A click and a spark.
They say things come in threes. Special Agent Darius French considered the fact that just maybe the cigarette lighter has some inherent design flaw so that it can only light his cigarette after three attempts. He inhales deeply, the burning edge coming alive with angry red heat and a satisfying crackle as he takes in the surroundings and his lungs fill with smoke.
An empty motel room. No one to be found. Walking softly across the Berber carpet he kneels down to assess the trail of cuts which have left it shredded and gouged deep tracks in the floorboards beneath them. Rising again he walks the length of their path noting that these slashes are not made rudely. Whatever had made them was razor sharp. Their pressure was consistent from beginning to end. The gouges in the floorboards of equal depth from point A to point B.
But it’s not Point A to point B, is it? It’s points A, B, and C to point D. He takes another long drag of his cigarette as he stands and walks back to the bathroom, stopping at the marble saddle and noting the gouges are a bit deeper here.
“No carpet.” He thinks to himself with a wave of the cigarette in his hand.
He walks across the worn tile floor to the sink. Two gashes upon each side of the shattered mirror. He looks down. Two sets of three gashes on the front edge of the sink. Three gashes on the floor.
He moves with purpose to the TV. Two sets of two gashes in the plastic frame surrounding the shattered panel. He walks to the front window, again shattered. Two sets of two gouges along the top and bottom edges. He looks to the ground, three feet of carpet and then the shredding begins. Same by the TV. Less in the bathroom, but a smaller space and much less room to maneuver. Walking outside through the open door he takes another long drag.
“Did you clean anything up before I arrived?” He asked the uniformed officer guarding the door.
“No, sir.” He replied.
“There’s no glass on the ground out here. There’s no glass on the carpet inside. No glass in the sink below the bathroom mirror. No glass by the shattered TV screen. All this broken glass and there's no debris.” Special Agent Darius French exhaled and then took another long drag, flicking the butt into the parking lot before he turned back.
“The gouges stop at the threshold,” he observed.
Looking around he found no evidence of whatever caused the damage beyond the doorframe. He reached into the inside pocket of his jacket, removed his cell phone, and smoothed the front with his off-hand. He looked down at his shoes and lamented wearing a good suit today. He thumped on the screen, unlocking it with a series of taps, and spoke out loud.
“Call Gilead.” He instructed the phone.
“What now, Mr. French?” The answering voice sounded dreamy.
“Agent.” He said. “I need you. I’m dropping a pin.” He ended the call and strode back into the room.
He created a circuit, walking first to the shattered front window, then to the shattered bathroom mirror, and last to the shattered TV. He walked this circuit, stopping occasionally in each place to scrutinize what he found.
“What is so imp…” The question trailed off but was punctuated by a subtle “pop”.
Gilead Coine was not a subtle creature. He was flamboyant and flashy in the most laidback and unintentional way. He was a walking anachronism to the high days of goth culture and a caricature of all it represented. Pin straight back hair cascading halfway down his back, pale skin reflecting the harsh light of the bathroom. His combat boots clunked heavily as he emerged from the back wall of the shower. His long leather trenchcoat created a trip hazard as he climbed from the tub.
“An incursion,” French answered, pushing past the new arrival to examine his entry point.
Shattered tile, no evidence. The wall had not been shattered inward. It had shattered outward but all evidence of the breaking had been drawn into its center. All the cracked and damaged tile was likely sitting on the other side of this entry point. Wherever that was.
“Very interesting” Gilead’s voice hummed in the back of his throat. “I love the suit. And the hair. Very Leon Bridges of you. You’re very nicely put together today, Agent French. Something definitely emerged from this space,” Gilead said in an offhand manner as his gloved hand almost caressed the mirror.
“Did you clean anything up before I arrived?” He asked.
“Of course not.” The agent answered.
“Why am I here?” he asked.
“I needed to see the impression you made when you ported in.” French said clinically.
“Was that all?” Gilead frowned, deflated.
