The Case of the Diamond Pokeball
In 1920 I received my doctorate from the University of Ryvere, in the province of Maiville, now known as Goldenrod City. It was not an easy task in those days to graduate and I had the rottenest luck to succumb to the blood fever in 1918. There was a wide spread rash of it going around at the time, though it seemed the members of the university had by and large avoided contamination—with the exception of a few unlucky students. My studies for the spring semester were postponed and I was still recovering well into the long summer. However, it seemed likely that I should return in the fall when disaster fell upon me once more.
I was in the university library, idly chatting with one of the librarians, which was not an unusual pastime of mine, when a local errand boy rushed through the open doors of the library and started hollering my name at the top of his not inconsiderable lungs.
The liberian, a considerate enough woman under normal circumstances, looked appalled and if I had not raised my hand in protest, I am quite sure she would have taken the long ruler she kept handy at the desk and thoroughly whipped the lad.
“Boy! I am right here,” said I. Hurriedly, I stepped forward and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Mister Michael Scott, I'm come from the post building and I got a message—“ suddenly he started violently and jerked away from my touch, nearly tripping in his excitement to get away from me. He made the cross sign on his chest and then stared unflattering at me, a mix of boyhood curiosity mingled with repulsion on his features. It was rather like he had just come across a grotesque creature on display at the local carnival, a being that he could not take his eyes off of.
Inwardly, I sighed. It was no mystery as to what had put him so suddenly off me. The blood fever was so aptly named for its singularly unique characteristic of deteriorating the veins around the eyes to the point that they released blood into the eye and around the iris. Though the fever had finally been destroyed from my body some weeks ago—and what a battle it had been!—I still had the tell-tale signs of faintly bloody eyes. To say the least, they were startling to passerby.
And I must say, though I was exasperated at the conduct of the boy, I was also just as angry. I had had it with people shrinking from me. If anyone should be disgusted, it should be me by this dirty hooligan, a boy of perhaps twelve, barefoot and with a fresh coat of street grime upon his britches and feet.
So it was rather sharply I said, “Well? The message, what is it?”
Perhaps it was my tone, or perhaps it was the intimidation of a red eyed, red haired man of over six feet glaring at him, but whatever the case the boy snapped to at once. Mutely he handed me a single piece of paper and without waiting for a tip he fled, not sparing a glance behind him.
I unfolded the paper and the exact words still ring in my mind, clear as if my sister Addie had whispered right into my ears: --Come home now. Father sick. Love Addie--
Of course I left at once and though I lived quite a distance away, I made few stops, taking catnaps when I could and arrived roughly a week and a half later, in time to see my father off. The journey itself is an adventure worthy of printing. I often feel I learned more in those two weeks than I would have all semester if I had stayed at the university. Alas, that is a tale for another day. I will say though that it was during that time I befriended Bell, a fastidious Ponyta that became my favorite companion.
Well, by the time the affairs had been put in order, I was not only feeling quite sick (recall my brutal battle with illness had only relatively recently been won) and another week had passed. Even using every trick and shortcut I knew of, there would be no way of getting back to school faster than I had left it. In fact, without the burning need to get home to drive me and in caution of my illness and grief, it would probably take me closer to three weeks to get back to school. That of course would mean I would fully miss about six weeks of the semester by the time I got there—obviously there was no point in hurrying back. I telegraphed my adviser and friend, Martin Maaer, explaining my withdrawal from the fall courses. Then I settled down to a couple months of tending the farm and re-cooperating in the country air. I did return without incident the next spring.
I tell you this story not just to ramble of a troubled year of my youth, but because it was that winter I met an incredible man who was destined to become one of my greatest friends. It was through him I discovered that there really is no such thing as coincidences.
I met him one day in late November. I had traveled to Town with mother, my younger brother Maxwell and sister Addie. Town was, of course, the only town within ten miles of our homestead. We simply referred to it as Town, though its proper name was Windlebury. As usual, the family drifted off in different directions, each to their own devices. I myself wandered among the many stores, stopping to greet familiar faces or to occasionally peruse an object of curiosity (Rather I was bored out of my skull). Then, quite suddenly, my interest was stirred. I'd stopped to see my old friend, Henry, when he abruptly began to differ me to a new store across the street from his bakery.
“Right up your alley, I'd say,” he told me as he nimbly poured icing on a dozen cupcakes.
“What is its name?” I asked, squinting through Henry's foggy windows at the opposing shop.
“Unusual and Peculiar Vintage,” Henry replied. The cupcakes were now all done and packaged neatly into a sturdy white cardboard box. I began to withdraw money from my pocket, but Henry waved me off. “It's a treat to see you boy (he always called me boy, even though then I was in my mid 20s) No! Put the green away. If you wanna pay me back so bad, then take this slice 'o pie to Mr. Swift over yonder.” He put a ginormous slice of apple pie into another box and stacked it on top of the cupcakes.
“Swift?” I inquired as I bundled up the cupcakes and the slice of pie.
“Uh-huh. Gareth Swift, goes by just Swift. He's an inter--...interesting fellow. Smart as whip. Probably could teach your professors a thing or two. Hell, he probably was a professor at some time. Tell him I said hello.”
“Will do. Cya Henry.” I pushed open the door of Henry's shop and walked over to 29 Harvest St., the residence of one Unusual and Peculiar Vintage.
From the outside, U&PV looked exactly like all the other stores along the street. A small store front, squeezed between Rodgers' Dining and Alice's General Store, with reddish colored brick, aged by the passing years and a large shop window with the curtain pulled halfway back. It even had the customary forest green canopy over the narrow entrance. The air that hung about it was of a little, quiet, slightly run down place. In fact it was so quiet that if I had not talked to Henry, I would have thought the place was permanently closed, for it did not have an OPEN/CLOSED sign. Then with a faint start I realized it did not even have a sign proclaiming its name and the only indication of what it sold was a pile of worn books neatly stacked in the window. A chill shot up my spine and though I shrugged it off, I could not help but feel a sense of the supernatural. It's hard to put into words, but in that moment, the sensation can only be described as literally supernatural—an intense, sudden and prickly feeling that sprung from my core and spread throughout my body. It was almost like I had suddenly stepped off the beaten path and stumbled into the shadow of something great and wonderful and...dangerous. “Peculiar indeed,” I muttered. I might have turned and left that instant, if not for my promise to Henry.
Then, as I reached for the door, it opened. A pleasant, light masculine voice greeted me. “Do come in, sir,” he said, quite amiably. “Let me help you with that.” Slender, lady like hands steadied the dangerously teetering pie.
