I made my way down the long driveway towards the Ball house as a light rain filled the night. Tonight was an important night for every important person in this city, and I’d been assigned to attend as extra security, much to my chagrin. I always hated these sorts of social functions, more than most of the other social functions I hated. There was always this barrier of facade hanging around just about every person there. I guess when you fill a room of people who are important, there’s bound to be some level of competition to be the most important.
Of course, the most important person there would happen to be the governor, who seemed to have a weakness for large social events; something the mayor took advantage of as often as he could. With him, and all the other political bigwigs, in town there was sure to be some sort of scene by the organization. The Mayor requested I be on scene personally, which may have been a way to keep a closer eye on me more than a desire for extra security. Seeing how he used to be the City’s police commissioner, he had substantial security as it was already. I would have made my way here in the end either way, since I was after a very particular member of the organization. With her tendency for flashy stunts, I knew this would be her next target.
“May I take your jacket, sir?” one of the butlers asked me as I came in from the rain. I handed him my overcoat and cap as I looked over the ballroom ahead of me. The butler seemingly disappeared with my coat as I exited the entry hall into the ballroom. There were lavish decorations donning the room, with tables and centerpieces to match. At the back of the room was a small stage, where the Mayor would be giving his address. The two tables closest to it were sectioned off for the Governor and the Mayor, though the mayor's seat sat empty as he was greeting people as they entered the event.
“Detective, good to see you made it,” the Mayor said with a large smile, as he shook my hand with a firm grip. He was a good looking man with sleek hair, and a strong build. His perfect teeth, and jet black hair gave him the nickname “The Hound” when he was the commissioner, along with his desire to be on top of just about anything he felt concerned him. They said he could smell a rat from across town, and his precinct reflected that the entire time he commanded it. Tonight his calm demeanor made me a bit suspicious, since he felt the need for extra security, but I reminded myself he was a politician. Very little of his appearance should be studied at face value.
“I came on orders, Sir.” I bristled as I let go of his hand. “We wouldn’t want there to be a scene in front of the Governor, now would we?” I hated the idea of being wrapped up with him and his pack of dogs while I was on a case.
“Lighten up, Detective Foxx. You know as well as I that we’ve got the finest police force in the country. If anything were to happen, The Governor would only be reassured that we are handling this little insurrection you’ve been following.” He smiled again, but the corners of his smile betrayed him into more of a threatening grimace. I gave him a nod as I ducked away so he could greet a few more gala goers. I made my way to the edge of the room to continue to scout out possible entry points. I conversed with the guards at the doors to the kitchen, and they assured me that they had run background checks on all the waitstaff. As I made the way around the room, I locked eyes with the Governor, who excitedly waved me toward him.
“Oh, Detective, Detective! Over here, come, sit.” he beckoned me a few tables away from me. He was a portly man, and far too cheery for my liking. He resembled something of a pig, given his bald head and pale skin. I came and sat next to him and his wife, who was also as well fed as he was.
“I was hoping you might be here, Detective. My wife and I have always been big fans of yours.” he said excitedly.
“Well, you’d be one of the few people happy to see a detective at your party,” I said with a smile plastered on my face. Couldn’t tarnish the Mayor's good name.
“Tell me, have you any leads to these mysterious happenings around the city? Murder scenes with no one dead? What do you make of it?” he asked, like a child asking about presents magically appearing under a christmas tree. The wealthy and powerful never seem to surprise me.
“There were certainly interesting clues at each scene, and I believe I’m on track to catch the killer,” I responded.
“Can there be a killer if we don’t know who’s dead, Detective?” he asked with a light chuckle.
“I’ve always felt intent was sometimes more important than action, but I feel in time we may find there’s been more death than we originally expected.”
The lights in the room dimmed, as the mayor took the stage and the conversations grew quiet. I took this opportunity to excuse myself to a table tucked into the back corner of the room.
"My dear friends, and compatriots. I welcome you all to our annual Autumn Gala. We acknowledge our esteemed guest, the Governor, who was gracious enough to help sponsor it. I'm sure many of you have questions in light of recent events, and I've decided to take this time to answer some of those."
A reporter stood up from the edge of the room and came to a microphone, set up for questions.
"Mr. Mayor, we've been seeing a surge in crimes in the poorer parts of the city, some of our radical gangs have been seeing the limelight across the country, and there have been concerns about the treatment of mutants by policemen. What are you doing to address these issues?" My ears perked up at the mention of mutants. Being one myself, I had dealt with the prejudices and maltreatment some of them get. Still, I hadn't gotten where I was despite my difference, it was because of it.
