Two tall, robe clad figures stood beside the examination table where the dead girl lay.
One was a man with disproportionately broad shoulders and a narrow chin, and the other was an elegant woman with a pleasant face and long fingers that always hovered close to her darkly painted lips.
Edison paused at the doorway to listen to them.
“…findings which would make this improbable to say the least,” muttered the man, his brows furrowed.
“The situations is less than desirable, yes, but we shouldn’t dismiss the results. In a few hours we will know for sure. Unfortunate that we couldn’t witness the exact process she used…” said the woman, her eyes fixed on the girl’s face.
“But without a controlled environment how can we be sure that it was Carmen’s venom alone that triggered the process? Perhaps there were outside factors.”
“Hmm. Emperical evidence would suggest so, yes, but…”
“Ahem,” said Mage Herring coming up behind Edison. “Mr Gage, please come inside.” He guided Edison into the room as the two specialists turned towards them.
Adam Herring performed the introductions and then the woman, a Ms Leon offered her hand to him.
“Mr Gage,” she said, a polite smile on her lips. “I understand you found the body.”
“A member of my team did,” said Edison shaking the hand. The man, Dr Giles, nodded at him. It was rare for a Night Kind professional to wear the title of a human academic, so Edison assumed that the Doctor must have an active life in the Visible world.
“And you cannot say if it was an attack by a pishach or by a…” She glanced at Adam Herring, who after holding her gaze for an awkward moment quietly excused himself. “Or by Emma Carmen.”
Edison raised his brows as if in dawning realization. “I see. You believe the attacker was Carmen. Hmm. Well, we scanned the area for traces of her of course, but couldn’t find any. There was no other evidence to suggest that she might be involved.”
Ms Leon’s smile widened. “But we both know that Emma Carmen is uncommonly intelligent, Mr Gage. Also, I do believe we have met before.”
Yes, they had. Three years ago.
“Really?” Edison frowned then nodded. “Yes, you might be right. It was possibly during Emma Carmen’s initial incarceration.”
“Yes,” she said. “And today she brings us together again. Do you believe in portents, Mr Gage? I do and this one feels like a powerful one.”
“Sarah,” Dr Giles recalled. “We have more immediate matters to attend to. Mr Gage as you seem to have discerned our theory, you will understand our eagerness to move the body to NKBS. We will need to study her better and this lab is not equipped with all we need.”
“I’m sorry, I might have misunderstood,” said Edison. “I thought NKBS had jurisdiction only over living specimens of Night Kind species. This is a human corpse.”
Sarah Leon laughed softly and Dr Giles shook his head. “We think it’s a distinct possibility that this human is not yet dead. Statis as you know is just a state before true death for all species of the Night Kind except the Reborn. We believe Emma Carmen has infected the girl.”
Edison looked startled. “Very unlikely wouldn’t you say? I thought that was what NKBS had been trying to attempt with Carmen all these years.”
“Oh, Mr Gage,” said Ms Leon, putting her long fingers on his arm. “You have to understand that there is much in the field of transmogrification that we haven’t yet demystified. Carmen may have forced us to abandon our investigations at a critical stage, but now she has given us this…a possible clean slate to begin our research afresh.”
For a terrible moment Edison almost forgot the part he was playing. In that split second he almost took that narrow wrist in his hands and snapped the bones.
Sarah Leon smiled up at him, oblivious. “We simply need you to co-sign the documents with Mage Herring, releasing the body to our care.”
Edison smiled back grimly. “I would be happy to, Ms Leon but other than the statis state, which someone with even the most diluted Night Kind blood might enter, you have given me no evidence that the girl is actually infected.” He looked at Dr Giles, “which you will agree, sir, seems highly unlikely regardless.”
He moved around Sarah Leon, whose smile had now vanished, and walked to the girl. “The human was found by my team and therefore I am responsible for returning her to her family once her body is cleared by the Med-Mages. So unless you have evidence that can persuade me that the girl is indeed about to Turn, I suggest we wait a few hours longer. We will then know conclusively, what the right course is.”
This last was a small prayer he sent out for himself. A few hours was all he could buy.
“It would be too late by then,” said Ms Leon, her tone annoyed. “If she Turns, the whole building would be vulnerable to her. We need to put her in a secure room where she can be monitored through the Change.”
