Category: Trouble at the Governor’s Ball


Emery sighed as he realized that the supervising investigator left them to deal with expected results of the governor’s arrest. “The elections coming up anyway,” he whispered to Miles. “What’s it matter?”

“The other party doesn’t have a viable candidate now,” Miles hissed back.

“That’s fine by me,” Emery said. “I like the other guy anyway.” Then he looked at the crowd of people and raised his voice to be heard over their murmurs. “If everyone would please give their names and where they can be reached for an interview if need be to the wardens just outside the door and then proceed home so we can begin our investigation properly, it would be greatly appreciated.”

“It’s a conspiracy,” one man shouted. “The democrats wanted to discredit our candidate so their guy looks better.”

“The only conspiracy here is the one the governor is allegedly involved in,” Emery replied. “It involves murder, imprisonment and slavery. Please exit the premises and leave your name with the wardens, sir.”

“You can’t make us leave,” another man said. “You’re a child. On what authority are you doing this?”

Emery held up his badge and said, softly but firmly, “I’m with the wardens, sir. If you do not leave and thereby hinder our investigation, you may be arrested for obstruction of justice.”

“Come along now,” a familiar voice called from the doorway. Emery smiled as he caught Hassett’s eye. “No need to start something you don’t want to finish.” He waved a hand at several constables behind him and said, “They really just want names and contact information. There doesn’t need to be any more arrests tonight.”

“You’ve ruined everything!” The cry had erupted from somewhere to Emery’s left, then Emery felt someone catch him around the waist. He had enough time to realize that the governor’s aide was holding him before the man began trying to drag him out of the room. The glint of a blade drew his attention for a moment then instinct born of training kicked in.

His left hand shot up to hold the blade firmly away from them both as his left foot snaked around the man’s heel, causing him to trip. Once they were on the ground, Emery rolled away and glared at the man. “I wouldn’t,” he growled as the knife was once more brandished in a threatening manner.

“Check yourself, sir,” Hassett said softly. Emery could see that he held a pistol aimed at the governor’s aide.

With a moan of, “No,” the knife clattered to the floor and the man slumped over, face buried in his arms.

“You’re under arrest, sir, for attempting harm to an officer of the law and threatening physical harm to a minor,” Hassett said as he drew the man to his feet. “Alright, Em?”

“Fine, Hassett,” Emery assured the warden. He looked around at the crowd. “Anyone else have a problem,” he challenged. With murmurs, the crowd turned and left, finally willing to cooperate.

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Emery skidded into the room from the veranda in time to see Arturus catch the governor by his shoulder. Naturally, the security team assigned to the man drew their weapons immediately. “Hold your fire,” Emery shouted, counting on the fact that they were trained to listen to the sound of an authoritative voice. “He’s a valuable witness in a murder investigation,” he continued into the silence that followed the attack.

“Arturus,” Miles said. He ran forward but stopped short of the pair. There was a strange, almost feral look in the cat-boy’s eyes. “Arturus, please, relax and let him go,” he murmured, not making eye contact.

“Arturus,” Emery said, stepping up to Miles’s side. “I know you want to stop him but if you do anything rash, he’ll be the victim. Relax. Think this through. Let him go.”

“He needs to pay for what he did to Mother,” the older boy growled.

“He will,” Emery promised. “He will, but not this way. Let us take him into custody and gather evidence of the crime. Let him go. We won’t let him get away. He’s done with the free ride.”

“Emery?” Morrissey said softly as he entered the room.

“It’s alright,” Miles said softly. He stepped forward and set a hand on Arturus’s shoulder. “Relax, Arturus. Relax and let him go. That’s right, just let him go.”

Slowly, as if unsure what he was doing, Arturus released the man who’d killed his mother. “I want him arrested,” the governor said to Morrissey as soon as he was free.

“You first,” Morrissey said calmly. “You are under arrest for illegal enslavement and suspicion of murder.”

“Conspiracy too,” Emery added. “He worked with several others to hide the body.”

“Too true. Come with me, sir,” Morrissey said softly as he escorted the governor out of the ballroom. Emery sighed in relief as he saw several wardens joining the investigator in the corridor.

“Enslavement? Of who?” Emery asked.

“Me,” Marius said. “Yes, I intend to testify, before you ask. I told Morrissey on the way here. It’s high time I stopped hiding.”

“You aren’t the only one who can finally come out in the open,” Miles replied. He glanced over at Arturus, who was being greeted warmly by the uncle he’d never known.

“This is taking too long,” Arturus growled. He was pacing and seemed anxious. “They’ll miss me if I’m not in my tower.”

“Listen, Brother is getting our supervisor. He’ll help us. Just try and be patient,” Miles said softly.

“He suspects that you already know, right? He might find a way to get away before you can catch him. He’s been running free for twenty years. He’s not about to go quietly to jail.” Miles heard Arturus growl low in his throat as they watched one of the governor’s aides approach him.