“No,” French admitted. “There are two more incursion points.” He motioned to the other room.
“Let me see.” His feigned insouciance and real enthusiasm dueled for dominance.
“I need to know what they are,” French said, pulling another cigarette from the pack. A click and a spark. A click and a spark. A click and… crackle, breath, smoke, ahhh.
“Who else has been here?” Gilead asked.
“The person who made the discovery, desk clerk, and the officer outside.” French walked back into the living room.
Gilead was at the door, he looked from the left in a great arc to the right. He turned back to French whose eyes met his. The aging goth chuckled. He held onto the doorframe and looked back and forth from inside to outside.
“Did you notice the window is only shattered on one side, on the inside?” Gilead chuckled.
“What?” French asked, charging through the door.
Gilead was right. But he was sure it had been broken when he spoke to the officer. The officer? Where was the officer?
“We’ve got iwa, Special Agent.” Gilead smiled and took off across the parking lot.
He flipped open the dumpster and there were the three bodies, heaped inside with the day’s refuse. French blinked. He had spoken to each of them before he entered the room. Interviewed each of them and questioned the cop. He fought the frustration that comes with dealing with the supernatural and their gifts.
“What’s an iwa?” he sighed.
“Tricksters and thieves.” Gilead supplied.
“Then why did they kill them?” He motioned to the dumpster.
“Oh, they’re not dead,” Gilead informed him. “They’re something else. They are soulless.”
“How tiresome.” French took the cigarette between his fingers and rubbed his face with both hands in frustration. “Why are they here?”
“I would imagine that right about now a crime spree has started,” Gilead began. “And these three are the culprits. Iwa are shapeshifters. They borrow the souls of other living creatures, take their form, commit their crimes, and then return them once the thievery is over. These three will wake up in the morning, confused as to why they’re in a dumpster, with no knowledge of the things their doppelgangers have done, and most likely end up in jail by this time tomorrow.”
“So, what do we do?” French asked, returning his cigarette to his mouth puffing and then spitting smoke.
“Do? I don’t know that I’d do anything.” Gilead replied. “They’ll complete their thieving, they’ll take their loot, and they’ll return home.”
“We can’t let that happen. These people’s lives will be ruined.” If he’d seen it once he’d seen it a thousand times, innocent people’s entire existence altered for a night of demonic sport.
“You want to catch them?” Gilead scoffed, turning and walking back to the shelter of the motel room. “A waste of time. They’ll be gone by tomorrow. Besides, what would you do? Show them off? Give the world evidence? People do not wish to know what lies beyond the Mirrorline.”
“We can’t just let them get away with it.” The words were controlled but there was a deep anger beneath them.
A quiet moment passed, hanging stagnant in the air. French weighed his thoughts, charting his next steps. Gilead watched, warily as the finely dressed man simmered. He looked dangerously at the goth.
“Can you find them?” He asked.
“I can,” Gilead admitted. “But, I won’t.”
French rushed forward, coming eye to eye with the taller man, his rage now simmering. Gilead shied away from the invasion of his personal space. The agent’s eyes glinted dangerously, the dark centers coming alive with silver light. Energy crackled within him and he noticed the man’s hair begin to rise. He forced himself to regain control. Gilead smiled sweetly, tending to his appearance.
“You are Genii,” The goth said simply, strolling back towards the bathroom, checking himself in the wreckage of the mirror. “You will not hurt me. But, if you pursue the iwa your search will cause damage and they will harm others. I can find them within minutes. They are not subtle… but neither are angels, especially you lesser ones when you are tending to your purpose.”
“Tell me!” He demanded.
“I’m afraid, Special Agent French, that my lips are sealed.” The last of his words were punctuated by the telltale “pop”.
Cursing, Special Agent Darius French ran his hand over the mended wall at the back of the shower. The damaged tile had been healed, the shattered web of ravines and spidery cracks had disappeared without a trace, and so had Gilead Coine.