Tag Archive: Morrissey


Surprises Await

“Emery was running late,” Miles said as he followed Morrissey out of the car. “The only thing we got told was the case was weird. What’s going on?”

“According to people who really should know better, a ghost. We’re supposed to investigate the caverns. Apparently people from the rail company have been attacked by person or persons unknown.” Morrissey paused in his recitation when he noticed the boy was no longer following him. He turned back to frown thoughtfully at the younger Ballard. “Miles?”

“Stevrim Caverns? We’re going in there? Oh, no. No, no, no. I’m waiting in the car. Bring me any trace you want identified.” He was pale but otherwise seemed alright as he spun on his heel and all-but-ran back to the waiting vehicles.

“Miles? Miles!” Morrissey called after him. The teen ignored him and just kept going, however. Shaking his head, Morrissey waved a welcoming arm at Emery. Maybe the elder Ballard would be able to explain the younger’s actions.

**
Emery ran towards where the other forensics wizards were setting up and was surprised to see his brother running the other way. He almost turned and called to the younger boy but Morrissey was waving so fiercely at him, he reconsidered. Instead he ran all the faster to join the supervisor.

“What’s the problem?” Emery asked as he caught up to Morrissey. The rural area they were in, which was surprisingly close to the old Ballard Family homestead, was far from the city but still within their jurisdiction. The forensics team had been called in on what the local people would only describe as a weird case. Emery frowned as he realized where exactly they were. He had a sinking feeling he knew exactly what the case was.

“Supposedly there’s a ghost,” Morrisey explained as they walked toward a rocky outcrop. Emery nodded. He’d heard about the ghost since he was a child. “It started out as things going missing from houses. Then, when the rail company came through, it escalated. As it stands, it’s been attacking anyone who gets close to that cave. The problem is that there’s a new rail that’s supposed to be running right past it so the workers have been attacked. Three people have been hospitalized so far. It’s only a matter of time before someone is killed.”

“So we’re here to… antagonize the local spirit?” Emery asked. He was from this area. Everyone knew the Ghost of Stevrim Caverns was not to be trifled with. “Can’t the rail company just avoid the area?”

“You don’t believe in ghosts surely?” Morrissey said with a teasing note in his voice.

“I grew up near here. I’ve been hearing stories about the Ghost of Stevrim Caverns since I was a small child. Bold kid that I was, I still steered well clear of that place. The old tales would curl your hair, Morrissey. There is no doubt in my mind that there is something odd in that place.” Emery shuddered at the thought of actually entering the cavern to investigate.

“Are you sensing anything?” Morrissey asked.

“Trauma, mental and physical both, but I can’t say whether from the ghost or its victims,” Emery returned.

“Your brother took one look at the place and said he’d wait in the car,” Morrissey said.

“I’m not surprised. He had a bad scare one night while we were returning home. He swore he saw unearthly eyes peering out from the cavern at him. He was only about ten at the time so it pretty well freaked him out,” Emery replied. He gave the elder magician a strained smile and took out his wand. Once his hands touched the wand the vague sense of trauma became much more clear.

“Is the trauma directional?” Morrissey asked. Emery nodded and began walking toward the cavern mouth.

“I assume if I’m supposed to find the ‘ghost’ we’re bringing wardens with us,” Emery murmured. Ordinarily he hated the escort he was forced to continually deal with because of his status as an investigator. Today, however, he would be glad to know there was a person with an actual weapon beyond spells and scurd-flit.

“Here’s Hassett waiting for us,” Morrissey said. “He must have gone ahead to get a briefing from the other wardens.” Hassett wasn’t alone; Franklin, Grant and Everett were all waiting with him. “Emery’s got a bead on him,” Morrissey called to the officers. They nodded and moved into a protective formation around the young wizard.

“The trauma’s getting stronger and not because of proximity. The… ‘ghost’ is scared,” Emery reported as he darted a glance at Hassett.

The lieutenant nodded once and said, “Go easy, guys. We don’t know what he’s capable of and we don’t want to spook him.”

“He feels so… familiar,” Emery murmured. “I’m not usually any good with connectivity and it seems to me that I’ve felt this before.” He led them around a corner and a dimly lit, and very rude, shelter greeted them.