“We have you as a witness,” Miles hissed, as he hoped Arturus didn’t do anything foolish. “We’ll be able to get evidence too. He won’t get away with it this time.”

“The watcher is warning him,” Arturus hissed before he crept into the room. His movements were swift and agile. miles followed but quickly lost him in the crowd. He didn’t need to follow the other boy though; he knew where Arturus was heading.

Marius stood and watched as the pair of investigators headed off. Since he’d come to this world, he’d had the sense that something would happen to his employer – his owner. Now he was certain of it. He heard the wind murmuring that the man would soon die if something didn’t change.

Hoping he wasn’t too late, Marius bounded after the pair. “Investigator Morrissey,” he called softly as he came up behind them. Both spun to face him, Emery assuming a stance that spoke of wariness and readiness. “Sorry, but… if you don’t hurry, he’ll be killed. Don’t ask me how I know but it’s true.”

“Right, we’ll go with that for now. You can explain later,” Morrissey said softly. Emery was already running ahead.

Morrissey followed the governor’s man out into the garden, hoping Emery would keep an eye on the governor himself. There was a chance the man would try to flee, now that he at least suspected they knew.

“What is this, Phillips?” he asked, as they got deeper into the garden. They were far enough away that the lights from the house couldn’t be seen.

“It has come to my attention that you and your associates might possibly be investigating the honorable governor in connection to possible past misdeeds,” the man said softly.

“I wouldn’t say that,” Morrissey stated. “We’re here because we were invited. I believe the honorable governor had intentions of introducing the Ballards to people interested in his education reform ideas. They did graduate from his academy, after all.”

Emery came up behind him but paused before announcing his presence. As Phillips returned to the house with a curt nod, he stepped out. “What was that about?” he asked.

“A warning,” Morrissey replied.

“Are we listening?” Emery asked.

“No,” Morrissey replied softly. “We’ll need reliable witnesses though.”

“Found one,” Emery said. Morrissey nodded and gestured for him to head back toward the house. “Governor had a son,” he started as they went down the path.

Though it had taken them quite sometime to find Arturus, it took them almost no time at all to make their way back to the party. Once they reached the ballroom, Emery waved a hand at the older man to stay outside the door. “I’m going to get Morrissey,” he said softly.

Then he entered, leaving Miles to stay with their witness. As he crossed the threshold, Emery realized that finding the older investigator was going to be a task that was easier said than done. He wondered briefly how the servant had found the man earlier in the night. Then he saw Stevie and made his way over to him… or her since that was how the messenger was dressed.

“Hey, Emery,” Stevie greeted.

“St – Miranda,” Emery said. “Have you seen Morrissey? I need to tell him something important.”

“He’s around here somewhere,” Stevie said. “Dance with me and maybe we can look while we’re on the dance floor.”

Emery blushed but took the other boy’s hand and led him out onto the floor, suddenly glad that he was dressed as a woman. As they danced, both watched the crowd that surrounded the floor for signs of the senior investigator. It was Stevie who spotted him.

“He’s heading out into the garden with that guy that’s always hanging around with the governor,” he said as the dance ended.

Emery bowed and scampered over to the door Stevie indicated. He walked quietly and carefully out into the garden, hoping the senior investigator wasn’t in any kind of danger.

“Why are we looking for him again?” Emery asked as he followed his brother through the darkened corridors of the manor. “We should be keeping an eye on that creep, not looking for a lost cat-boy.”

“I scared him, Brother,” Miles said. “I can’t just leave it like that. I wonder where he would go.”

“I saw glowing eyes in a tower room earlier,” Emery said after some thought. He paused. “I was in the front garden, so the room would be at the front of the building. That’s this way.” He turned down a side hallway and followed it to its end. Instead of stairs, as he’d hoped, there was a large room.

Miles bounded forward and opened the door. “Brother,” he whispered, awe coloring his tone.

Emery followed him inside and stopped in his tracks as he saw the multitude of books lining the walls. “It’s a library,” he whispered. “There are more books here than there were at the Academy.” He bounded over to the nearest shelf and chose a volume at random. His eyes skimmed the page, devouring every word.

“Brother, we’re supposed to be looking for that person I saw,” Miles whispered, even as he walked further into the room. He paused as he caught sight of a form in the dim light of a lamp. It was hard to see, but he could just make out a pair of furry ears and a tail that seemed to be in constant motion. He had to smile as he realized that the cat person was just as enthralled with the books as his brother.

Silently, he crept up behind the still form. He stopped just outside of arm’s reach. “Hello,” he said, using his normal tones.

The form started and the book dropped to the floor, breaking the room’s hold on Emery. “Miles, be careful,” the older Ballard said softly.

“It’s alright,” Miles said gently. “I’m not here to hurt you. I wanted to apologize… for scaring you.”

The cat’s ears tipped back and his growled, “I wasn’t scared.”