“Thank you,” I replied automatically. I accepted his invitation and stepped inside the store. My curiosity, I admit, was peaked, and so I was rather annoyed when I discovered the shop was shrouded in darkness. The sudden contrast—from bright November morning light to soft blackness—left me on edge and of course my eyes, though thoroughly recovered from my illness, took a while to adjust.
The shop-keep did not seem to mind the darkness at all and indeed kept up a running commentary as he led me to a plush chair. I did not mind, for I already said he had a pleasant, refreshing kind of voice. I detected a strong Hoenn accent mixed with a little Sinnoh—he curled his R's like a Hoenn and enunciated with the force of a Taurous just like a Sinnoh resident. Yet though he had that strong power in his voice, he allowed certain sentences to drift off quietly and peacefully. It really was a beautiful speaking voice.
The place, I found, was lit by a few electric lamps in the corners and a flickering glow from the hearth. It actually lent a nice, relaxing ambiance to the facility, though I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw that the shop was bare save for the sitting area and a couple of large bookcases around the walls. And the sitting area was one of the oddest I had seen in a store. Instead of several chairs to serve as a gathering place for the locals to yap at each other, it was only furnished with three cushy armchairs, a startling yellow carpet and one large coffee table. The only thing right about the situation was that it was all placed near the fireplace, where a healthy batch of coals were raked, guarding against the chilly mountain air.
“—Henry really shouldn't have, all I did was a modest service, a trifle of a thing. But we must let others repay their debts as they see fit, eh? I do say, are you still with us, Mister Scott?”
“Sorry, I faded off. I was admiring the, the, umm, store,” I stumbled as my brain caught up to my mouth. “But wait! My name—? How do you know?”
“Hmm? You have recovered quite nicely from that blasted fever, but your eyes still give you away. The veins around your eyes are ever so scarred. Not to mention your rather pale skin, slightly haggard face, and loose fitting clothes tell of a fierce bout with illness. No one in this quaint village has given way to the fever, though I did hear just the other day that the Scott boy had returned from across the land and of course I knew from your mother that you were struggling with the fever some months ago. Also, I know that you're new to me, though certainly not to Henry, for him to send you with that pie, labeled especially to 'My friend Swift, with thanks!',” he said this all in one rapid sentence, not pausing for breath.
I sat, silent and pondering. I was not stunned by the logic in the least, for it all was fairly simple and straightforward and came from knowing how to squeeze the grapevine, but rather by the way this man dished it out, all in such a confident and rapid-fire sequence. I supposed I was also taken aback by the man himself. From all I had heard from Henry, I expected an older fellow, but Swift could only be a year or two older than myself, if that. Though he gave the impression of being nothing like my peer, but rather a sharp, flyaway elder. He was about as tall as me as well and as thin. From there the physical similarities stopped.
His hair had already began to whiten, going from a pitch black to a silver-black. Besides that the man gave the most distinct impression of untidiness and haphazardness. The cuff of one sleeve was all done up, but the companion sleeve was completely unbuttoned. He had a slight, scruffy beard starting, as if he had not shaved for a couple days and a pair of piercing blue-green eyes. His hands were perhaps the only things well taken care of, for they were manicured and soft looking at first glance, though when he turned his hand palm out I saw plenty of working man's calluses and scars.
“I 'sume Henry told you nothing of me,” he said around a fork full of pie.
I nodded, choosing not to comment on his slovenly behavior. It was not my place nor to my benefit to start a fight. Instead I glanced at the only thing on the coffee table—a fresh copy of the Kainville Dispatch (Kainville is a large city a few miles from sleepy old Windlebury). The front page displayed three things: a magnificent photo of a glittering Pokeball with the headline “QUEEN'S DIAMOND POKEBALL MAKING WORLD TOUR”; the results of a Pokemon beauty contest; and a small advertisement for Thanksgiving turkeys.
“Gary Swift, at your service,” my host continued, with a mock bow. He then sat down in the chair opposite me, still chewing through his pie with the air of a ravenous wolf.
“Michael Scott, at your service.” I smiled in spite of myself. Swift was the type of man one became comfortable with almost immediately. It was nearly alarming how quickly we got on with the other. So it was several minutes of amusing conversation before I came round to ask what exactly it was he sold.
“Information,” he replied promptly. “Sometimes it is not even sold, but bartered with. Gossip is an invaluable tool, as I showed you moments ago. Though there are, of course, infinite types of other data worthy of mercantilism.”
I questioned further and he took his sweet time replying. I had begun to think he'd drifted off in front of the warm fire when he finally answered.
“Take, for instance, Henry. He had a little issue the other week which was as obtuse as mud to him. He inquired my opinion, I gave it and he found himself a suitable solution. You see, he had lost an important item and was quite shaken. Through a few questions and some simple probing, I pointed him in the right direction.”
“I see,” I said, though I really did not. Swift stared at me intently for a moment, then shook his head. Whatever he was about to say, however, was interrupted by a flying rat. It swooped down from nowhere and flew right in front of my nose, all the time making this shrill cooing noise. I was momentarily petrified and must have looked quite a sight for Swift burst out laughing.
“It's fine, sport! Perfectly fine. It's only Roxo, my Pidgey.” He put two fingers to his mouth and made a whistle far sharper than any I'd heard before. The chubby rat with wings, what I now know as Roxo, came flying down from whatever dark corner he had landed in. Roxo was indeed a Pidgey, though one of the largest I had seen. He was obviously well loved, not only because he was quite fat with treats, but also his feathers shone with a brilliant gold-brown luminosity. As Roxo was pampered by Swift, I excused myself. The time really had flown by and I was sure mother and the others were anxious to get going.
A fleeting look of genuine sadness passed over my new friend's face, though he quickly covered it up. “Do come again,” he said lightly, walking me to the door. “It's always nice to see a friend.” I assured him I would visit again and I was almost out the door and into the bright sunlight when a brilliant idea occurred to me.
“Say, Swift. Where are you spending Thanksgiving?”
“Er,” he began, but I cut him off.
“If you want, stop by my family's house. We'll have a few friends over, though it will not be that cheery now that I think of it. With father gone and all, it'll be quiet. But just in case--”
“Delighted!” roared Swift. “No worries, sport. I find I prefer the small and quiet gatherings. Crowded and cheerful dinner parties will be the death of me. See you around noon then on that day?”
“Better make it a little later in the afternoon. See you then.” I shook his hand and wandered off, wondering what had come over me to spontaneously invite a near stranger to our house at such a mournful time. However, mother did not share my view. In fact, she was quite delighted that Swift was coming and seemed determined to make this holiday as memorable as ever. It would indeed turn out to be one of our most memorable Thanksgivings.
