The day Milena met Aaron Fineman was a day like many others. She, Dani, and Janus had spent the day walking Durnin Valley, using their Talents to search and periodically receiving phone calls telling them to look at the opposite end of town. When they went there, they suddenly received information that it was actually the other end of town and didn’t they already know that?
By the afternoon, her feet were pulsing, and she was enjoying a short break from the walking. She sat on a low wall outside of the library, looking at the sun playing on her skin.
Janus Vincentia, pale with black hair and a serious scowl on his face, was on the phone and pacing back and forth, no doubt receiving another call. Perhaps the League would send them to a whole other town. Again.
“How long is this going to take?” Milena asked Dani.
Danaë Ithaca, her and Janus’ partner, was lounging by the wall and she was humming and tossing her head so that the brown hair danced.
“If we don’t find anything today, we’ll go back to the inn and try again tomorrow. But they said that it’s definitely near here.” She went back to humming, but Milena couldn’t be as optimistic.
“Are they even sure it’s the right town this time?” she asked, interrupting Dani’s tune.
“Yeah, yeah, it’s definitely this one.”
They had said the same when they were back in Montelleria. After two whole weeks the League called and said it was all a waste of time; it was actually Durnin Valley and their search would start all over again. Just like in Montelleria, they had been walking all over town, using their Talents in ways they weren’t supposed to.
In addition to her legs, Milena’s head felt heavy. The Searcher’s Talent was not her best, and even now she felt like she could sense all the people around her. There were three people in the library and someone was walking down the streets towards the building. She tried releasing her Talent, but they were still sort of there in the back of her mind, and all she could really do was wait for the potion to stop working. She wasn’t good enough to stop it on her own.
“Yes, I am aware that somebody will most likely die here today and that you’re the only ones who can find them,” Janus said. He was suddenly loud and agitated, pacing with the phone in his hand. “But you haven’t found them. I just want you to ask the seers if they can tell us anything more about- Yes, I’ll hold.”
Janus shared a look with Dani and went back to pacing some more.
“Sure is useful, being able to see the future,” Milena said, rolling her eyes. “It can actually, probably, maybe, but not really predict the town where a horrific murder will take place.”
She looked down at Dani, who was still tapping her foot. “We’ve got to give them a break. Seeing the future is very, very hard. All those different timelines… Not to mention they got some of their info from mindreading and that’s…”
“Even harder, I know.”
Milena sighed. She wanted to tear the phone from Janus’ hand and tell the seers and mind readers to pull themselves together already. Sure, she understood how difficult their job was, but it would be great if they weren’t always so vague.
Finally, Janus hung up and met the eager looks of his two partners. Then he said: “They almost have it.”
Dani gave up on giving the seers a break: “Oh, come on!”
Aaron Fineman had spent all day finding the exact right wine, folding napkins, polishing wine glasses, and double checking the recipe for the evening’s dinner. He had made sure that the meat was just the right shade of pink, and that the sauce wasn’t too thick nor too thin and had just the right umami taste.
After all was done, there was nothing to do but wait and fret until Siobhan showed up at his doorstep. When she did, she was wearing a green, low-cut dress, and there was an aura of perfume around her that enveloped him when they hugged. Along with it came an aura of calm. Now that she was here, he no longer fretted or worried. He took her by the hand and led her to the dining room. Her eyes grew big when she saw all he had done.
“The starters are ready in a moment. Want to sit?” he asked, pulling out the chair for her.
“It’s beautiful,” she said, a blush spreading on her cheeks. “I can’t believe you did all this!”
Aaron smiled softly and gave her hand a squeeze, feeling the cloud of calm settle further over him. Every time he cooked her dinner like this, she said the same thing, and he never got tired of hearing it. Not even the little box in his pocket could make him feel nervous right now. It felt completely right, all of it.
“It’s nothing,” he told her. “I would do so much more for you.”
Her blush deepened, and she took away her hand. “You always say that.”
“Because I mean it.” He put up his hands and put on a serious face. “Now, I have to prepare you for what lies ahead. This will be the best dinner of your life.”
Her eyes widened. “It sounds grand!”
“It is. Right now, I have delicate and urgent operations to attend to in the kitchen. I’ll be right back.”
He got up from his chair, but before he left the kitchen, he looked back at her. She shot him a smile that made his knees buckle, so he had to go back and give her a kiss.
“Whatever happened to those urgent operations?” she whispered against his lips.
He practically skipped through the hallway into the kitchen to check on the sauce and the roast. Both were looking just as intended. Feeling certain that his culinary masterpiece would be just that – a masterpiece – Aaron dared to get out the little box and open it. The diamond ring seemed to glitter hello.
