Chapter 11.5: Arson Investigation
The rain was heavily pouring down onto the streets of Azure Ridge, blanketing the roads in a small layer of swiftly moving water. Tidal surges were crashing onto the beach, but were kept at bay by a wall of sandbags. The sky was black as night as lightning skipped between the thick storm clouds, painting a grim and depressing scene.
Inside the relative safety of her home, Meredith Dennison was seated at the kitchen table, entranced by the harsh weather she was witnessing. She hadn't seen anything like it since she was a child, nearly thirty years ago. "Marv... do you think Andrea's alright?"
Marvin was studying a case file related to the 'Dark Angel', a criminal that he and his partner had been investigating. "I'm sure she's fine. She's in the Blackwood, weather doesn't exist in there."
"But she has no idea what she's doing... she has no survival skills and she's never been really good at taking care of herself. I'm worr-"
"She's fine, I talked to her yesterday," he said. "She's a smart girl, she's probably found someone to help her along, make up for her inexperience."
Meredith looked at her husband, breaking her attention from the storm. "Come on, Marv. You know just as well as I do that she's probably hiding from everyone and everything, especially since she burned the restaurant down."
Marvin looked up from his notes and stared at the table before he slowly put them down and looked at her. "I'm sorry, did I hear that right? You don't think she actually did it, do you?"
"How do we know she didn't?"
"I can't believe I'm hearing this," he said. "Andrea is our daughter, we've known her all nineteen years of her life. She's always been kind and gentle, always willing to make a sacrifice if it meant helping others. Not once can I think of a time where she's been a true troublemaker."
"What about the past few weeks?" she asked. "She's been rude, she's been secretive, she's been miserable... I really think the way that Chaz tore her hopes and dreams up changed her."
"She has been a bit touchy, lately, yes. But... Why am I even arguing this? I know for a damned fact that she was in Silvermist City when that restaurant went up in flames."
"Please, prove me wrong. I want to believe that she's innocent, but how often have your fellow detectives been wrong?"
Marvin grumbled and returned to his work, trying to ignore everything his wife had said. Tensions had been high between them since Andrea left, and he wanted it all to just go away so that they could get back to their happy marriage. He tried to drown it out by burying himself back into his work.
His investigation into the Dark Angel had gone nowhere in the past two weeks. Every time he thought he was closer to finding information about her, it turned out to be false. From questioning Fat Paulie about her connections with Team Rocket, to investigating rumors that the group was raising funds by selling illegally poached pearls, and factoring in what Andrea and Larson saw a few nights ago in Crystal Bay, he thought he would have found some useful information about her, but nothing seemed to bridge together. This had been his first truly difficult case since joining the force, and it was starting to wear into him.
Not all was lost, however. Many people within the city said that they had seen someone matching her description slinking around town. That was encouragement to continue searching for her, but he knew he needed to step up his game. Even then, just finding her would be half of the battle; What was her motive? What is she doing? Who is she working with or for, and what are their goals?
His concentration was broken by a banging at the door. He chose to ignore it, thinking that it might have been a windswept piece of debris crashing against the house, but the knocking continued. He got up and cautiously approached the door, opening it slightly to see Jack Reiserben standing there.
"Afternoon," Jack said, tipping his rain soaked hat.
Seeing his partner there shocked him. "Goodness, Jack! It's a hurricane out there, are you mad!? Get in here!"
"It's only a little water and wind," Jack said. "You do what you have to when important things are on the line."
"And what's so important that you'd be walking around in this kind of weather?"
"Your daughter, for a start."
"She's not on the line right now, she's somewhere safe."
"Is she? You know first hand the long arm of the law." Jack said. "Even if she does manage to avoid our fellow officers, we have to do what we can to clear her name before they find her."
"And I will as soon as this weather lets up."
"That's not good enough! We have a duty to protect the innocent. Crime doesn't take a day off for the weather, and neither will we."
Meredith closed the curtains and turned to look at the two. "I never knew you were so serious about your work, Jack."
"I'm serious because I don't want to see anyone else lost at the hands of Team Rocket," he said, turning back to Marvin. "I know you don't have any reason to suspect it, Marvin, but I'm convinced that Andrea's supposed involvement in that arson is being propped up by someone inside our own office. Call it a hunch."
"That's what I'm worried about... that you have a hunch. I've learned to stop arguing against them."
"Look, we've got some new evidence that's come in. Come on down to the Police HQ and help me go over it."
