time. Was this maybe related to their "Planet Abroad" campaign? The guy didn't even seem to recognize me.
Alright, time to go back out into the cold to investigate.
Cleared of the kidnapping charges, I went out to investigate.
A gun on the ground turned out to be a Stargent Handcannon, far more potent than my current firearm. Hopefully it wasn't a piece of evidence because I wanted to keep it.
I first ran into a couple arguing out in the cold.
"We should have gone with Phyllis and Charles to Greenfield when we had the chance," the woman said.
"'Ballotine', sweetness. It's called 'Ballotine'," the man laughed and said.
"No. I won't use their names. These are our cities. We can name them whatever we want. Greenfield isn't 'Ballotine' any more than this place is 'Politicus'. It's cold. I'm hungry. We have to get out of here before we disappear next."
"I know, honey. I know."
Leaving the couple, I continued wandering down the street. It would have been nice if the Burgomaster had at least told me where the crime scene was. As I was walking by, a bearded man's eyes light up when he saw me. I had never met the guy before, but he called out jovially to me.
"You musta heard about me catching that coney, huh? Betcha you're wanting some when I roast it smothered with garlic and onions tonight. Hell, you'll probably be wanting the fur cap I'll make from it too. That's my trade, son. I make pelts into useful things. I'm not gonna catch your damn food too. You all better get used to fending for yourselves and such. I can't be catching food for the whole damn town, no? Young Peter's gonna have to learn to catch another type of bird, no?"
Who the hell is Peter? The woman that the trapper was talking to before I walked by chimed in.
"Not that it's any of my business, but why would you throw away a girl like Laurie for a trollop like Pamela? I know she's flashier than Laurie, but everyone from here to Doren has kept her bed warm. I don't understand what happened. Weren't you asking for advice on what to buy for Laurie for your anniversary not too long ago? You wanted to buy her a crowbar, and I convinced you to get a love totem? Look, Laurie really loves you. Patch things up before you regret it for good."
I'm pretty good at putting things together. I am a detective afterall. So I quickly figured out that the townspeople had me confused for one of their own, although I was skeptical that there was more than one person in the multiverse with the same devilish good looks that I had.
As I was walking away, she blurted out one more line. "Oh, and take a look at those scratches on the roof behind you. What is that?"
Something had been climbing on the roofs. I snapped a picture to show to the Burgomaster.
I was pretty popular in this town. Everyone, like the woman above, kept talking to me in the street.
"I say that Ring-Dweller the Burgomaster is hiding in his manor knows something about the disappearances. I say we string up the little egg and lash his bone spot 'til he tells us what's what. You gotta help me, Pete. You always were good at beating on the little guy."
Another citizen mistaking me for this Peter fellow.
Keeping up the pattern of people only talking to me because they think I'm this Peter character, an old man decided to talk to me.
He said, "Hey, Peter. Is that a new coat? It looks pretty beat up. In fact, your face looks pretty bad too. You get into a scrape with Laurie's brother? I hear he's gunning for you. Just for the record, I think Laurie's being a drama queen. You've only been going out for two years. It's not like you were married or something….You wanna get a beer?"
I could really use a beer, but it'd have to wait.
Two workers were chatting while fixing a window.
"…But we rely on the Ring Dwellers for most of our basic needs. In exchange, we do work for them. Isn't that slavery?"
"Do you want me to hit you? Hand me a nail."
"I've been thinking. It gets harder to remember the time before The Crash."
"What's to remember? We were all in suspended animation. Stop blathering and hand me the hammer."
"The Ring-dwellers had us working on a ship, weren't they? For the Emperor? It's so hard to remember."
"I'm gonna nail you to the building."
After much wandering, I managed to find the crime scene.
I went inside to speak to the parents. They stood lifelessly, staring into the fireplace.
"He was such a creative boy. Always telling stories about this or that. He was a little monster too, but what child isn't from time to time? He was our son," the woman managed to say through her tears"
"He were playing with this toy workers by the fireplace here when we heard the scream. We jumped outta bed to see if he were fallen into the fire, but he were gone. The door were wide open and there were fresh drag marks in the snow out there, which you can see."
"Joseph wasn't the best behaved kid in the world, but he was our son. Please. Help us find him."
The sight of the bereaved parents was too much to bare. I fumbled around with my words, trying to console them, but in the end all I could manage was a sheepish assurance that I would do my best.
I went to see if there were any clues in the kid's room. Since he was abducted from the living room, it was doubtful there would be. Nothing too suspicious about a teddy bear and painting.
This painting was somewhat more interesting. I hoped the kid couldn't paint the future.
