“When did I begin to think of the world as being rather strange?
I suppose it was back when I was a rookie police detective. I remember that overcast day well. It was the first murder case I was assigned to. It was also the day that I became a mage. More importantly it was the day that I meet her. Her? Ah, yes, I suppose I should really start at the beginning and explain everything properly.”
The Rose of Vengeance
Police Detective Berardo Abarca rode a bicycle to the crime scene. Not because he was particularly health-minded but because in the city of Listorna it was one of the best ways to get places fast. It was an old city up in the mountains so many of the roads were narrow and could barely fit one car. There were also steep inclines throughout the city and many of the fastest routed required taking several flights of stairs and it was easier to carry a bike up one of those then take the most popular vehicle in the city, a moped.
It was overcast, as was usual, which made ever visit to a crime scene seem gloomy to Detective Abarca. The officers parted with a nod as he walked past. It was a small apartment complex, only three stories tall. He began walking up the stairs to the third floor. According to the short briefing he had received the victim had lived in the last apartment on the top floor.
When he reached the end of the hallway he pulled up the police tape and stepped past it. The blood stained the floor outside the door to the apartment. Apparently that had been what had caused the call to the police. So far there had been no witnesses to the murder of the Kathie Picozzi.
She was still laying inside the room. Dead. Berardo knelt near the body but careful not to touch anything. He had managed to make it even before the police coroner. He kept back his revolt. He has seen a dead body before, back when he was a rank and file officer but this was the first time it was his responsibility.
Her throat has been slashed and not cleanly. The kind of wound you get from an aggressive knife slash from the front, not the quick and clean cut from behind. This was made more obvious by her many other injuries, cut marks all over her body. Had there really been nobody that had heard this he wondered.
It was getting on in the evening now but given the state of the blood and the body it must have been maybe 1pm when this happened. Surely there must have been somebody else still in the building that would have heard this, it couldn’t have been quiet.
Berardo glanced around the room. There were signs of a struggle. Things on the counters were stained with blood and knocked haphazardly around. Not only had there been some kind of fight here but the assailant must have then searched the place looking for something.
Berardo pulled out his little notebook and wrote down a few notes. He circled the line he had written that said, “Was the attack for money or something else?” He had always had a bit of a knack for these kind of things. Some people said it was a gut instinct but he thought it was something subconscious, like his deep mind was putting little pieces together and found something missing but couldn’t explain what it was.
This didn’t feel like a random attack or just a simple robbery gone wrong. Usually when somebody got killed in a robbery it was one accidental injury. Robbers usually don’t deliberately kill. And this kind of extended fight, more like a deliberate attempt to kill the victim. Was the visibly raided house just a ploy to throw off the investigation, he didn’t think so.
Berardo was jolted out of his thought by the police forensic examiner who coughed softly. Berardo stood up and took a step back from the body to let the man do his job. Berardo accepted a pair of plastic gloves from the man and put them on. He didn’t want to accidentally mess up evidence. Berardo carefully walked through the four small rooms that made up the apartment. A living room, a bedroom, a bathroom, and a kitchen plus dinning room. A cozy place that was obviously well lived in.
In the bedroom there was a small computer at a deck although the computer had been broken. He knelt down and looked inside the case. The hard-drive was gone. Curious.
Berardo called back to the forensic officer in the living room. “Have you found the victim’s cell phone?”
There was a pause before the man called back, “It doesn’t seem to be on her. Maybe it was stolen?”
Maybe. Berardo left the apartment and headed back down the stairs the apartment of the landlord. The victim didn’t seem to have any land line so her cell phone would be her only form of contact. A few minutes later he had returned with her number.
He stepped back into the apartment and dialed the number. He initially didn’t hear anything. He stepped into the kitchen and still no sound. Then he placed his ear against the counter and held his breath.
There. The smallest vibration sound. He slide his ear across the counter and it began to be slightly more noticeable. He stopped and pulled open a drawer pulling it as far out as possible. There stuffed in the back was the phone, in vibrate mode. Yet, that wasn’t everything. There was a two other things too.
With his gloved hand he pulled out the phone. Then gently pulled out the card that was next to it. It wasn’t a poker card, it was something else. It had a bright picture of a red haired woman swinging a sword. Some kind of trading card then for one of those collectable card games. Nothing he recognized but that wasn’t too surprising.
The last item was a sealed pack of cards. Emblazoned on the front were the words, “Destiny Burst.” Berardo placed both the objects carefully on the counter. He wanted to know why the victim Kathie had put so much effort into hiding these items. Where they what her murderer had desired. Enough to kill, and to die over? How could that be possible.