“And if she doesn’t Change,” said Edison, sounding as infuriatingly reasonable as any obstacle to progress could be. “Then we will have a dead human in the custody of NKBS, famous for its red tape, and a family clueless about the tragic fate of their child.”
“Perhaps,” said Dr Giles observing the rising colour on his colleague’s face. “We could call Director Reiner. I’m sure Mr Gage will have no more objections if the Director personally assured him that the girl will be returned to her family, should our theory be incorrect.”
Ms Leon took in a calming breath and nodded. “Yes. Yes, that is a good idea.”
Edison smiled tightly, cursing in his own head. The Director couldn’t force him to release the body of course, but she could later bring serious charges against him of wilfully endangering the lives of civilians in this building.
Dr Giles pulled out his cell and made the call. They waited in tense silence as the phone rang on the other end. After a minute however, Dr Giles frowned down at his cell and then dialled the Director’s office.
“Hello?” They all heard Reiner’s assistant answer.
“This is Dr Herman Giles. I wish to speak to the Director, I can’t seem to reach her on her cell phone.”
“Ah, yes. A moment, sir.”
Seconds ticked by and turned into minutes.
“Well, this is…” began Dr Giles in annoyance, when the assistant finally came back on the line.
“I’m very sorry, sir,” she said in a harried voice. “The director was on an important call. She’s free to speak with you now. I’ll patch you through directly.”
A moment later Director Reiner came on. “Hello, Giles. I’m assuming you’re still at the Block 5 Mortuary.”
“Yes, that is correct. Director we have seen the body and spok-”
“With Gage, yes, I know. Will you hand him the phone for a moment?”
Visibly startled, the doctor held out his cell to Edison. As he took it, Giles and Leon exchanged a guarded look.
“Director,” greeted Edison for the second time that night.
“Master Gage, I had underestimated you,” said Director Reiner in her usual calm way, no trace of irritation in her tone. “However I cannot understand why you have done this.”
Edison took a moment before asking, “what have I done exactly?”
Giles and Leon, both possessing hearing almost as good as Edison’s frowned in suspicion.
“I was just on the line with a representative of Night Kind Amity, who informed me that if I allowed any branch under Observer to attempt to claim the girl’s body without having it first cleared by a recognised leader of her Faction, I will be risking a call to the Tribunal for purposely disturbing inter-species peace.”
A short laugh escaped Edison’s pursed lips. The NKBS specialists looked at him with disbelief and astonishment.
Then the Director asked in her gentle way, “and do you know any leaders of the Reborn faction that I can speak to, Master Gage? Have a lot of them been secretly inducted into the Council recently?”
Edison’s short lived hope died a quick death. “Not to- not to my knowledge, Director.” He could almost feel Reiner’s cold smile curling up her lips.
“Then you will appreciate, Master Gage, that though I am perfectly willing to follow the Amity Laws established by the Council, in this case a lack of representative makes compliance somewhat difficult.”
Then somebody coughed and they all looked towards the door.
“I’m insulted, my dear Director,” said Jeremy Hayde, leaning against the entrance, a small smile playing on his mouth. “Surely. Ahem. Surely, I count as a representative of my kind, which is after all the very definition of a leader.”
His eyes met Edison’s and his smile widened at his friend’s face, where relief and annoyance fought for place.
“I’m not sure that is quite true, Master Hayde,” said Reiner after a short pause. “Especially when you are the last known member of a dying race.”
“Oh but you exaggerate, Director,” said Jeremy from his perch. “Why I’ve been reliably informed I’m to gain a nest-mate very soon.” He looked from Edison to the two researchers standing stiffly by the gurney. “Or did I hear that wrong?”
“Director, this is ridiculous,” began Ms Leon.
“Yes, isn’t it,” said the Director. “If the girl is human with an undetectable strain of the Touch then NKBS cannot claim her and if she is an infected specimen soon to commence her Change…then Master Hayde will cry Faction.”
Edison almost smiled but kept his face impassive. “So what will it be, Director?”
“Hand the phone back to Giles, Master Gage. I suppose I will give you this round.”
And a minute later, angry and sputtering the two specialists left the room.
“I thought you didn’t want to mess with the balance,” said Edison to his friend who finally walked up to the dead girl now under his protection.
“I don’t,” said Jeremy, but didn’t elaborate. He looked down at the girl and then up at Edison. “Well, my friend, you have her. Now, what do you intend to do with her?”
© 2013 Paroma Chakravarty