Berardo continued, “Then after the attack I visited the Destiny Burst store. That time it was manned by an actual Maker, not just a normal clerk like I had seen before. He didn’t seem like he would normally man the store himself unless something unusual was happening. It was an offhanded comment, a mention that the normal clerks weren’t available.”
“Just an inkling. The question of why they weren’t they. The answer was eventually made clear. Because that clerk was Cockatrice and he had been injured and hadn’t been able to make his shift because of it. It is the minor clues that give away a magician and I waited attention to everything, because that is what it means to be a detective.”
He knelt down next to Charmed and said as nicely as he could, “Now please. Tell me everything that you know. We will certainly defeat Cockatrice and free you from him.”
She looked up with tears in her eyes. She knew that it was too late, she could never return to Cockatrice now and a horrible death awaited her if she tried. Her only hope was right in front of her.
Pit of Despair
“You tricked her.” Said Rose. They were in the living room after questioning Charmer.
“Do you have a problem with it? Her reactions were instrumental to proving who Cockatrice was.”
“I suppose so. She will probably hate you for it.”
“If we keep her alive and stop Cockatrice then I won’t mind if she continues to hate me.”
“What do you plan on doing with her now?”
“Just leave her with Diane I guess. The police don’t really have a good way of putting heroes into protective custody. As long as we move quickly we can make sure that she is safe.”
“Have you started making the plan for defeating Cockatrice?”
“Some, calling Meike now would probably be a issue. She would probably just rush off immediately to fight Cockatrice however attacking him in his home alone is probably terrible. I think I’m going to stake out the location with Horizon for a bit before contacting Meike to make an assault.”
From across the room Berardo heard Diane said, “I want you to call me as well.”
Berardo sighed, he knew how this conversation was going to end but needed to his his duty, “I can’t include you. It is dangerous and besides you need to protect Charmer. I’m a detective, doing this kind of stuff is my job.”
“But for some reason it is alright to include Meike?”
“But she’s…” Berardo couldn’t come up with a convincing explanation.
“You are going to include me. If you don’t then I will go to Meike right now. I’m sure she will include me or at least let me follow.”
Berardo held up his hands in surrender, “Alright, alright. I’ll contact you and include you in the plans.”
She nodded and then returned to the other room.
“Are all Dreamers and Heroes this strong willed and thick headed?” Berardo asked Rose.
“That has been my experience. Seeking your dreams is something that all of them strive for and because they feel less limited then ordinary people the don’t hold back.”
“Even in the face of potential death?”
“Some would break but those that don’t keep that determination.”
“We are all crazy!” said Berardo.
The next day was hectic. Berardo had to split the day between trying the new equipment cards that he had gotten and watching the house. It was a larger building which would normally be expensive but it was on the southern outskirts of town where property was cheapest. Most people wanted to live higher where the views were better.
The place screamed suspicious to Berardo who had plenty of experience at that kind of thing. Nobody came in and out and there were almost never any lights on in the building even in the evening. The ground were also ill-kept. It seemed almost abandoned but Berardo knew that it was not.
Horizon was able to confirm that there were people that lived there. Normally staking out a place like this would be extremely dangerous because they could be noticed and destroy the potential sting operation. However Horizon was able to keep watch from a longer distance and avoid being noticed easily. She then relayed information to Berardo who was keeping plenty of notes on the upcoming operation.
Not wanting to keep Meike too far outside the look he had sent her a vague message that the had located important information about Cockatrice and should be able to locate his resistance by the next day and that she should be prepared. Then Berardo proceeded to ignore the next following messages from her trying to pressure him into letting her into it now.
Eventually they stopped watching the house and headed back to the meeting location. Berardo waved as he saw Rose approaching and she waved back. However Horizon stiffened and wait, “She is being watched.”
Berardo slightly inclined his head and said, “We need to catch them. Go quickly.”
Horizon then began running off while Berardo pulled out a card and as quietly as he could intoned, “Activate, Speed Boost.” It was possible to active spells fairly quietly however many of the effects were fairly obvious so it was difficult to conceal it.
Horizon ran across the street and around a corner. Rose getting the hint followed after her although not was quickly. Berardo tried to keep up be he was in an even worse position than both of them. There weren’t any sounds of violence or anything so Berardo expected to see them continuing to run when he rounded the corner.
Instead he saw Rose pointing her sword at a girl who was obviously Demon of Forgotten Soot. She didn’t have her horns or her claws but that didn’t surprise Berardo. Heroes seemed to be able to suppress their strange features if they wanted to.