I followed the tracks outside of the door. They ended at this tree. Obviously, whoever kidnapped the boy was able to climb trees with him in tow. I breathed a sigh of relief that there were no blood stains. Perhaps there was hope.
I mentally plotted the direction the tracks were leading. Following that direction led to the Fairweather Inn.
The fence around the inn was peeled away. This must be how the perpetrator was sneaking into the village. Again, no blood stains were good.
Inside the inn, Krapto was looking perky. Apparently we weren't the only survivors. Around the bar they were talking about the Ring-dwellers, hoping they were dead. I actually didn't share than sentiment any longer.
A man upstairs called out to me, "So it's all over 'tween you and the girly, huh? Nice going, Pete. What happened? Seems like only yesterday you kissed her for the first time. You woke me up in the middle of the night and told me you had the nerve to kiss her in her parent's pantry with her parents in the house. Your face was red with excitement. But I guess nobody stays together forever, huh? So what was Pamela like?"
I wasn't really mad that I had a doppelganger running around, but I was a little peeved that he was getting more action than I was by far. As far as I could tell I had investigated the kidnappings enough to report my findings to the Burgomaster.
I was intercepted outside the Burgomaster's residence by another call from a confused townsperson.
"Peter?" the female voice called. "Forget it. We're not making up this time. You always figure out a way to make me feel like it was my fault, just so we can make up and you can get into my bloomers. But not this time. Until you learn to keep your-You look funny. Are you hung over again? Next time you want to apologize to me, at least make yourself presentable."
At this point I decided to be charitable. I like to think of myself as something of a pro at mending tattered relationships. That's why I have so many girlfriends. Anyway, if ever Peter's girl was mistaking me for him, then there could definitely be…benefits…to getting them back together.
I went back to her and said, "I was wrong, Laurie. I'm sorry."
"You think it's that simple? Forget it. I don't think you care about me at all. I think I'm just one girl in your stable of floozies. I bet you don't even remember where we first kissed."
"In your parents pantry," I responded cooly. Thanks creepy man in the inn.
"Oh sure. You remember the kissing part. But do you remember when we first began dating?"
"It's been the best two years of my life," I said. With any luck it could be the best two hours, too.
"Okay, so you've got a good memory for dates. But do you remember what you gave me for our last anniversary?"
"It was a love totem."
"Okay. Well. Maybe Pamela was your only transgression. Maybe you do love me. You seem so different. Have you really changed? I need time to think about this. I'll meet you in front of the tavern at three o' clock sharp tomorrow afternoon. I'll have made my decision by then."
It's a nice day to start agaiiiiiin.
I showed the pictures to Bennings.
"This is a photograph from the crime scene? But this is impossible. The drag marks stop right underneath the tree. That doesn't make a whit of sense now, does it? Either the kidnapper is using the trees for transportation, or the kidnapper can fly. It would have to be a strong bird, wouldn't it? Perhaps it's building a nest… made of human bones! How ghastly. *sniff*. Here. Now isn't that an interesting picture? It looks like something is sneaking into the town through a hole in the fence. There are three important things to look at here…One-that's too tight a squeeze for a regular person, so it must be a child. Look at the size of the feet. Second, there are tell-tale claw marks right underneath the opening. It must be a child with very sharp nails. And third, those footprints disappear right under the tree. Conclusion: There must be a child breaking into town and using the trees for transportation. Perhaps it's a feral child who can climb. Such things are not unheard of in the world. This picture here…notice the claw marks on the roof. And see these little brambles around it? These are whiteberry burrs from the White Caves just a few miles away. Whatever produced the claws marks must have brushed by a whiteberry bush outside the caves. I think we now have enough photographic evidence to solve this mystery, young Guillermo. The most logical conclusion is that a sharp-clawed feral child from the White Caves is responsible for the kidnappings, coming in through a hole in the fence, and leaving via the trees. This means there's only one task left for you to do. You must travel to the White Caves and bring back the child. He must be made to pay for his crimes. Very well then. Sleep at the Fairweather Inn tonight, compliments of the burgomaster. Then bright and early tomorrow morning, you will journey to the White Caves and bring this case to its proper conclusion. How exciting."
The burgomaster sure knew how to talk. Forget the inn; I was ready to fall asleep right there in his office.
The innkeeper handed me the key and wished Peter a good night.
Sweet Dreams(video). / Backup
End: And so the serious thread of the game begins to unwind. Stay tuned next time as we join a new Mexican mystery hero gigantic hands and and a massive hangover also wandering the face of Democratus. Find out who it could possibly be next time!