Things That Go Bump in the Night
I should note that the unusual feelings of phantasmal energy I had felt before entering Swift's shop had dissipated well before I was walking in the cool air outside his shop. I include those details in this narrative, however, because they still hold sway over me. They are important in ways I cannot discuss right now and perhaps they were even a foreshadowing of the events that were to pass over us.
My next meeting with Swift was indeed on Thanksgiving day. The Thanksgiving dinner was excellent and the chatter absolutely entertaining. The guest list consisted of myself, my mother, my two siblings, my sister's beau Johnathan Vashel, my aunt Tibethia and her husband Harry Tompkins, my cousins Sally and Jacob Tompkins and of course Swift. An even ten altogether.
The dinner went so well in fact that the wine continued to pour into the late evening. It was not until midnight that everyone, save for Swift and me, were in bed. Given the rather free handling of the wine and the lateness of the evening, Swift was in no state to toddle off home. It was at least ten miles to Town and I also had come to find out that evening that he did not have a proper home of his own, but rather lived in the meager loft-attic thingy above his shop. So I insisted he stay the night in our little country house. He agreed and fell asleep almost instantly on our sofa in the living area.
I was jarred awake at five in the morning by Swift. So sound asleep was I that it took more than a couple minutes of incoherent babble and pushing before I was tugged away from that place in between sleep and wake. When I had fully awoken, I began to feel a slight panic. Surely something was wrong for Swift to wake me so early after so late a night. Fire, or sudden illness or a broken leg or—
“No, Mike. It is something more sinister than that,” he said gravely.
I stared at him, confused, then enlightenment struck me as I realized what must have happened. “You got into the wine after I went to bed,” I accused him.
He shook his head impatiently. “Sport, I never drink to drunkenness.”
“Do not call me 'sport' anymore,” I snapped. The panic had given way to humor which had rapidly given way to anger. “It's too early to be playing games, Swift.”
“I'm not playing games! I am trying to explain. There was murder tonight.”
That got my attention. “Murder!? Dear God, man! Who? Mother or Addie—“
“Have I not said the family and house are fine?” he said. His face was contorted in anger and I suddenly realized what it must cost him to stand here trying to explain in vain what was going on whilst a murderer was on the loose.
“Let's not waste time then. Explain to me while we go to the body,” I said. Quickly I yanked on a pair of trousers under my nightgown and stuffed my feet into shoes. As I strode to the bedroom door though, Swift stayed still. “Well?” I asked, impatient and irritated.
“There is no body. Or rather, it is not here yet.”
A wash of anger came over me again. “You are drunk!”
“No! Listen, will you. I was asleep when I heard a clatter on the roof. I should not have heard it had I not been luckily situated in that room, on the couch, close to the fireplace. So I slipped outside and sent Roxo up for a look.”
“Do not tell me—you found Santa Clause making an early delivery?” I asked. I sank down to the bed, resigned for what promised to be a long day.
Swift actually laughed. “Your sarcasm is appreciated, but listen here. Roxo flew up and saw nothing and no one!” He delivered this with an air of supreme conviction.
“So you discovered that you had imagined the whole incident?” I inquired.
“Really?” he demanded.
“Yes, really,” I replied.
“Then how I do know of the murderer?”
“How indeed,” I said, slightly bemused. I decided I would simply continue this conversation just to see what random ramblings Swift would come up with next.
He shook his head. “I see a demonstration is needed. Come, Mike.”
“With pleasure,” I replied.
I allowed him to lead me out of my bedroom, down the stairs and through the side door from the kitchen. Everything seemed normal and there was even a pleasant scent of cinnamon in the kitchen. The ground was soft from the day before last's rain, though it had hardened somewhat from the morning frost. I shivered despite my coat, though Swift did not even seem to notice the cold. The sun was just coming up, for it came early in this part of the country, and we carried candles to light the path around the house. Even though the sun was rising a quarter moon still hung in the sky, casting its dim light through a shadowy fog. Here in the boondocks it lent an eery tone to the whole setting.
“Look! See the tracks,” said Swift. As he pointed to the ground I noticed his breath came out in frosty whiteness. I followed his direction though and saw a mess of footprints under the kitchen window. It was in that area that the foundation sunk into the ground slightly and the roof was at its lowest point.
“Huh,” I whispered. It was unusual, I conceded that. Unlike my city cousins, I had grown up in the country and could tell the general happenings of tracks, though I certainly was not an expert. These told me that there had been two people who had stepped away from the grassy-rocky ground that was our lawn and into the mushy dirt around the edges of the house. It was a bit of a mess, but I knew they had stepped from the edge of the lawn, paused beside the window and then turned back from whence they came.
“I admit, Swift, that there were people here. They might have been party goers out for a random stroll.”
“Why come to this window though? It matters not, however. None of your guests were in on this, that I know without a doubt.”
Swift paused for several long seconds, then replied carefully. “I did not tell you all of my past. I too was at a University—in Hoenn—where I was a star student. Pure gold at everything I did. My studies, at one point, ran almost parallel to yours. I studied the Pokemon of this world, too, among many other things. I experimented, as is my nature. Psychic Pokemon were my specialty.”
“No,” I cut him off. “You cannot be that Swift. But of course...my instructors have talked of a student in a faraway land who did some amazing things. But then he simply vanished.”
“Yes, well, gossip is directly proportional to the amount of land it travels over. The longer it has to go the more it becomes distorted. I did not do one superb magic trick and then vanish in a poof of mythical smoke. I received my degree and then traveled. I admit I have never kept up with the scholarly community, but to say I vanished or died or such nonsense is absurd,” he replied. He seemed offended and later I learned that he had been combating ludicrous rumors for the past few months.
“But that means you got your doctorate at, what, twenty-four?”
“Twenty-three, actually. But the point is my studies led to a rather, well in fact, a most intense bond between myself and Pokemon, especially Pokemon of the Psychic variety. Sometimes I even receive vibes from their energies—well, you're a scientific man. You know some great things have been done between the relationships of Pokemon and mankind. But mine was the greatest. To say the least, I sometimes channel psychic energy and I know through that that nobody of the household was directly involved. The feel simply is not there.” He said this with a final, quiet certainty, as if he had not just dropped a bombshell at my doorstep.
It took several moments for this to sink in. It was fantastic, almost unbelievable...almost. Certainly some of the stiff-necked jackanapes at school would never lower themselves to believe it, but then none of them had ever touched absolute sync with their Pokemon like I had. None of them had grown up in the middle of nowhere where Pokemon and human depended on each other like a hand depended on an arm. They never saw some of the miracles I did.