Suddenly a brilliant light flashed and they were blinded. Emery closed his eyes and sat on the ground, trying to make a smaller target of himself. He heard a guttural roar and several outcries from the wardens who’d been protecting him. Soft thuds of bodies hitting the hard earth around him were followed by a larger body landing nearly on top of him.

“Morrissey! Hassett!” Emery yelped. He opened his light-dazzled eyes to find the others all unconscious. An older man was standing about five feet away from him. His hair and beard hung in wild strands all around his head and face. He was frightened and angry but also territorial. Emery dropped his wand and held his hands up in what he hoped was a non-threatening manner. “Alright, just… just relax. I… I’m not armed.”

He swallowed thickly and his breath was coming in short gasps. He could tell the officers and Morrissey weren’t hurt badly but only unconscious. He’d escaped because he’d made himself a small enough target that their attacker had missed him. However, that wouldn’t work a second time. He was relieved to find that it was a human attacker and not a spectral one; but he was still alone in a cave with someone who was most likely not entirely sane.

“I’m Emery. Who’re you?” he asked with a voice that trembled slightly.

“I’m the ghost,” the man replied. Emery was again struck by a sense of familiarity. He’d heard that voice before, though the last time he’d heard it, it had been more refined and less strained.

“D-Dad?” he murmured in wonder. No wonder they hadn’t been able to find their father before their mother’s death. He’d come unhinged and been lost in the hills. “You… you aren’t a ghost. You’re Nathaniel Ballard. You’re a magician, not a ghost.”

The older man roared again and Emery had time to gasp before his world narrowed to a point and darkened.

continued here

A Challenge

Within twenty minutes the team, including Armand, was on the site. Morrissey looked around, ran his hands through his dark hair and started assigning people to their tasks. “Serenity, Armand, see if you can determine where he got the cadavers from. If he stole the bodies, there’ll be more charges filed.”

“Of course he stole them,” Emery put in as he looked around the room. “People don’t donate their bodies to madmen for research.”

“They might not have realized who they were donating their bodies to,” Serenity pointed out. She knelt beside one of the constructs and began to take detailed pictures and samples from various locations.

“Miles, get to work classifying the dark magic,” Morrissey continued, ignoring the conversation. “Emery, see if you can determine if the bodies are fresh.”

Emery paused and looked around the room. “Morrissey, let me see if I have this correct. In a room where a battle just took place, between ravenous constructs and warden magicians, you want me to see if there are traces of trauma from constructs – made up of parts from various cadavers, so they obviously got cut up – from murders that might or might not have taken place?”

“Think of it as a challenge,” Morrissey said, pushing him further into the room. “You’re always telling me I don’t challenge you enough.”

“I’ll think of it as well nigh impossible,” Emery said. Even so, he drew out his trauma wand and began to slowly draw his wand down the body of one of the constructs. For once he was careful while performing the spell not to allow his other gifts to augment his magic. The amount of trauma in the room would most definitely cause a spell, if not an attack.

Relying only on magic made the process slow going and frustrating. Unconsciously, he’d look up periodically and note that Serenity or Armand had moved on to a different construct, while he was still working on the same one. By nature, Emery was competitive and being slower than his teammates rankled him.

He looked up after he’d finished the last construct to find that only Hassett remained in the room and it was night outside. “Sorry,” he murmured, easing himself to his feet. “Lord, I’m hungry. Where’d everyone else go?”

“Back to the station,” Hassett replied. “I’ll get you something to eat on our way there. Find anything interesting?”

“Further analysis will have to be done at the lab, but the injuries were all post mortem. So he used dead bodies. He didn’t kill people.” Emery brushed off his pant legs and slipped his wand back into his bag. Then he bounded over to the door.

Interesting, huh?

All heads turned toward the door as one of the couriers entered. “Whoa,” the boy said. “Afternoon, Investigator Morrissey. I was called to come for a pick up.”

“Good afternoon,” Morrissey replied. He pulled out his files and handed them over to younger man. “These need to get to Commander Hartley. This needs to get to the Chief.”

“Will do,” the courier said. “Be back later with replies.” His eyes danced as he took the folders and he winked before scampering out the door.

“I take it you know him?” Emery said wryly.

“Stevie,” Morrissey said, pointing at the door. “He’s been a courier since before you joined the team. He’s not a magician but he’s… interesting.”