She had her hands raise showing her surrender. She smile when she saw Berardo and she said, “No need to be violent with me. I surrender. After all we are friends here.”
Rose growled at her, “Why were you following me?”
“Because I wanted to figure out what you were up to. You seem like your purposefully planning something.” She smiled, “Do you know who Cockatrice is? Is that what is happening?”
Horizon looked back at Berardo and said, “She must know something. It couldn’t just be a coincidence that she just happens to be following us at this time.”
Berardo got closer to her and looked her up and down. She was wearing very casual clothing, stuff that wouldn’t get her pointed out as unusual.
Berardo said, “Does Patrick know that you are here?”
“Not likely, he is pretty dense about things and doesn’t want to get into anything dangerous.”
“So you acting on your own?”
She just smiled casually, “Is there something wrong with that? Am I not allowed to do stuff without his permission?”
“You can do whatever you want. However most heroes aren’t quite as independent at you seem to be so forgive me if I am suspicious.”
“If your suspicious then you should keep a watch over me until you are no longer suspicious.”
Berardo looked over at Rose, “What was it I said about headstrong heroes.”
She just smiled back at him. Berardo looked back at Demon, “How long have you been watching us?”
“That’s a mystery.” She said slyly.
“Horizon, we need to keep you activated more often just to notice people like this that keep sneaking around.”
He looked back at Demon and said, “Fine, whatever, follow us. Just stop sneaking around. You can join us. We are just about to do some training before the sting tomorrow.”
Her smile widened and she said, “Yes sir Detective sir.”
“Oh, great, sarcastic too.”
Berardo then lead his new team back through the town. There was a building that the police force used for training which he had receive permission directly from the chief to use for his secret project.
It had a large amount of easily reconfigurable interior space. It wasn’t really being use for that purpose by Berardo however. It was the open area to test spells that he was concerned with.
As they got to the building Berardo said to Demon, “Anything special we should know about you joining us?”
She held up a handful of cards, “I borrowed some of Patrick’s collection. I hope it will turn out useful.”
Berardo blinked at her to express his feelings, “And that is useful how? Can you activate spell cards?”
“Wouldn’t know, I haven’t tried it yet, but I wouldn’t count out the possibility just yet. People who give up that easily always end up failing.” She said with a smirk.
“Alright then, good luck, I hope you succeed.”
“And who is being sarcastic now?” Said Demon.
“Me, and thank you for pointing it out. That was very much appreciated. I wouldn’t have figured it out without you. Now you can use that bit of the building over there for trying your pointless exercise.”
Berardo motion, however he wasn’t just being sarcastic for pleasantries sake. She seemed like the type of person who liked to prove people wrong. Maybe she really would be able to cast spells without needed her Dreamer to do it. Berardo thought that the Maker had said something about oddities and being able to do strange things.
Now it was time for him to begin his own training. Diane was supposed to be arriving in a couple of hours to join them in training but he wanted to make sure that he understood how his new spells worked before she arrived so he knew which ones he really wanted to practice with.
The alarm woke Berardo up instantly, something he had gotten used to because of practice in the police force. He slapped the alarm off and sat up. It was actually beginning to become evening time but it was almost time for the sting operation and he had wanted to get some sleep before it happened.
He looked around the building. A lot of the police training equipment had been ruined during the training yesterday and early today. Things had not exactly gone as planned but it has taught them important information about his new equipment spells.
Importantly he had learned not to activate the Crown of Destiny. That had been a mistake. It was evil wish making genie powerful and Berardo didn’t want to revisit that again any time soon.
However the other items had all proved useful in one way or another. He had been extra surprised to find that the Bracelet of Mud was a very versatile and useful item. Nobody had really been able to mast the Mystical Claws of the Etherealist however which required as much finesses as he had feared.
Berardo has also gotten 2 more crystals since the time as the school building. He was definitely starting to reach his limit now. He had 10 crystals now and hadn’t yet fully mastered being able to use all of them at the same time. He would try to limit himself to only 9 if possible, like that would ever happen.
He walked around the place clapping his hands and waking everybody up. Everybody had stayed her during the night like he had. Everybody had been rather impressive last night and Berardo thought that the had a good chance to defeat Cockatrice even without Meike.
As everybody began to get up and prepare Berardo began the final message to Meike. He told her where they were and that they were about to launch an attack against Cockatrice if she wanted to join them. He would also send her the location when they headed out.
Everybody nodded, Berardo continued, “Alright then, lets head out. Everybody, this is going to be dangerous. If you have any desire to turn back now is the time.”