“I believe you. Strange as it is, I absolutely believe you,” I said.
Swift nodded, a pleased look on his features. “I knew you would. I knew when I first met you. Sometimes there is just a connection between two people of a certain type in this world. Now, to the case at hand. What happened is simply this—“
“How do you know of murder?” I interrupted.
“I was getting to that. Now, the nearest lodgings beside your own are not for another mile and that to the west. If you were following the road from the north to south, or from Windlebury to Kainville, this would be the closest to the road. Possibly the only lodgings visible from the road. It is conceivable that if someone were to need something in a pinch and were traveling on that road, this would be the best house to go to. No other house is nearly as close to the main road as this one.”
“Okay,” I said slowly. My mind was whirling at the geography. He was right, of course, I knew that before he had finished speaking. But how he knew he was right, how he could memorize the lay of the land like that, I had no idea.
“Now we know these people are strangers and we know one of them is a woman—no, don't interrupt again. I know it is a woman because I not only feel it, but one of the tracks is a lady's boot. But why would they stop here, in the dead of night, to climb your roof?”
I stared at him. “Vantage point?” I finally offered to offset the strange silence.
“A possibility, yes. But most would find a tree much more convenient for that purpose than a stranger's house and as you will notice we are not in want of trees.” He waved a hand at the surrounding forests. “No, they were up here for a specific purpose. Why we can only speculate at this time. Look here.” Swift reached into his overcoat and withdrew a couple stubby matches. “I found them by the kitchen door. Recently used, I'd say. But look! They did not walk kitty corner from here to the door, like we did. They stepped off the path and came to this window. Then went to the kitchen and left a couple matches.”
“So they lit a candle in the dark,” I replied, exasperated at all his little pauses.
“Quite! But why? It's extraordinary they would leave these matches by the door when they have no footprints leading to it. Maybe they did not leave any if they never strayed from the path, but we know they got into the mud, so they should have left prints. Rather, I fancy they climbed the roof, then slipped over to the door, dropped down and lit a candle or two and then entered the kitchen. Why they took that route is a clue to be unraveled later. They must have taken their shoes off, for there is no mud at all in the kitchen. Given the time frame, from when they climbed the roof and woke me to when they exited the building, they could not have been here but a few minutes.”
“Have you considered that you slept through the first climbing and awoke on their return trip? Then the time frame is useless,” I suggested.
“Excellent observation. I considered it, however, I find the idea quite doubtful. Roxo helped wake me and he is a diligent watcher. He would have sounded the alarm the very first time and woken me. Even if they had somehow slid by Roxo, it is always best to start with what you know and then what you suspect. Just like a math equation: work with what you do know and then stray outwards into the misty unknown. We know they entered at least the kitchen and we have very good suspicions that they could not have strayed far from it. So thus the kitchen demands our attention.”
“Good, but I must insist: tell me about this murder.”
“Ah, yes. I may have been a tad of an alarmist. The murder has yet to occur, but it will. Unless of course we prevent it. I told you, in not so many words, that by way of experimentation I embedded a minute portion of my subconscious within the wavelengths of my longtime companion Alexis, an Alakazam of incredible longevity and immense power.” Swift paused momentarily, then continued. “Psychic powers are a gray area of this world. They are not completely understood and often misunderstood. They are not of a mystical nature, though I question whether Psychic Pokemon may have not only unbelievable power of the mind, but also spiritual connections when the need...am I boring you?”
“Not at all,” I replied. “Quite the opposite, actually.”
“It is good to be appreciated,” Swift said. The more he talked, the more excited he became. As he was speaking he had begun to walk back and forth in a frenzied, clipped motion. It was rather like watching a captive tiger storm about the place. “But,” he continued. “The point is rather that when I touched the kitchen door's doorknob, I submerged instantly into a state of paranormal activity. A dream came over me and I was actually in the future, observing the murder of one of the partner's in crime by the other partner. The man killed the woman. I do not recall their faces, but I am sure I would instantly gain a feel from them if I ever came face to face with them.”
“So that's another reason you are so anxious about the kitchen,” I said. “It has some traces of energy in it, or something of the kind.” Looking back, I realize I sounded more calm than I really was. In reality, I could hardly contain my excitement and wonder as Swift explained the situation at hand. It is not often you get to explore the vast depths of Pokemon and human existence.
“Shrewd!” Swift roared with laughter. “Certainly a university student. In any case, there is nothing more to be found out here and it is growing chilly. Let us go back in.”
I agreed and we both returned to the kitchen, where at least the air was tinged with warmth from the smoldering fireside. Hurriedly we lit a few candles and began an inspection of the kitchen. However, no matter how hard I looked, I could not find anything out of place or missing. A brief inspection of the surrounding rooms also turned up nothing. By then the house's occupants were stirring and though I was dubious of keeping them in the dark, Swift and I both agreed that nothing good would result from trying to explain the matter to them. Besides avoiding a tangle of confusion and disbelief, Swift was adamant that his unique condition should remain hidden from the public.
We did bring up, almost casually, the question of a disturbance the night before. I showed my family the footmarks and asked if they had heard anything in the nighttime. The resounding answer was no and the case was dismissed as an odd and unaccountable happening of the night. “A wild Pokemon perhaps,” my mother said airily and to her the subject was quickly forgotten. Swift returned to Town shortly after and I collapsed into bed.
An Unexpected Battle
Now while the subject was closed to mother, it certainly was not to me. When I rose again the sun was high in the sky and the clock was striking the noon chime. It took only a moment to recall the early morning adventure and I was suddenly filled with a nervous, excited energy. I finished dressing and then walked to the large circular window across from my bed. It had been installed the year before I went to college by my father and I.
Thinking the problems of the morning over, I casually caressed the window's framework. In a sudden moment I was reminiscing that long summer day, which seemed to be aeons in the past. In my mind's eye I felt the tooth blade saws as they cut the wood and the smell of fresh ceder. The sound of a hammer missing its mark and a boy's yelp filled my mind. Then the smiling face of my old father as he eased the pain with laughter. The image drove a grief poisoned knife into my heart. I do not know how long I stood there, drifting away in memories and sensitivities. What finally brought me back to the land of the living was the sudden shriek of my sister Addie.