“Interesting?” Emery repeated.

Morrissey looked the team over and then turned to Warden Fowler. “Keep the crime scene sealed for the next seventy-two hours,” he ordered. Without waiting for a response he began issuing orders to the others. “Serenity, can you go with Warden Roderick and see if the witness is ready to be questioned? Check her for any magical trace as well. She may very well have brushed up against the spell, which would help us trace it back to the mage who cast it.”

“Yes, sir,” Serenity said. She bounded over to a waiting cruiser with Warden Roderick and soon the pair had disappeared around the corner.

“Miles, I appreciate that you feel fine; but you need to realize you were attacked by a magical construct and it’s possible that the spell may affect you adversely. I’m sending you to the clinic to be checked out,” he continued. “Go now with Warden Everett, if you would.”

“Yes, sir,” Miles said with obvious reluctance. He followed Everett away from the scene.

“Emery,” Morrissey started.

“I’m fine,” the teen interrupted.

“I know,” Morrissey said, mimicking his tone perfectly. He sighed and glanced at Hurley, who was grinning and clearly enjoying the exchange. Returning his gaze to Emery, he said, “Wait until I finish before taking my head off, if you please.”

“Sorry, sir,” Emery said softly. He nodded once to show he was ready to listen.

“Now, Emery, I’d like you to perform a stress test on the body as well. Determine just what kinds of injuries, if any, were inflicted before she was killed. In addition, see if you can determine if she was also a mage. If someone attacked her with a magical construct and if, as you say, she knew what it was, it’s possible she’s a mage herself, even if she wasn’t a practicing one.”

“Yes, sir,” Emery said. “We have to go to the coroners.” He looked up at Hassett then returned his gaze to Morrissey as he asked, “What are you gonna do?”

“Armand and I are heading back to the lab with the construct. He can get on tracing the elements that made it up and I’ll prepare it for the spell trace. Get going, now,” Morrissey said.

Introductions

Emery Ballard followed Warden Hassett into the station that morning, rather than bounding ahead. A part of him was hoping to make a good first impression with his more sedate, more mature, pace and a part of him was a little anxious about meeting the new team of forensics magicians that had been added to the force.

“You know, some of them have been on the force for a while, just not as forensics magicians,” Hassett said. His tone was meant to be reassuring, but Emery found the words less so. The forensics team was meant to work with any and all of the wardens that were on call when they were, but in the year since his graduation from the academy, Emery had only worked with a select few. Veterans of the force or not, these men and women would be complete strangers.

“Are they being supervised by Morrissey too?” Emery asked. He glanced back at Miles. His brother was both strangely quiet and reticent to be in the station. Without waiting for Hassett to answer his previous question he asked, “What’s wrong, Mi?”

“Hannah,” the younger boy said softly.

“You know her?” Hassett asked.

“We were in school with her,” Emery said. “She and Miles have a bit of a history with each other. As I recall, you two went out together a few times. You were quite taken with her.” He glanced at his brother for confirmation and received a glare in reply.

“She was just using me to get to you, brother,” Miles said softly. “She had no interest in me at all. When she figured out your preferences, she dumped me before I could even blink.”

“Ah, so she’s a heart-breaker,” Hassett said softly.

“Yes,” Miles replied. “I ain’t saying she’s a gold-digger…” he hummed, edging ahead of them.

Emery smiled and shrugged. “She likes to date people she thinks are going to gain her power or prestige – or she did in school. She might have changed, Mi,” he called to his brother.

“Don’t count on it,” Miles shot back. They ducked into a conference room just off the lobby and paused as they noticed that they weren’t alone. “Here they are. Good morning,” he greeted the new team, all animosity gone from his features. He may dislike Hannah, but he’d hide it well – at least in front of other people. Emery doubted very much that his younger brother would ever have a good working relationship with the girl.

“Hi Miles. Hi Emery,” she greeted, bounding forward. “You must be Warden Hassett,” she added, looking up at the older man. Her green eyes roved over him as if taking in every detail and Emery caught Miles scowling out of the corner of his eye. He sent a brief smile toward his brother, along with a sense of calm that the empathy was likely to pick up on.

“We should wait until the rest of the team arrives for introductions,” Hassett said. “Though the boys told me that they knew you already.”