"Marv, no! Look at the weather outside!" Meredith exclaimed in protest.
"It's only down the street. We'll be fine."
"Even if it is just down the street, that's not our case, it'd go against--"
Jack took an aggressive step towards his partner. "Marvin, we have to act now if we're going to protect your daughter from any harm. She's been named a suspect in something she couldn't possibly have done, doesn't that sound like she's being targeted by someone from inside? I don't give a damn about what our superiors say, I am going to do what's right. She needs our help."
Marvin was surprised at how aggressively enthusiastic Jack was, but knew he was right. He looked back at his wife, hoping to see some sign of approval. "Well... if you put it that way, let's do what we can."
"Good. Let's go." he said, opening the door and stepping outside.
Marvin looked at his wife again in disbelief.
She shook her head. "You need to keep a leash on that man... he scares me sometimes."
- - - - -
Marvin was sitting at his desk in his office, sipping from some coffee as he watched Jack go through the filing cabinet in the other room. The two were the only ones in the building, offering a silenced and relaxing atmosphere for the two to work in. The only sound that could be heard was the storm raging outside.
"So what do we know so far? I haven't even looked into this yet." Marvin said as Jack stepped into his office.
"I don't know much myself, but when I looked into it yesterday, all we had was an eyewitness report."
"Doesn't sound like much to go on."
"No. But I did manage to... uhh... convince Chaz to hand over some footage from the restaurant's security system."
Jack ignored his partner's inquiry. "The eyewitness report is shaky at best. The restaurant went up in flames at about 2 AM, so it was pretty dark. And it was raining, too. However, the witness described the suspect as a young woman, maybe in her early twenties, about five feet tall. Brown hair, sporting a black bandana with a pink circle on it. Now who does that sound like?"
"That does fit Andrea pretty well..."
"But remember, it was dark, rainy, and she only saw the suspect briefly before the flames coming out of the back window of the restaurant caught her attention."
"How reliable is this witness?"
"I couldn't say, I haven't spoken with her," he said. "She identified herself as a regular customer, saying that she was usually serviced by Andrea, and that the two had become friends."
"Huh," Marvin said. "Andrea told me she never got close to any of the customers, even the ones she saw regularly."
"Yeah. No offense to your daughter, but she doesn't seem like the friendly type."
"No, that's... yeah, she's a bit of a loner." he said. "What about this surveillance video? I think that'd be the proof we need to clear her name, regardless of what an eyewitness says."
Jack dropped a compact disc onto the desk. "Let's find out."
Marvin grabbed the disc and put it into his computer. The disc quickly loaded up, presenting him with all of the restaurant's security footage from the past month. He chose the final video on the disc, labeled as the night the restaurant burned.
The camera in the main room recorded a young woman standing at the front door, appearing to struggle with the lock on the door before she finally managed to open it. As she stepped inside, she was on the phone, wildly gesturing as she spoke, indicating that she was yelling, but about what?
"Come on, get closer to the camera..." Marvin said. "Show us who you are."
The woman walked behind the front counter, again struggling with the lock on the office door. This time, she started kicking at the door before throwing the full force of her body against it, smashing it open. Marvin clicked on the view of the office, causing it to enlarge. The woman approached the desk, searching the top of it for something as she pushed the papers on it around. As she approached the other side of it to go through the drawers, her face was clearly caught by the camera.
"That's not her... I knew Andrea wasn't involved." Marvin said.
"But who is she? She looks familiar..."
The video footage continued, showing the woman ransack the desk, picking up a small key from the floor. She walked over to the bookshelf that sat on the back wall, pushing it over and revealing a safe. She inserted the key into the safe, input a password onto the security pad, then twisted the key. The safe opened, revealing a large collection of golden and silver coins, which she greedily sweeped into her backpack. She grabbed the bandana that was on her head, untied it and tossed it into the empty safe, closing it.
"Wait... What did she just do?" Jack asked.
Marvin rewound the footage to show it again.
"The bandana, she took it off, probably in an effort to frame your daughter. How did the witness know she had one if they only saw her after the fire was started?"
"Good eye," Marvin said, taking notes.
"Looks like she's heading to the kitchen..." Jack said.
The woman walked across the main room where all the tables were towards the kitchen. She went straight from the kitchen to the storage room, entering from outside of the camera's visual range, still talking on her phone. She appeared to be studying the contents of each cabinet and freezer, pulling everything out and tossing it all onto the floor. Eventually, she stopped her destructive search after finding a large, plastic container. She brought it back towards the kitchen, resting it on top of the stove. After a few more minutes of talking on her phone, she uncapped the container and poured the contents all over the stove and the floor. She turned the stove on and ignited the oil, which spread like a wildfire across the whole restaurant.