The screaming was coming from the garden, to the left of the kitchen. I wasted no time dashing through the house and out through the kitchen door. My brother, Max, was hot on my heels. As we rounded the corner of the house, the scene unfolded before our eyes. My sister's Staryu, Star (a classic name!), was in battle position in front of Addie. Facing directly in front of Star was a hulking behemoth of a Pokemon, an unusually large Machamp. A female Machamp at that, judging by the odd pale pink-blue hue of its skin, stretched over its bulging muscles. And hovering just over the Machamp's head was the creature that had evidently made Addie screech.
It was a crossbreed, that much was obvious. And a freakish crossbreed at that. No wonder it had startled Addie. Nobody will ever accuse me of being a coward to my face, but I might have screamed if I suddenly happened upon it. It had the brown feathers and markings of a Fearow, but the black beak and wild yellow eyes of a Murkrow. It also had a mutation of six razor talons per foot. It was its face though that was horrifying. Its whole face—the slightly twisted beak, the blazing eyes, the patchy skin around its beak, it was all like looking at a snarled up face of a dead possum.
(Due to the awkwardness of continually calling the crossbreed an “it” I will reveal a little tidbit: we met up with the creatures at a later interval and found out that the flying Pokemon's gender was male and its name was Sukis. The Machamp was indeed female and her name was Thora. Sukis and Thora. I will refer to them as such from now on, when the narrative permits it.)
“Star, use Hydro Pump on the—that flying thing,” Addie yelled. Star obeyed and out from her crimson gem spiraled a stream of crystal clear water. It clipped its target on the wings and knocked Sukis into a tumble, causing him to barely avert crashing into the ground.
“Dastan! C'mon!” said Max as he released his Mightyena, Dastan, from his Pokeball. Dastan landed with all four paws on the rocky ground. He let out a mad howl and then shook himself, causing his gray fur to ripple all down his spine.
I reached for my belt to choose a Pokemon...and kept reaching on. “Damn!” I cursed. I had been in such an awful hurry that I had left all my Pokemon inside my room. Of all the stupid, idiotic things...hold it. I had put the pants on I had worn yesterday. I fished around and—yes! I still had Bell's ball. It was not ideal, but it would give her experience and I was not like I had a lot of options. I threw it onto the improvised battling ground and a flash of light later my Ponyta appeared.
She entered the battlefield rearing, her hooves leaving streaks of fire in the air. Even though I had interacted with her often since I'd caught her, she still had a wild side to beat all. Maybe that was why I loved her so much—she had a will of steel that could be trampled by no one. At the moment though, I needed her to listen to me.
“Bell, put a fire under that Machamp's rear!” I called out. She neighed, swishing her fiery tail. A moment later a burst of reddish-blue flames poured from her mouth. At the same time Dastan had released a big ball of black energy at Thora.
Quickly, I thought strategy over. Bell could do either ranged or melee. Star was a ranged Pokemon and Dastan was really better suited for melee. Thora was pretty much melee as well and Sukis was all ranged. If I let Thora get too close, she looked strong enough to rip us all to pieces and Bell was the only one holding her off. Also, Fire only works well against Flying when the Fire Pokemon is stronger than the Flying, which was not the case here. So that left Star to battle Sukis all alone, or at least until we took care of Thora. None of the Pokemon had any abilities that would genuinely cause a difference in strategies...
“Watcher!” yelled Max. He shoved me to the ground as a small boulder came flying just over my head.
“What on earth!” I exclaimed, standing up.
“While you thinking every little thing through, that Machamp just threw a rock at Bell. She ducked and we averted death by inches,” Max explained cheerfully. He was already on his feet and in a second he had begun to call more orders to Dastan. His cheeks were flushed and a wide grin was planted square on his face.
“Thanks,” I muttered. “Bell—no! Get back here.” Bell had taken the chance to make a mad dash at Thora, clearly ready to land with both hooves on Thora's face. She was fast enough that it might work, especially with Dastan's jaws clamped firmly into one of Thora's four arms, guaranteeing a slight distraction. But it was breaking the cardinal rule of not rushing into enemy territory—especially when said enemy is pinned down. I held my breath, hoping...but then Thora swung the arm that Dastan was attached to and knocked Dastan into Bell. They both went flying into the dirt while Thora roared, her arm dripping with blue colored blood.
“What is going on?” came a commanding voice from behind us. Our mother was walking up behind us and behind her was Ryu, her old Raichu. Then what promised to be a bloody enjoyable and complicated battle broke off. I do not know if it was the presence of another person, or of an electric Pokemon (I still regret not seeing Ryu and Star pull off a good combo!) or whatever, but both foes fled. We would have chased after them and in fact we did, but they both sped away like jackals into the forest.
This is perhaps the moment to depict my siblings, who so far I have only described in passing. Addie is my older sister. She follows the family line to a T. Her hair is a natural cherry red, her eyes a dancing gray-green and her skin is dotted with angel kisses. Like the rest of the Scott clan she leans to the gracefully tall and thin side.
Max is the moon to our sun, the black to our white and the sky to our land. Opposite in almost every conceivable way, whether by accident or design. His hair is blacker than the dark side of the moon and his skin is also a few shades darker than ours, more akin to lightly creamed coffee than our milky white. At 5'9 he is three inches shorter than Addie and I. His body also leans to the more round and heavyset side. His eyes are the only thing that mirror us and even they are a more vivid green than anyone in the immediate family. He is also our younger brother, three years my junior and five years Addie's junior.
As far as temperaments go, I cannot speak of my own. Addie is kind and always willing to help a soul in need. She also has a fierce and fiery side to her that only the unlucky get to see (a lot of people, including myself, are unlucky though). Nobody mistakes her for a delicate flower though. Max is also kind and helpful, though you have to prod him to do anything. His temper is buried deep within him and all surface characteristics suggest an incredibly lighthearted boy. He's the dreamer of the family, I suppose.
Back to the case at hand. After all three of us sibs chased after the two Pokemon to no avail, we trotted back to the house. Mother, Max and I questioned Addie about the Pokemon.
“I haven' the faintest clue what they were up to!” Addie said. “They were smart, however. I came round the bend to chuck a few weeds when I spotted them. Machamp was standin' guard while that other thing was checking out the roof.”
“The roof!” I exclaimed.
“Yeah. Nestin' up there, maybe,” she suggested.
“I've never seen a Pokemon like it before. That's one queer hybrid,” said Max. “Dunno if it nests even. Looks like it would eat its eggs as like as nurse them.”
“I'll take a look,” I offered.
“Good then, but watch yourself. Addie, go up with him in case there is more. Max, go get the ladder,” mother ordered. Protests reached her ears before she finished the sentence.
