Into the Wild Blue
Marius stayed true to his word. He went back to work. The doorstep he found himself on was not the workplace he had left when he took his leave. Marius wanted answers. The only place he knew that could provide him those adequately was the Occult Investigation Bureau.
Marius had little issues in locating the building in the heart of Vancouver. His weight shifted from one foot to the other as he listened to the hum of the elevator. Nervousness prickled at him. The elevator chimed his arrival to the correct floor. The door glided open. A spacious modern reception area greeted Marius. He paused a few steps towards the reception desk to stare at a painting hung over a couch.
“Saint John in the Wilderness, from the workshop of Leonardo Da Vinci.” Ronan said from behind Marius. “He is a favourite amongst the Little People.”
“Da Vinci?” Marius asked, turning swiftly to face Ronan. He hadn’t noticed Ronan, just the blonde lady at the desk talking quietly on the phone. Marius swallowed sharply, then smiled. He stuck his hand out to Ronan in greeting.
“No, Saint John.” Ronan shook Marius’ hand. “It is good to see you, Marius.”
Marius nodded. “Thanks. You too, Ronan.” Marius glanced back to the painting, curiosity getting the better of him. “Why Saint John? He’s a christian saint.”
“He is the author,” Ronan said, leading the way down a hallway. “Which means he is the Saint of stories and telling them. If you ever want a fae’s full attention, spin a good story. How have you been?”
“Alright,” Marius had no want to explain further, to probe bruises he’d done his best to bandage. “Thanks for the emails and reports. I—” His words lodged in his throat, eyes sweeping over the office they entered.
A leather couch leaned against one wall, a curved coffee table accompanied it. An oak desk took up a large portion of the central office, with two chairs parked on the visitor side and one larger executive style chair on the owner’s side. Ronan sunk into the larger chair, waving his hand for Marius to make himself comfortable. Marius settled into one of the visitor chairs, his eyes locked on the museum grade display case behind Ronan.
The case perched atop a black stone base. The faint discoloration of laser beams evident behind the glass indicated a top-notch security system that went past a good quality glass. Ronan paid it no mind. The displayed seal skin within the case had Marius itching to ask questions. The hue of the skin matched Ronan’s hair colour. A detail that reminded Marius of that one day in the rain weeks ago.
“I appreciate your keeping me up to date,” Marius jerked his eyes away from the skin and Ronan’s hair to focus on his face.
“Oh, not a problem, Marius. I know how important the information must be for you.”
“Yeah,” Marius said. He couldn’t stand the nagging itch anymore. “A sealskin? Don’t get many animal activists through the office, do you?”
Ronan blinked at Marius, slowly shaking his head. “Very few. In fact, the only ones I could recall ever coming through here are part of the Wild Hunt, so I am not sure they are the sort of activists you are referring to.”
Marius’ eyes narrowed. That name rang a bell. The faint memory of a hunting horn blaring across a midnight field caused Marius to shudder. “No, I don’t think so either.”
Ronan followed Marius’ gaze over his shoulder to the displayed seal skin. “That skin has been in my family my whole life. I am very attached to it, as you can tell.” A crooked little smile on Ronan’s face when he turned back left Marius the distinct feeling his was missing a joke.
“I see. Well,” Marius said, leaning back in his chair. A hand waved at Ronan before flopping down on the chair arm. “It’s nice. The colour matches your hair.”
“Yes, happy accidents,” Ronan said with a lack of concern. He rifled through the stack of papers and reports on his desk, selecting the ones he required. “Now, I have managed to get most of your information transferred over from CSIS. I tell you, I might as well have asked for their file on the Queen of England.”
Marius chuckled, leaning against the chair arm. “Not so willing to give me up?”
“Something like that. More like they doubted you really wanted to come over to the Occult Division.”
“I sent in my letter of resignation a few days ago.” Marius knit his brows together. “Even gave written permission to share my information with you and the Division here.”