Unsurprisingly the phone was locked. He knew better than to try the password, it could erase everything. Maybe the tech guys at the precinct could figure out what was inside it or maybe Kathie’s relatives would know the password.
Berardo headed back to the living room, “I managed to find her phone and a couple other possessions hidden in the kitchen. Can you make sure they are tagged and checked for prints.”
“Sure, Detective Abarca.”
Then Detective Abarca left to question all the residents of the apartment. Hopefully one of them will have heard or saw something.
It was late at night when Berardo finally returned to the precinct and sat down at his desk. Had had taken off his hat and put it on the rack next to the deck. He rubbed his eyes, he had found nothing. Nobody had heard or seen anything about the crime or the killer.
He flipped open his notebook and looked back over everything that he had written down. Kathie had moved into the apartment 6 months ago yet almost nobody in the building knew anything about her. They had remarked that she seemed friendly but distant.
She had also come and gone from her apartment at random times. The landlord had her job written down as freelance personal assistant, whatever that meant. Apparently she had paid her rent three months in advance so the landlord didn’t dig too much into her source of income.
The last sticking point was that Kathie seemed to have no family, at least that Berardo could find. Surely she would have parents somewhere but he couldn’t find anything about them. The emergency number she had left with the landlord didn’t seem to actually exist and if her parents were real then they were the type of people who hated phones.
Something was suspicious here but Berardo couldn’t find exactly one thing to point to. His closest guess was that she was probably involved in some kind of criminal business and was killed because of it. Fake family information would be explained by that as well and this type of murder. If she ran away with drugs or secret information then silencing her and taking back the information would make sense.
But there was one last thing that bothered him. Kathie has been regularly seen with another woman, a tall red head, although body know anything else about this mysterious woman. The only thing he had to work with was a vague physical description. Not really enough to go by.
Berardo turned up to see the forensics guy standing over his deck. He was holding a bag.
“Yes? Did you finish examining the evidence?”
The man nodded, “Yes, I wanted to get it to you before I headed home for the evening.”
“Any good news?”
“Maybe. We found some prints belonging to somebody who wasn’t Kathie. They were pretty common in the apartment. I suspect that she was living with somebody else, a woman I believe from some of the other evidence.”
Berardo took the bag and pulled out the papers that were inside. It was all the detailed information that they had discovered. “I see. Anything else? Did the tech guys manage to get into that phone?”
The forensics guy, Jerry, shook his head. “Unfortunately not. Although you might be interested in what they did learn. The phone is a custom job.”
Berardo looked up a him, “A custom job? You mean not a major brand? Do you know who it is made by?”
“They weren’t able to figure out who made it, and yeah that is rare. Although the tech guys said that it is becoming more common. As things get smaller and cheaper to make it is easier to make specialized phones built off some open source operating system.”
Berardo nodded, “I see thanks. Anything else? Was the murder weapon found?”
“No, the criminal must have taken it with him or her.” He paused for a second before saying, “Oh, but one thing. The knife wounds, it wasn’t a small knife that did it. More like a real combat knife, something big and dangerous.”
More evidence for the criminal connections then. “Thanks.”
“Everything is in there. Including the phone. Hopefully you can make something of this. Us down in forensics couldn’t figure it out.”
Berardo nodded as the man walked away. He glanced up at the clock. It was already 10pm, he probably wouldn’t be getting much sleep today.
He pulled out the stuff from the bad. It was the phone, Kathie’s purse, and a few other things from around the house. Lastly he pulled out the bag containing the card and pack he had found with the phone.
He held up the card looking at the woman depicted on it. This clue was very odd. Why did it seem that it was deliberately kept out of the murderer’s hands. Berardo turned on the computer on his desk and after waiting a few minutes for it to start up opened up a browser and typed in “Destiny Burst”.
Or at least nothing relevant. He added the words “card game.”
There seemed to be several results. Somebody mentioning that they heard something about the game and asking how to get it and what the rules were, but the answers were equally uninformative. Somebody claiming that the game went out of print very soon after it was first released. Another saying that the game isn’t actually real.
Berardo looked over at the card and unopened pack. Rare huh, was it really that valuable? Something worth killing over? He couldn’t imagine that was true about some simple cards. Although he had heard that in some games cards were worth hundreds of dollars. Maybe cards from an extinct game were worth thousands or more to the right collector.