“Mom, you always trust Addie and Mike more than me,” Max whined while Addie said,
“Mom! I ain't going up there.” and I said,
“Forget the ladder. I wish to see how hard it is to climb the roof.”
Mother threw up her hands. “Fine! Do as you like. Don't come crying to me when you all get shingles stuck in your hands and rip your pants climbing about like Mankeys.” With that she went inside with Ryu following like a faithful doggie. A moment of discussion later and we three had walked around to the other side of the kitchen. The kitchen door sort of stuck out, making an upside down T shape, with corners on both sides. We went to the corner where all the commotion had happened early that morning. Standing where the foundation sunk in, I was able to easily pull myself up. Addie decided to follow, also with relative ease. Max also followed, though he had a much harder time pulling himself up. It had partly to do with his girth, but mostly with the fact that he was just an inch out of reach of the tip of the roof. We helped him up, but I wondered how he—or rather someone his size—would have managed in the dead of the night, with the roof possibly slick with damp, or even a slight ice.
Once we were all on the roof, I surveyed the area. Not surprisingly there were muddy tracks that depicted last night's events, just like Swift had said. I wasted no time studying them closely, but headed straight to the only decent hiding spot available.
The chimney was one of five that heated the old house and as it belonged to the kitchen it was heavily used. Though luckily lunch was served around 1:00, so the wood stove connected to the chimney had not been put into full blast yet. I ran a finger around its ruddy brick base, the porous surface catching at my skin. At first glance the chimney itself did not seem obviously tampered with.
“But what is this?” I said. The cover of the chimney was unscrewed and tilted slightly to the left. Gingerly I gripped its sharp seams and lifted it up. Max had followed me and with his help I set the cover down. Addie leaned over the chimney and peered down.
“Nothin',” she said. She stood back from the chimney, swiping at the soot coating her hands.
“But the screws are gone,” I said.
“Maybe when dad cleaned it last year he lost the screws and just never got around to replacing them,” suggested Max.
“Not likely,” said Addie and I in unison. We grinned at each other. We knew father too well to accept that he had simply 'never gotten around' to anything in his life. The man was a born worker, if ever there was one.
Ignoring the filth, I reached into the chimney and began to pat around. I did not know what I was searching for, but I was sure there had to be something here. But it was to no end, for the chimney contained no secrets. We kept searching, checking the corners of the chimney and any little spots where someone could put something, but we found nothing.
We had given up and Max had already climbed down when an idea occurred to me. Addie and I were placing the cover back on the chimney when I told her my idea. Carefully we turned the cover upside down. I honestly expected nothing, so it was with that much more excitement when we found stuck to the corner inside of the chimney cover a Pokeball.
“Good grief! Look at it, Mike!” exclaimed Addie. Her mouth was open in a small O and her eyes were wide with surprise and more than a little glee. I myself was speechless.
It was not just any Pokeball. It was a coruscant real life ball that I had seen captured in what now seemed nothing but a dull photo in the Kainville Dispatch back at Swift's shop. Queen Lexis' diamond Pokeball glinted in the afternoon sun.
The Queen's Pokeball
“It's not just studded with tiny diamonds, is it? It is all one solid diamond cut into a Pokeball.” That was mother. We were all inside the kitchen now, the queen's Pokeball winking at us from the middle of the kitchen table. The light was captured and then released in every little flawless facet, causing a myriad of baby rainbows to flash around the room. I have never seen anything that was at once so beautiful and so deadly. A large and unexpected part of me longed for this jewel and I finally understood why so many gory deaths occurred around precious gems. I did not know the history of this particular diamond, but I was sure it had already left a trail of death, deceit and blood behind it.
“We'd best take it up to Kainville police. Straight to the head inspector there,” said mother grimly.
“Let's stop in Town and get Swift. He was here last night and heard a disturbance,” I reminded them. Nobody else had stayed the night. Aunt, uncle, cousins and Addie's friend Vashal had left to their own abodes before the noise had broken out. With the plan agreed, we collected our travel things and set off.
The next thing I knew we had had arrived at Town. So as not to look too conspicuous, what with the lot of us gadding about like geese, mother, Addie and Max went into Henry's bakery while I strolled over to 29 Harvest St. I knocked and was relieved when Swift opened the door in a matter of seconds.
Quickly I explained the situation to him, everything that had happened that morning up the discovery of the diamond. He was excited by the news, though not taken aback.
“I figured if there was something to find, the owners of the house would find it. I came back here to see if I could ferret anything out. Nobody seems to have heard anything strange last night, though as it is there were five guests who registered at Bastion last night (Bastion is the name of Town's only inn) . Three men and two women. All are listed as separate, but they all came in between three and five yesterday afternoon. I am sure the partners in crime are there,” Swift said. He leaned back in his armchair, his index fingers and thumbs drawn up so the tips touched each other. He seemed to be in an intense thought.
“That's all very good work, but let's assume two of the guests are ours. They stop here to rest, for whatever reason. In any case, they pass through this town in the early morning hours with the diamond and then pass our house—then suddenly they abandon the plan of flight and turn around, first depositing this precious gem in our chimney, then going into the kitchen and then running into the night without their prize,” I said, a tinge of laughter in my voice.
“I'm glad you have kept up with everything,” said Swift pleasantly. “There are still mysteries to be solved, of course. Now—ah, there is your family.” He waved at my mother who was peering through the window. “Yes, indeed. Stay here with me while we investigate the Bastion. I know they are registered there, I can feel it. But I dare not spy too much alone, no. Come help me.”
“But the police will want our statements,” I protested.
“And they shall have them in due time. A few hours will make no difference to them, but it may let our thieves slip by. And do you not think the police will send guards to your house tonight, for when the thieves return? I'm sure the Pokemon you battled today were simply a test, or maybe the crossbreed was attempting to recover the diamond. The Pokemon's owners must have been nearby! Let's hope they did not observe you collecting the diamond. But in any case once the police invade the quiet little countryside, the criminals will run like rabbits.” When he finished saying this, Swift grabbed his coat and started to walk to the door.
“Fine then. Let me tell mother—“ I began to say as we reached the door, but Swift finished the sentence for me.
“As little as possible. I prefer they continue on as a strong group to Kainville while we investigate here. Come on, sport! If you tell her too much she'll insist upon us all trampling over Bastion. Do you think it was a coincidence we struck up a friendship? That I was at your house to hear the thieves? That you even happened to be in the vicinity to meet me as you did? No! It's almost destiny that we should do this by ourselves.”
I shook my head. “You just want the fun of doing this virtually by yourself,” I replied. “And don't call me sport. Ah! Mother.”