“Likely why I managed to get the file in the end,” Ronan said. “Sticklers about privacy and secrecy, which is applaudable, but not so much when it winds up hacking off a finger on the same hand you are trying to protect. Your education surprised me.” Ronan opened the file he placed on top of two others. “Let us see. Attended the university here, studied Cognitive Systems, a couple of languages and after graduation, you entered training with CSIS?”
Marius confirmed what Ronan read aloud with periodic nods of his head. Fortunately, official transcripts usually left out the more harrowing adventures of his university years. “Yeah, that’s right. Spent the last few years undercover on several operations around the world which typically involved infiltrating groups and persons of interest to gather information.”
“Perfect,” Ronan closed the file and drew out the one under it to open. “You will be doing the same thing for us. From the reports your superiors sent on you, you have been very successful in extracting important information beyond what they asked for.” Ronan lifted his head to peer intently at Marius. “Having signed aboard here, Marius, you do recognize that you may have frequent dealings with non-human entities, yes?”
“Yeah,” Marius said. “Sure, I realize that. I can’t say I’ve got any experience in it, Ronan.”
Ronan shrugged and flashed Marius a smile. “You probably do and just don’t know it. I will own up that we do not often employ humans directly. Not like I am with you.”
“Why not?” Marius narrowed his eyes, glancing from Ronan to the seal skin and back again. “Aren’t you—?”
“What you have witnessed so far, Marius,” Ronan said. He continued right over Marius’ questions as though he hadn’t asked any. “Is the tip of an iceberg with a gluttonous depth hidden beneath it. You will meet all kinds of folk working for us. The list is lengthy. There is a library on the twenty third floor here where you will find a large amount of information on most of what you might meet. I suggest you browse through it.” Ronan slid an identification card across the desk.
Marius leaned forwards to pluck it off the wood. “Understood.”
“I hope so. Your ability to mask your thoughts and emotions will meet the ultimate test, Marius. Many beings are empaths. They will feed off you, use that information against you.” Ronan studied Marius a long moment. “Several will not balk at the thought of burying you in their gardens. That is why we do not employ humans for agent work. Too delicate and impressionable.”
Marius bristled. He never thought of himself or other humans as too delicate or impressionable for anything. “I am not im—” He bit down on his tongue, eyes closing a moment as he took in a breath and exhaled it. “I won’t disappoint you, Ronan. Where am I starting?”
“Once you are done with the library, I have a plane ticket for you to London, England.” Ronan patted an envelope sitting at the top end of his desk.
“London?” Marius faintly recalled mentions of London in the reports Ronan had emailed him. Half of his memories over the last couple of months were badly blurred. A brief mental struggle surfaced a portion of why London but what he remembered only created more questions.
Ronan nodded, studying Marius once more. “Are you sure you are ready for this, Marius?”
“Yeah,” Marius sat up straighter in his chair, meeting Ronan’s worried look with nod of his head. “I am. I’m sure. You were having problems tracing the assailant?”
“We did have issues, yes.” Ronan leaned back in his chair, fingertips tapping on the wood. “Until we brought in a tracker. Magic leaves behind residue unique to the caster, which is useful at times. A bit like finding fingerprints all over a crime scene. Usually, it is enough to say what sort of being cast it, and we can narrow it down from there. The tracker managed to follow the assailant’s magic from your house into the woodlands across the street. It ended in a tree.”
Marius did his best not to give Ronan a blank look or one more like he thought the man had grown extra heads. Marius needed to adjust to hearing these sort of reports, talking about these kinds of subjects. Topics and conversations that left him feeling like he’d jumped off the Good Ship Reality.
“In a tree?”
“Which is excellent,” Ronan said, fully engaged in the sharing of the documentation. He pushed the folder towards Marius. “A portal formed in a tree indicates a forest entity. The nature of what happened at your house speaks of a dark one. All fae are associated to something natural; forest, flower, water, lightning, anything at all really.” Ronan waved the topic away in favour of continuing with the situation at hand. “My contacts in London divulged having seen signs of forest fae activity there recently, in particular that of the Dark Court. One doesn’t exactly just waltz in and book an appointment with the monarch of the Dark Court, so we’re going to send you.”
Marius blinked several times at Ronan, swallowing thickly. “Me?”