Miles blinked his eyes slowly, as he would if something had spooked Flamel. Direct eye contact was a hunting posture with cats, he knew. He was rewarded, after a few tries, with the same gesture from the cat-boy. “I’m Miles,” he said softly.

“Arturus,” the cat replied. “Are you the human’s guest?”

“Your father, you mean?” Emery asked, stepping up behind his brother. “We were invited here by him, but we don’t consider him as a friend. He killed your mother, didn’t he? Right in front of you.”

“How could you know?” Arturus asked.

“I have visions,” Emery said. “I saw it. We want to help you. We want to stop him from getting away with murder. You want that too, right?”

“I want my freedom more,” Arturus whispered.

“Of course you do,” Miles replied. He darted a glance at Emery and added, “We can help with that too, but you have to be careful.”

“The watcher says humans would want to keep me in cages,” Arturus said.

“There are some who would,” Miles admitted. “Not us, but there are some. “That’s why we have to go carefully. Your mother could shift forms, can you?”

“I’ve never tried,” Arturus said. He closed his eyes and seemed to relax. After a moment blue light shimmered around him, beginning at his head and moving downward. The brothers blinked as their eyes were dazzled. When they could see again, before them stood a young man with the same bright green eyes and dark hair as Arturus, but lacking the fur that had marked him as a half-cat.

“Well, well,” Emery said softly. “I wonder what the governor would say about this.” He darted a glance at Miles and murmured, “Shall we find out?”

“Yes,” Arturus hissed, standing and moving past the boys toward the door of the library.

“Um… Kitty, kitty,” Miles called as he walked down the corridor. “Where’d he go?”

At that moment, Emery poked his head around the corner and called, “Mi? What are you looking for?”

“The cat… He’s a person but…” Miles paused and looked away.

“He’s only half cat, Miles. He’s half human too. His mother was a cat who took a human form.” Emery paused in his explanation. “I wonder if Flamel could do that.”

“She does act very human sometimes,” Miles replied. “A cat mage… fascinating.”

“Tell me about it,” Emery said. “Speaking of… I have something to tell you and it concerns your little friend… and his mother.”

Emery followed Morrissey, careful to seem the naïve rookie. It wasn’t long before they were close enough to greet and be introduced to their host, the governor. Emery glanced around, looking for Miles. Then he heard his name and looked up at the man. “It’s an honor to meet you, sir,” he said with sincerity he didn’t feel.

“A pleasure Master Ballard,” the man said, reaching out to clasp his hand. Emery felt his eyebrows twitch at the address usually reserved for children.

“Master Emery,” the young mage corrected, “if you please.” He squeezed the outstretched hand firmly.

“Of course,” the governor said. He looked at Morrissey and added, “Your protégé has a firm grip, Master Robert.”

“As Emery has pointed out he is, in fact, a master in his own right. After all, he graduated – with honors, one might add – from your own academy,” Morrissey said.

“Of course,” the man repeated.

“Do you like cats, sir?” Emery asked, as he bounced on the balls of his feet.

“Cats?” the governor asked.

“We have a ginger tabby at home, named Flamel. She gets into everything – like an inquisitive child at times. And she has such an expressive face. One might almost think she was human… or could somehow… have human aspects.”

“Oh? In-indeed,” the older man said. Small beads of sweat dotted his brow as Emery looked up at him keenly.

“That’s silly though,” Emery said, smiling. “Cats can’t become humans.” He focused sharply on the governor’s eyes and added, “Right?”

“Right,” the man agreed, a tad quickly. Then he turned to leave, muttering, “If you’ll excuse me.”

“That wasn’t subtle at all, Emery,” Morrissey hissed as the governor fled.

“It was supposed to be? I thought I was going for ingenuous.”

“That you were perhaps. Either way you succeeded in flummoxing him and getting him thinking about his erstwhile fiancé. We can’t prove what we suspect he did, he doesn’t know exactly how much we know or suspect and now he’s anxious. He might do something foolish. That’s how we’ll catch him. Watch yourself, Em.”

“Of course,” Emery said, parroting the governor’s condescending reply as he headed off in search of Miles.

Arturus crept down the stairs. Normally the watcher escorted him to the library – or really anywhere else in the manor. Normally if he was alone, he was locked inside. Normally he did not have free reign of the house. Today he did and he was at a loss.

He could follow his routine and go to the library to read until bedtime. He could explore the gardens or even go down to the party. He’d been told how the humans would hate or fear him. He’d been warned not to be seen, ever.

Just as he was making up his mind to go to the library, he heard a soft gasp from behind him. He turned to see a young boy staring, eyes round, at him. “A… cat?” the boy said.

Arturus gasped and bounded away, intent on getting away. Behind him, Miles sighed, disappointed at having spooked the small demi-human.

Monica Ferris

an author with many hats

A Land of Curiosity

From the files of Shynian Intelligence

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tales from the enchanted gardens and shadow hollow

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