“Mrs. Scott! How good it is to see you. Mike just explained the circumstances to me,” said Swift jovially. I will not bore you with the details, but it took a couple minutes of determined persuasion to assure them all to continue on without me. However, Swift does have that certain way about him and mother was quite taken by him in any case, so all went well enough.
As soon as they had got on their way, Swift and I headed across town to the Bastion.
The Bastion housed at the time perhaps twenty rooms. More than enough for usually there were only three or four rooms occupied, except around holiday time when the clients usually increased ever so slightly. It was a free standing building, on a small side street just off the main road of Town. It was country style, white clapboard and barn red paint, that sort of thing and two stories high. The owners, a Mrs. and Mr. Roynd, I have known since I was a child.
We entered the building and instantly were overwhelmed by the smell of cinnamon. It was a favorite scent of Mrs. Roynd and I almost chocked to death. I had forgotten how much she loved the stuff. Swift only paused for a moment, sniffing the air thoughtfully, then continued to the front desk.
Mrs. Roynd was on duty and was very helpful. Swift rattled off a story about a friend coming to stay, but he did not know her married name. It was absolute nonsense, but Swift was overflowing with charm and a pure charisma that ran rip-shod over the older woman's common sense. He gave a few different names and a vague description and finally Mrs. Roynd just let him look at the ledger.
It turns out there were seven guests. The five that had stormed in yesterday and two others that had been staying for a few days now. The two that had been staying for a while had vacated early this morning, but I recognized their names as an elderly couple who had been coming to Town for ages and unlikely our culprits. Swift had been correct earlier when he said the five consisted of three men and two women. Two of the men bore the same last name and had checked in at the exact same time. The other was listed as a Shane McHann, room 12 and seemed the most likely of the bunch to be our man. Of the two woman there was a Jesse Desnay, room 7 and Amy Bow, room 13.
“Ah! Amy Bowl has become Amy Bow. She should have kept her maiden name, it's not like there's a big difference,” Swift said with a laugh. Mrs. Roynd smiled, though her forehead was crinkled in a frown.
“You okay?” I asked her.
She nodded, but said, “It's just that I am surprised that a woman like her is recently married. I suppose I ought not to say that of a nice, decent lady.” She put a hand to her mouth.
“Trust me, Amy is anything but decent,” said Swift gravely. That made Mrs. Roynd outright laugh.
“I'd still think your friend would be Jesse. Pretty young thing and very pregnant. Her husband had to work, but she is here to visit some family.”
“No, it's definitely Amy. Thank you,” said Swift and we headed up the stairs to the thirteenth room. “Pregnant? I don't think she's our woman. No, it has to Amy. I know our woman has been here and the man—the vibes are so strong!”
“What do you think she meant when she said 'that a woman like her'?” I asked.
“I dunno. Maybe she is boot ugly and mean. We'll see in a second,” said Swift. We had come to room thirteen. Experimentally he tried the handle and to our surprise it opened right up. Suddenly, he threw the door open and yelled, “The game is up!”
I burst out laughing. Sitting in a chair, knitting away peacefully was an old woman. Her hair was white and thin and she wore a large hearing aid. She apparently did not have it on for she hadn't even looked up at us when we burst in. I imagined her trying to climb a roof in the middle of the night and then I looked at the shocked face of my friend and the laughter only intensified.
“Dangerous woman there, eh Swift? I can see why you were worried about investigating on your own. If she gets to making any fast moves with her cane, I can take her down for you,” I offered.
“Mockery is below you, Michael.”
“You're right. I'll stop, sport,” I said. I really could not help myself. Swift rolled his eyes and sighed. Quickly and quietly we stepped back into the hallway.
“It has to be one of them. I know, I feel it, I know it is one of them. Obviously the older lady was not involved last night. That leaves the only other lady present here.”
“The pregnant one? You're grasping at straws now,” I said.
“It has to be her! It's overwhelming now,” he said. “Now let's try the man's room.” That was easy as it was right next to number thirteen.
“Let's knock,” I said. Before he could stop me, I knocked hard on the door. Several seconds passed, but nobody answered. We then tried the handle, but it was locked. “Are you sure—absolutely sure—this is our man?” I asked.
“With no doubt,” he replied. I bit my lip, then stepped back and aimed a solid kick at the door. It was old and decorative, not like a fancy new hotel's door and so it gave way with a couple quick kicks.
Slowly we entered the room. Nobody was in it, though there was still a small suitcase on the bed, containing some clothes and a toothbrush. Nothing incriminating, though if the suitcase was any indication the man was still in Town.
Then the strangest thing of the day happened. I was watching Swift flit around the room while I kept guard at the door. He had reached inside the bedstand and pulled out a bottle of aspirin when he started to glow a faint violet. He sat down on the bed, his eyes moving crazily in all directions. He was going into a sort of trance—and I followed along with him.
Room twelve melted away. It was like someone had taken my vision and peeled away strips of it to reveal a new world. It was a gray new world, with everything off-color (almost sepia) and the edges blended together in that gray-burnt red mist. I was standing on the edge of a country road in the middle of the night. The moon and the strange fog were the only things illuminating the area, the latter creating eery ghost shadows. The sensation of melting had faded away, taken in place by a vague sense of alarm and nausea. I could smell the country air, feel the cool wind on my skin and hear the sounds of the night, but it was in a dull, echoing sort of way, like a poor copy of an old movie.
As I was adjusting to the transition, Swift materialized in front of me. He stood out among the blandness, the only vivid thing in sight. “Extraordinary,” was his first sentence.
“What is?” I asked, understandably bewildered.
“They should be here in a second,” said Swift.
“You're ignoring my question. Tell me though, who are you talking about? Who is they?” I asked.
“For dear sake, use your eyes. Them!” Swift pointed down the road. Walking in the night, hunched over, were two people. They paused suddenly and one of them let out a muffled shriek. Swift ran to them and I followed. I knew I was running, but I had the strange feeling I was gliding over the ground.
“—it's coming!” said the smaller of the figures. It was a woman's voice.
“Of course. Of all the times,” muttered her companion, a young man by the sound.
“You knew the risks, same as me. Oh my—“ She cut herself off by letting out a small scream.
“The hospital is back in K'ville. There isn't another for a damn good way,” said the man. He stood up, finally allowing me to see his face. He stood at least 6'3 and had a narrow, sharp cheekboned face. It was not a nice face. It looked handsome enough, but his lifeless eyes and his curled up mouth indicated a pronounced cruelty.