“You. They will not suspect we may be brazen enough to send a human to infiltrate the Dark Court,” Ronan said. He decided against referring to it as a suicide mission. “I suggest you start by looking around for a way in, then work your way through and up the court ranks as needed. Both Courts have a solid footing in London, the Light Court more so. I can guarantee your reports and presence will be gladly accepted by London’s branch. They’re going through some transitions so manpower is a little low over there.”
The last file Ronan didn’t bother to open. He just pushed it across the desk with the plane ticket envelope. Marius reached to take both.
“One last thing, Marius.”
Ronan’s voice froze Marius mid-lift of the last file, his gaze meeting Ronan’s. “Yeah?”
“The London Branch claims they spotted your daughter there,” Ronan said, “about two weeks ago in a street market. They didn’t get a good look at the man she was with, but they were very certain the girl they saw matched the photos you gave me of Isolde.”
Hope flared in Marius’ eyes, his lips parting on words he found he suddenly couldn’t form. His daughter? Alive and spotted in London?
“How the hell did she get to London?” Marius finally managed to choke the question out.
Ronan smiled, “Fae portal in the tree. Read the files, Marius. Visit the library. Your flight is in two days.”
Marius narrowed his eyes on Ronan. Questions boiled inside him. He added the file to the other two he’d been given as he rose from the chair. Marius knew a dismissal when he heard it. His questions had to wait. Marius turned to stride out of the office, a last glance paid over his shoulder at the high security seal skin. For the first time in a while, Marius wanted a drink.
Two days later found him on board a plane to England. One that made an emergency stop in Iceland to smuggle aboard one of the most famous dancers in modern time. Zencho Tori settled into the seat next to Marius. By the time the plane was back in the air, the two were well on their way to becoming acquainted.
Laughter burst from Marius, nearly doubling him over with mirth.
“Right? So, here I am staring at this poor lady and her daughter’s just going crazy. My shirt’s torn halfway across my chest and you can see it in the lady’s eyes.” Zencho laughed, a hand smacking down on Marius’ arm resting on the single seat arm between them on the plane.
“Oh, man, I know that look,” Marius wiped a hand under an eye, laughter dissolving into hiccups of sound. “Like, this girl! I don’t know her!”
“Yeah, yeah, exactly. Absolutely horrified.” Zencho leaned back in the seat, shoulder shaking with amusement. “I had to reassure her it was practically normal.”
Marius shook his head, polishing off the last of the drink resting on his tray that he somehow hadn’t knocked over. “Zen, man, that is not normal. I’ve never been greeted like that, not even by my wife.”
Zencho chuckled, rolling his head to the side to eye the man next to him. Marius’ broad cheekbones and square jawline defined handsome perfectly. His umber brown skin with cool, jewel undertones readily drew the eye, his complexion smooth and clean shaven. Chestnut brown eyes warmed on meeting Zencho’s gaze, yet he had noticed that a note of sorrow lingered in the depths of them continuously. Zencho itched to ask, but kept his silence out of respect for his new found friend.
“She offered to buy me a new shirt,” Zencho shifted in the seat, tucking a leg up under himself. “I had to politely decline for obvious reasons. So, what are you heading to London for?”
“Sure as hell don’t blame you,” Marius set the empty cup on the tray. “Business, I guess. I’m in law enforcement, so will be working alongside Scotland Yard for awhile in what is an exchange of sorts.”
“No shit?” Zencho flashed Marius a wide grin. “Think if I wasn’t dancing that’s what I’d like to do. But like detective work, you know, or investigating high profile crimes.”
“Maybe you should go into the movies then or TV?” Marius returned the grin.
Zencho shook his head, “Nah, not sure I could take the sort of hype that comes with that. I mean, I get enough as it is, with the broadcasts of the performances.”
Marius nodded, slouching down some in the seat. He folded his hands over his stomach and exhaled a long breath. “Yeah, not anything I’ve really had to think about before. Hell of a thing watching the way they smuggled you in here.”
Zencho’s grin grew wider, “Wait ‘til you see how they’re planning to get me out.”
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