For the first time since Siobhan arrived, he felt a stab of nervousness. He had rehearsed what he was going to say over and over again, even written it down when it seemed like his head wasn’t enough to contain all the words.
It had only been one single year since they met, and he sometimes felt dizzy with how fast it all went, but he also felt completely sure of her. Nothing in his life had ever felt so right. He picked up the ring box, ran his fingers over the gold of the band and the precious stones, and put it back in his pocket.
Aaron was just about to check on the roast again when he heard voices from the dining room. He couldn’t make out any words, but he knew that it wasn’t just Siobhan talking to herself. It might just be a phone call, but he suddenly had a bad feeling. Like the cloud around him was dissipating and letting worries through.
He put his hand on the box, telling himself there would be nothing wrong, and then he went to the hallway.
“… long are you going to keep it up?” a man’s voice said in the dining room.
It was a familiar one, even from where Aaron stood in the hallway. It was Nathan Craft, a friend of his; the one who had introduced him to Siobhan, actually. His voice was loud enough that a phone call was out of the question, so Aaron remained where he was, listening, but not showing himself. Perhaps listening in was wrong, he pondered. But then…
Nate shouldn’t even be here.
“I told you, I need more time. I still don’t know where she is.” Siobhan’s voice was distraught, but also cold.
“You don’t have more time!” Nate said. “The League is here. They caught Bree three weeks ago, and they’ve been interrogating her. It’s just a matter of time before-“
“They won’t find anything! Please, get out, before Aaron hears-“
“No, they want it done. Now.”
Aaron walked to the door like in a trance. The two of them didn’t even notice him, even though he stood right there.
“Two more days, and I’ll know everything. Just two more days…”
“No can do.”
They both turned and saw Aaron there.
“Aaron!” Siobhan said, turning to him. “Aaron, just give me a moment. It’s about work, and-“
Then Nate pulled out a gun and pointed it straight at him.
“Time’s ticking, Siobhan.”
“Nate, for fucks sake…”
Aaron held up his hands. He didn’t dare to move. “Guys,” he said, but neither listened.
“We have new orders,” Nate said. “He dies tonight. Now, should I do it, or will you?”
“So, what do we do now?” Milena asked.
She swung her feet around over the wall, but didn’t get down yet, because her feet still pulsed and she fully expected more walking around town.
Janus shrugged. “There isn’t much we can do at this point. They’re interrogating the woman as we speak, but until they get the exact location, there isn’t much we can do.”
“I say we split up and search then,” Dani said. “We can have a look around this general area until we bump into something or they call and say that it’s somewhere else. Dibs on going to that park over there.”
She ran off right away with bouncy steps, leaving Milena and Janus behind. They all had badges and pretended to be police detectives, but Milena had never seen a less convincing detective than Dani right now.
“I guess I’ll go that way,” Janus said, gesturing down another road. “Are you going to be okay on your own?”
There were two other roads to go down, both by the hospital. Milena jumped down from the wall and had a look in both directions, then nodded at Janus.
“Yes, I’ll go that way. Looks like a quiet part of town. I guess if I were a criminal, I’d want to off somebody in that general area.” Her partner raised an eyebrow. “Don’t look at me like that. My days of crime are over – I’m being hypothetical.”
“All right, but I’m keeping an eye on you,” he said, but with a glint in his eye. “I’ll call you if we have any news.”
He stuffed his hands in his pockets and walked down his road.
She picked the road that led to a large field and a forest. It looked like a forest on the edge of town, and like she had told Janus, it was a good spot for murder; maybe even just for hiding before committing a murder. She could go for a walk in there, and if she didn’t find any grisly murders, she would at least have a nice stroll.
However, she’d only just passed the hospital, when a loud bang rang out. A gunshot. She stopped. Listened.
A call from Janus interrupted her.
“Yeah, I heard that,” she said before he could get a word in. “It’s down my road.”
“Looks like that criminal brain of yours is still working.”
“I’m going to go there. Get Dani and come help.”
He tried saying something, probably something like: ‘No, that’s idiotic. Don’t,’ but she hung up and sprinted down the road.
Another shot rang out.
Milena got a vial of Fighter’s potion from her pocket and downed it while she ran, listening for the direction of the shot. It sounded like it came from the last house on the road. A two floor house with green doors and windows, and a creepy amount of garden gnomes around the yard. She stood heaving on the sidewalk and waited for Dani and Janus. They wouldn’t like it if she busted in there alone.
She was just about to call them when a scream pierced the air.
Author’s note: Hi guys, notice something different? Sorry, I cut the thing in half. The very, very long first chapter bothered me and I can’t keep up with writing such long-ass chapters. The new chapter two will be up real soon – it’s just the second part of this one, so nothing new. Sorry for any difficulties my constant editing and shifting around is causing!