"You know as well as I do that our police force is one of the top in the nation. Our officers are doing all they can to keep order. It’s unfortunately the fault of the media for trying to paint a picture around these most recent events. A picture that some people have begun to be enticed by. We live in an era of information, and almost everything that happens is spread across the world in a matter of minutes. Can you really expect us to keep up with these gangs when reporters like you are giving away our every lead? Where is your integrity?” he responded.
Another reporter raised their hand with a question.
“Mr. Mayor, are you saying that the people of this city should be left in the dark about these potentially dangerous organizations?”
“Our policemen need room to work on the situation, and as long as the people are trying to romanticize these happenings they will be delayed even further. What we need are the people to trust in our fine detectives. Like Detective Foxx,” he said, gesturing over to me. A spotlight turned to illuminate me, and I lost view of the room in the blinding light.
“One of our finest is constantly held up from doing his job since some of these fanatical groups have taken an interest in him. We have yet to believe these scenes have been crimes or displays of affection from elaborate fans.”
“Could it be that some of them esteem Detective Foxx as some sort of role model, and justifying vigilante behavior?” another reporter asked.
“Only because of the nosing around of the news media!” The mayor barked into the microphone. He then took a moment to collect himself. “Ahem. The people will always find celebrities to look up to. It is neither my job, nor the city councils to get wrapped up in the affairs of celebrities. That being said, we are doing our best to get ahead of these people, and shutting down their operations. Before someone really does get hurt.”
The light moved from me, and I blinked a few times to adjust to the dim lighting again.
“But what of the treatment of mutants in lower income communities?”
“The treatment of any criminal is under the jurisdiction of the new commissioner, and to pin their manner of running the police on me is completely uncalled for.” the mayor said, gripping the lectern tightly.
“He’s right, he’s the mayor now!” a man from the front row called out at the group of reporters. “Quit pretending like he can run every establishment here!”
All of the sudden the crowd began to murmur amongst themselves and the room was filled with people attacking and defending the mayor. It seems some of the mayor's hounds had had enough of these reporters trying to pin him into a corner.
Then, from the corner of my eye, I saw a shadow move from the corner of the room and make their way towards the entry hall. Curious at who would decide to leave now, I followed them quickly. The hallway was dark, so the ambient light didn’t get into the ballroom. I blinked a couple times to adjust to the dark even more, and saw the shadow turn a corner. I smelt the air around me, and there was a sweet smell of chemicals in the air, something akin to paint. I took off toward the shadow, the smell getting stronger as I went. I came to a door at the end of a hall, and the smell seemed to be emanating from behind it. I tried to look through the window of the door, but the opaque glass made it impossible to see into the dark room. Seeing no other way in, I carefully opened the door.
I quickly flicked on the light, and entered the room quickly. It seemed to be a storage room of sorts, with boxes stacked high. At the edge of the room was an open window, leading outside. In the center of the room was a table, a piece of paper hanging over it on a thread. I approached the paper, and immediately saw that there was a letter written on it, addressed to me. I snatched the paper off the thread and was surprised to find it covered in the sweet, paint-like substance. White glossy liquid covered my hands as I held it. The letter said the following:
It seems you’re paying a little more attention this time. Even the higher ups are getting upset at your performance as of late, so I really am sorry for what's going to happen next. Just know that, in the end, it’ll all be sorted out.
I just about tore up the soaking paper, before I bolted to the window. Nothing. Not even a car driving away. Which means they could still be on the property. I started back towards the hallway when the lights cut out. I heard a scream from the ballroom moments after they did. I sprinted through the dark back to the ballroom, bursting through the door. On the stage, and surrounding the mayor, were streaks of glowing paint. They formed a sort of target around him from my angle, the mayor in the center of the bullseye. Written on the wall to the side of the stage read the words, “If you're going to raise the stakes, you better learn how to play the game.” I scanned the room, but no one seemed to be in any danger. Everyone was too frozen in their seats. The mayor’s gaze pierced through the darkness onto me, and it was then that I realized why. The white liquid on my hands was also glowing, in the same way as the paint on the stage. The mayor raised a finger and pointed directly at me.
“You, what do you have to do with this?” he barked at me. I stared at my hands in disbelief of my own stupidity. The guards on either side of the door grabbed at me, but I quickly stepped back through the doorway. I sprinted through the front doors of the building and back towards my car. I can’t believe that they’d even begin to think this could have been my fault.