-FIVE MONTHS AGO-
THE BOY SLID THE brown package across the table.
He flicked his tongue over his lips—a snake-like affect—reading the way Detective Barch sat before him. The boy noticed the beads of sweat forming in Barch's brow, how he fingered his tie nervously, loosening the way it wrapped around his neck. Barch ran his hand backwards through his dark hair, his expressions dull. "What is this?" the detective queried.
The young boy didn't think twice about what he had done. In fact, he played it very calmly. His illuminating green eyes roamed the restaurant. First, his view traveled up a nicely fit woman, a black dress expressing her unique curves. The boy chuckled at the chump she was with. She could do better, he thought to himself. He was only acting in such a way to ignore Barch. After all, it was the only way the detective remained in a shell; it frightened him seeing such actions.
The boy didn't play long before catching Barch's gaze once again when saying, "You wanted a case and that's exactly what I've brought you." He tipped his head at the package and smirked carelessly. The boy leaned forward and brought his tone to a slight whisper. "Peoples been talking. There's an impostor out there claiming to be one of us—me," he corrected. "What makes matters worse, the Lacunas are forming."
"And you expect me to drop everything? To let you go after all of the murders?"
"Oh, Barch. If only you knew half of what I know now. They aren't human. What I do is for yours and everyone else's damn safety." The boy chuckled and shook his head before continuing. "You may look older, but I have more knowledge. There's one-hundred-thousand dollars in an account with your name on it. Head to the plaza on the corner of Fifth Avenue and there, you will find a good friend of mine hoarding a boarding pass for you to ditch Ashfort for good."
Barch sat back in his seat, now on to the young boy's game. He shook his head and scoffed. "My job requires evidence, the truth. How do you know I won't turn you in?"
"I said I had more knowledge, but I believe you to be a wiser man. You and I are alike in many ways, Barch. For one, we want to live and we want our people to be safe. We can't do that with an impostor and a group of empty creatures forcing their way into town. I know what you feign to have. You’re money hungry and I just paid you ten times your overall salary."
Barch sipped his water and leaned forward, hands clasped tightly together, and a moment after silence, he said, "Fine, I'll do it. He's dating my boss's daughter. Rumor has it, he's been affiliated with your people and threatens to reveal your secret. I'll capture him and promise you, he'll never return. But don't forget, I will always know your secret even when he’s gone. You're growing weaker, Torne. In due time, you will be nothing but ashes and it'll take years for you to be reborn."
The way Barch tried to threaten him only tickled Torne inside. The young one pulled his lips backwards and his glare dived just low enough for Barch to know he will never win. Not with a weak little warning like that anyways. "Ever heard of the Phoenix's Cure? Latimus is what we call it. It's a rapid ingredient that strips birds from a certain way of life. I will find it and I will avenge the others. There's gonna be a war here in Ashfort. And if you think knowing my secret scares me, I have more on you than you can imagine. You see, I've done a little digging myself, Barch. Smuggling drugs from the evidence...Does that ring a bell?"
Barch turned red. "Shut it! I-I—I was going to place the evidence back. I just--"
"Needed a high? I understand. But, renege on me one last time and our understandings, our agreements will be over."
Barch agreed no matter how angry, how hot his blood was at that given moment. "I need one thing from you. The murders, they have to stop, or, at least be covered before citizen’s start asking questions."
"I can't make any promises, but I'll try to be a bit quieter," Torne spoke and winked at the detective. He stood tall and yanked his jacket off of the back of his seat. "One more thing. If you threaten me or my people again, you can find me near the old well in the pits of the woods," he warned and maneuvered himself out of the restaurant right after sliding his card with ten digits on it—his number—toward the woman in the black dress.
Torne, mostly known by his last name, disappeared into the darkness as Detective Barch beat himself up from making the worst mistake yet. He knew things were only going to get rocky from there on out and it was his turn to keep a promise, to capture the impostor and ditch town before it turned into a bloody battlefield.