"Cooking oil... It should have been so obvious." Marvin said.
The camera in the main room showed the young woman recklessly knocking chairs and tables over as she rushed towards the door. Before she left, she looked directly up at the camera and taunted towards it, sticking her tongue out and making a devil horn sign with both of her hands before she left.
"Did she... She knew we'd find it..."
"You weren't wrong when you said criminals often display that they think they're in control," Jack said.
"Yeah. It never fails, even in the most meticulously planned cases..." he said. "I'm going to to keep looking at this footage, and all of the noteworthy stuff from the past few weeks. See who she really is."
He started with footage of the previous day, fast forwarding through it to find anything useful or interesting. The previous day seemed useless, as she wasn't seen anywhere. The same could be said for the previous two days, prompting Marvin to question whether she was even an employee of the restaurant as he suspected. However, she appeared in the restaurant the day before, taking and delivering orders. He had found a lead to work on.
Continuing to watch the security video, he opened a copy of the Crimson Crawdaunt's employee records. He flipped through them, starting from when the restaurant opened nearly ten years ago. Nobody from the early years matched the woman in the security video.
Eventually, he came across his daughter's employment record. She had been employed as a waitress for nearly two years with a fairly spotless record until the weeks prior to her termination. She was cited as a key team player in managing the restaurant while the owner was in the hospital for nearly a month. In the end, she was fired for 'refusing to cooperate with the owner's requests', something that still didn't make sense to him.
On the following page was the newest employee to be hired, Angelique Corrente. She had been hired the week before Andrea was fired, and from what he remembered hearing about her, the two had an adversarial relationship from the day they met. He read her record, noting that she was named employee of the month only a week after being hired, and that she was promoted from waitress to assistant manager a few days later.
"That's just shady right there," he said.
Jack looked up from his computer screen. "What? Got something?"
"Not exactly, I'm just going over employee records at the Crimson Crawdaunt... Apparently my daughter and a new employee were caught arguing a lot... Then suddenly my daughter is fired, this new girl is named employee of the month and then she's promoted to the position that Andrea had been working towards for the past year? Just what in the hell was Chaz thinking? What was so special about her?"
"C'mon, stay focused."
Marvin grumbled, then studied Angelique's photo. "Wait..." he said quietly, looking closer, then back at the screen of the security footage. "Hair is the same length... looks to be the same color..."
"Hey, come over here," Jack said.
"What is it?" he asked as he walked over.
"Look familiar?" Jack asked as he pointed at the screen in front of him.
Marvin looked at the screen to see a still image of Angelique Gardetta next to the file for Angela Corrente, the woman they had been investigating for the past two weeks. The similarities between the two were too similar to be a mere coincidence. "I'll be a son of a bitch..."
- - - - -
SUSPECT'S NAME: Angela Corrente
EYE COLOR: Blue
HAIR COLOR: Pink, natural color unknown
WEIGHT: 107 lbs
REGION OF ORIGIN: Kanto, believed to have been born in Celadon City
KNOWN ALIASES: Dark Angel, Pink Sparkle, Bright Eyes
KNOWN RELATIVES: N/A
Aggravated assault, Saffron City, Kanto (victim: Roger Silph, nephew of Silph Co. CEO Chris Silph)
Aggravated assault, Vermilion City, Kanto (victim: Nurse Camilla, employee at the Vermilion Pokémon Center)
Grand larceny, Vermilion City, Kanto (item stolen: Rapidash belonging to Pokémon Fan Club Chairman Gregory Hayik, item still missing)
Outstanding warrant for attempted murder, Blackthorn City, Johto (victim: Scott Johannesson, a traveling tourist from Olivine City)
Outstanding warrant for conspiracy to commit murder, Blackthorn City, Johto (related to attempted murder charge)
Outstanding warrant for petty larceny, Canalave City, Sinnoh (items stolen: briefcase full of the personal belongings of Angela Huygens, including three tickets to ride the S.S. Galaxy to Storm Island, later confirmed used by the cruise company)
SUSPECT IS ARMED AND DANGEROUS. HER WHEREABOUTS ARE UNKNOWN, BUT SHE IS BELIEVED TO BE HIDING SOMEWHERE ON STORM ISLAND. DO NOT APPROACH ALONE.