“We were in school together. Emery saved my life,” she said. She caught his hand and smiled at him. “He’s a hero.”

“She wasn’t really in any danger,” Emery said quickly. “She was in the woods on school grounds and… broke her ankle and… well, I found her.” He darted a glance at Hassett as if to ask if the other team should be let in on their secret. The warden caught his look and nodded once. “I just followed the trauma from the injury – and her distress, I suppose.”

“Emery can sense trauma and I pick up on emotions,” Miles said. “We both have off-magic but we’d prefer that no one knows.”

“Especially since Em was recently kidnapped by a group that is trying to exploit people who are specially gifted as they are,” Hassett said.

“The presence of off-magic tends to indicate Cygman blood,” one of the newcomers said.

“The blond hair and blue eyes tend to agree with that, Elsa,” another said. She smiled at the boys and added, “We can keep a secret.” Her dark, angular eyes and equally dark hair announced her Shynian heritage as much as the brothers’ coloring announced theirs.

“Technically, we’re all Shynian,” Hassett pointed out. “Whatever our ancestry, we live in Ameria, which is a Shynian state. Here’s Morrissey and Serenity. Is Armand on his way?” he asked the supervisory investigator.

“He had some things to do this morning to wrap up a case,” Serenity said. “He wanted your input on something Miles. He found some anomalies in the samples he was analyzing.”

“Some of the sample was connected to the region we found it in and some was,” Miles surmised. When the older investigator nodded he grinned. “I thought it might be. That’s not an anomaly. The samples were mixed. The suspect was trying to throw us off. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go talk to Armand about it.”

He didn’t wait for permission, he simply left, glad to be away from his former girlfriend. Emery nodded at him as he passed, well aware of how tense the younger boy was. “Since everyone who’s coming is here, shall we proceed?” he asked.

“Very well,” Morrissey said. “All of you know me. I interviewed you. In case you’ve forgotten, I’m Robert Morrissey, supervisory investigator and ballistics expert for the first team. This young woman is Martha Sheppard, the ballistics expert for the second team.” He gestured at the woman who’d spoken to Elsa earlier and she bowed at the team members.

“Pleasure to meet you all,” she said.

“Miles Ballard, who left to help Master Armand, is the first team’s trace specialist. Cliff Woodin is his counterpart on the second team and also will act as my second, supervising them when I’m not present,” Morrissey continued.

Emery looked up at Woodin. Like Armand, the man was unusually tall for a magician, approaching what was considered average height for a non-mage. Unlike Armand, the man had dark features typical to those who were ethnically Shynian. With a glance at the other team members, Emery wondered if this was a trend or if there were just more ethnic Shynians in Piedmont than in his hometown of Lyroron.

“Samuel Perkins is the second team’s hair and fiber analyst; just as Serenity Adams is ours,” Morrissey continued. Perkins was as different from Woodin as night was to day. The man was even shorter than Miles and fair enough that he could have been an albino.

“Hey all,” he greeted in a softly drawling accent. “Glad to be working with you. I hope we can all manage to get along well.”

“I hope so too,” Emery replied. “I’m Emery Ballard, Miles’s older brother. I’m the trauma and bodily fluids analyst for our team.”

“Elsa Adamson,” the woman who’d pointed out their Cygman roots said, extending her hand. As Emery shook it she smiled and nodded at him as if in approval. “I know your teacher, Rafael Cain. We were apprentices to the same master.”

“Professor Cain?” Emery said, beaming enough that his cheeks hurt. “You know Professor Cain? How is he?”

“He was well when last I saw him,” she replied. “I’ll have to tell him how you boys are doing when I talk to him. Would you like me to give him your contact information?”

“And how!” Emery said, bouncing up on his toes. He blushed as he realized how youthful his actions seemed and settled back, murmuring, “I’d very much appreciate that.”

“I’m sure that Emery knows Hannah Keller,” Morrissey continued, ignoring the interruption. “She is the counterpart to our own Armand Livingston. Master Armand is, as Master Serenity stated, in the lab, wrapping up a case.”

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.

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.

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.

Monica Ferris

an author with many hats

A Land of Curiosity

From the files of Shynian Intelligence

Heather's Fancies

tales from the enchanted gardens and shadow hollow

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