The story so far:
January 12, 2009
I would like to note, on the record, that it is impossible to work with airlines people. The cancellation went simply enough, but when I discovered they’d already found someone else to take my place on that flight, I thought it seemed reasonable that I should at least get a partial refund on my ticket. After the third time the attendant tried to explain why their policy is rational (it isn’t), I wanted to send some vibes through the phone line that would have her in a straightjacket by the end of the day.
But that’s the least of my worries right now.
I returned to the precinct bright and early in the morning to find Grif already there, sorting out files and paperwork. It’s like he’s some sort of prodigy or something. At any rate, he pushed a cup of coffee into my hand as I approached his desk and began showing me what he’d put together in the half-hour he’d been there before I arrived.
None of the victims had any identification, but he had started their pictures running through the scanner last night, and this morning had found several matches. Some of the matches were people with records, others simply had obtained identification cards at a deep enough level for their faces to be registered in the records. Most had been business owners at some point, and a few had worked in the education system.
Grif had also managed to get approximate dates of disappearing for most of them. Very few had actually been reported as missing, as most either had no family or hadn’t been in contact with family. For those who didn’t have family to estimate a time of disappearance, Grif had tracked down records and made an estimate based on when their identification or finance cards had last been used.
The interesting part was that the victims all seemed to be at a transient state in life prior to disappearing. A majority of them had been in the process of moving to another district before they disappeared. Others had been between jobs. A few had even been homeless, wandering aimlessly across the country before disappearing.
Only one of those had been in my hometown when he disappeared. The rest came from various other areas, testifying to the fact that Willsey had been traveling for quite some time.
However, none of this got us any closer to figuring out what exactly she was doing with all these people.
The emergency crews still had their hands full at the warehouse, emptying the boxes and taking the victims to local hospitals. Grif reported that they’d actually reached the point where crews from neighboring districts were called in, and the victims were being transported to those hospitals as the hospitals in Riventon approached max capacity. None of the victims had woken up yet, so we still didn’t have anyone to question. We could only hope that these people could give us some idea of why they’d been taken.
We spent the morning reviewing the information Grif had collected, cross-checking anything we could to try to gather more clues—anything that might help us get to the bottom of this. Aside from the transient nature of the victims, nothing else stood out as similar. Every race was present, and the ages varied from teenagers to the elderly. There were no clear patterns or anything to distinguish these victims from a random sampling taken at an average mall.
Grif called the main district hospital just after lunch. The first victims discovered had been taken there. If anyone was awake, it was most likely to be at that hospital.
Hanging up, he stood and grabbed his coat. “There’s a few awake there. They’re pretty groggy, but I managed to talk them into letting us stop by for a couple questions.”
I almost burst with pride. I’d taken that sniveling grunt and turned him into a real man. Giving him a brief smile, I grabbed my own coat. “Nice work.”
He gave me a sideways grin before striding for the door.
It took us a little while longer than it should have to reach the hospital since emergency vehicles continued shooting past every few minutes, but we were at the main desk before too long. After we’d signed in and shown our identification, the nurse gave us directions to the section of the hospital they’d allocated for the victims.
Before we walked off, she peered down her nose at me. “You can’t stay too long. These people need to recover. Don’t ask too many questions, either.”
“Of course,” Grif said before I had a chance to speak. I was still tempted to voice my exact opinions about the woman’s statements, but Grif was already heading down the hallway. I settled for a brief withering glare before catching up.
Another nurse met us at the entrance to the section. He carried a clipboard and looked just as full of if as the previous nurse. After eyeballing us, he repeated the same admonishments, then led us to the room of a middle-aged, dark skinned man. After repeating the warnings yet again, the nurse backed off, hovering just outside the door.
The man blinked at us. “Who’re you?”
“Magehunters,” I said. “Do you remember who did this to you?”
Blank look. “Did what?”
Grif stepped in. “Sir, do you remember what happened?”
His eyes glazed a little. “My wife left me… some other guy…”
Grif consulted the notes he’d brought. “Right, and then you traveled to Osric North.”
“Friend said there was work there.”
“What happened in Osric North?” I asked.
The nurse finally kicked us out of the room after a couple more minutes of questioning, all with the same result. The man didn’t recognize Willsey from the picture we showed him, but she may have had one of her lackeys doing the dirty work. He hadn’t sought out any spiritual advisor, so she probably wasn’t rounding these people up through her other line of business. In other words, we walked out with no more than we’d walked in with.
Only three other victims were awake, and all three were the exact same story. “Groggy” barely scratched the surface; they could barely even tell which way was up anymore. Most of them could remember things up through a few days before their abduction, but none recognized Willsey or could offer any useful information.
We pushed our luck in each room, but the nurse was too sharp, jumping in after exactly three minutes to shoo us away and order the patient to rest. By the time we’d finished with the third one, I had a bouquet of choice words at the tip of my tongue, ready to lay into him.
Grif spoke up before I could start, though. “Thank you for your help, sir. I know it’s unusual, and I appreciate you letting us take the time to speak with those people.”
The nurse’s demeanor softened a bit. “I just hope you’ll catch whoever did this.”
Nodding, Grif glanced back at the room. “Of course, if there’s anything else you can tell us, it’ll help us catch her that much faster.”
A long pause followed, long enough to make it obvious that there was something else. The nurse finally glanced up and down the hallway, then leaned closer to us. “The head of staff here wanted the doctors to figure out what it all means before we submit a formal report to the authorities, but I really think you should see this.”
Like hungry dogs, we followed at his heels as he scurried into one of the other rooms. An elderly woman was there, still unconscious. The nurse carefully rolled her to her side and pushed her hair back, revealing multiple bruises and marks on the back of her neck.
“Puncture wounds,” he said. “They all have them. It may be where the drugs were injected to put them into stasis, but it seems like there are too many injection sites for that.”
“What do you think they’re for?” I asked.
The nurse shrugged. “We don’t really know.”
“What do you think they’re for?” Grif pressed.
Another pause. “Well… The bruises look a lot like the bruise caused by a lumbar puncture that slips a little. The docs are leaning toward these being injection sites, but I say it’s just as likely that something was being taken out, like blood or spinal fluid.”
“Why would they want that?” I demanded.
He shrugged. “It’s just my thought. Like I said, the docs are figuring it was an injection site. I don’t really have the same sort of experience they do.”
“I understand,” Grif said, shaking his hand. “Thanks for your time.”
We spent the rest of the day speaking to various doctors, finding out everything we could about biological stasis, the drugs required for it, and potential uses for blood and spinal fluid.
Whatever Willsey was up to, we would get to the bottom of it. No matter what it took.