“I need to go back,” the woman said. She was kneeling on the ground still, but she lifted her face to look up at him. My breath caught in my throat. Even in the shadows she emitted a certain radiance. Her face reminded me of an oriental fan I once saw: elegant, strong, and sharp. Silky black hair tumbled down in curls around her neck and a strand of it crossed her jade green eyes. (Swift says I have too much of a poet in me, but there can never be too much a good thing).
“Then go,” said the man.
“Jackson! You'll let me go by myself, eh? And run off in the night with the diamond. I see. And if I die, then I suppose you won't even attend my funeral.” Her voice was becoming more and more shrill. It was the sound of intense pain building up.
“You already said it. You knew the risks,” Jackson replied.
Silence permeated the air for several moments. “Fine then. I took a risk. I am dying,” she nearly screamed. “I know you're more of a man. Help me. If not for me, then for the baby.” Tears began to slide down her face and a sob escaped her lips.
It pains me to admit it, but I honestly thought it was rather a pathetic, almost fake plea. And I suppose it was a rather weak last ditch effort by a dying woman. But I suppose even the weak beggars will win once in a while (especially if they all look like her!). Jackson looked at her, sighed and then nodded his head. Bending down, he whispered so quietly to her we almost missed his words.
“Jesse, I'll help you now. But you will remember this favor,” he told her. He suddenly lifted an arm and threw two Pokeballs into the sky. Both of the Pokemon we had seen earlier, the flying crossbreed and the Machamp, burst out of the Pokeballs.
“Thora, pick up Jesse. Sukis, fly over to that house. See if anybody is about,” he ordered the Pokemon. They both did as he ordered. I turned to watch where Sukis went to and I was startled to find myself looking at my own house. Then I glanced back and saw Thora picking up the woman, whose coat had slid away to reveal a large belly beneath a thin silk shirt. Everything finally thunked—or rather crashed—into place.
“She's pregnant,” I said.
“Indeed,” said Swift.
I was about to inquire more of him, but Sukis had come back and we were compelled to follow the thieves as they hurried over to my house. It was just as we were coming within arm's reach of the house that the melting sensation began again. In a split second I was ripped from the past and thrust back into the present.
I was once again in room twelve, except now I was laying dumbfounded on the floor, staring up at the ceiling.
“Oh dear,” I said. I stood, or at least I recall trying to stand. Swift was at my side before I could fall back down and he helped steady me.
“Takes getting used to. I forgot...but this is marvelous! Now we just need a little more evidence. But we know all the facts now!” Swift said.
“It was the pregnant lady,” I said.
“What better disguise? Who suspects a pregnant young woman? I'm sure it helped her and her companion, Jackson, to steal the diamond in some little clever scheme. Imagine the future of that little infant! Think: an accomplice to stealing royal jewels before you had even taken your first breath of air!” Swift began to laugh and clap his hands in his usual excited way.
“That is how your psychic link manifests itself?” I asked, sitting on the bed.
“Sometimes. But let's get going. Jesse's room should have more information.”
“Wait,” I said. “Tell me more. The house, why? It makes no sense.”
“Have you ever given birth, Mike? I'm assured its painful. This bottle of aspirin came from your house! Usually kitchens have some type of medication. Jackson obviously had enough of a conscious that he was unwilling to let both woman and child die. Yes, I said he tried to kill her in some possible future scenario, but let me gather my thoughts for a second.” He closed his eyes, then continued.
“From the beginning, then. Jesse and Jackson obviously worked together to steal the diamond. Where they met up, I don't know. Obviously they are not from around here. The circumstances of their partnership I don't know yet. But we'll find out all soon enough. They stay here in Windlebury, at the Bastion. They only need lodging for a short time. Why—because Jesse is tired, because she is pregnant. We know they are not local, we know they are staying at the Bastion, why it did not occur to me to ask why they would stay here before the heist! After, yes. The pregnant lady should have jumped to mind—“
“How did you know they were staying here at all?” I interrupted him.
“The cinnamon in the air, for one. I stayed here when I first came to Windlebury and that exact scent was in your kitchen, in the early morning hours. Obviously a connection, although I would have come here anyway because it seemed likely the two would need somewhere to rest while retrieving whatever they had hidden. It did not even occur to me! Why would they check in shortly before the heist and risk leaving a trail? But forget that! They stop here, they proceed to Kainville to steal the diamond, then they hurry on their way. The woman begins to give birth near your house. The partner and her go to your house, they hide the diamond and then leave.”
“What a marvelous question. If only I had an equally wonderful answer to go with it. Maybe you should work on that and stop interrupting me,” Swift snapped. “Now, he and her walk around the house. She waits on the ground while he goes up to the chimney, then simply drops in front of the door. He lights a candle so he can see inside the house. Something—probably myself—startles him and he runs, leaving the jewel. He comes back later, but he sends his Pokemon.”
“Don't take it personally, but please do shut-up. This makes no sense at all.”
“Swift! Shut your trap and look behind you,” I said calmly.
That got his attention. He turned and stared into the eyes of the thief, Jackson. His gaze then flitted to the throwing knife in Jackson's hand, pointed directly at Swift's chest.
“Right on all accounts, Mr. Swift, is it?” said Jackson with a sardonic smile. “Except for a precious few, but then again, who cares?”
“I care,” said Swift and I simultaneously.
“See?” asked Swift. “We care.”
“I dunno how y'all know about the diamond, nor do I care,” said Jackson. His wrist muscles began to flex.
“We have the diamond,” I blurted out.
“Oh? Where is it?” Jackson asked.
Silence. Then, “Here, in this room,” I said. I could see Swift simply close his eyes, as if to say, 'Really, Mike? You idiot.'
“That makes things easier,” Jackson replied. “Dead bodies are always easy to search.”
“We have the jewel. No, it's not here, but we have it. Dead bodies won't tell you hiding places, will they?” said Swift.
“True,” said Jackson. “Tell me then.”
“No,” said Swift. “You plan to kill us either way and make off with your...wife, I presume.”
“Right so far, so let me make it less painful for you two.”
“Give us a fair fight,” I said. “A battle.”
“A battle?” he repeated. “Why would I do that?”
“Why not? Battles are fun. C'mon,” urged Swift.
Jackson laughed. “Fine,” he said. “Let's go outside.” We followed him outside, me leading and Jackson following closely behind Swift. I thought about breaking for it, but there was the risk Jackson would knife Swift before I could belt him one.
“Right,” said Swift when we entered the garden area of the Bastion. “2v2 then.”
Jackson opened up, sending out Sukis and Thora. I was about to send out the stronger of my Pokemon, but as I reached for my Pokeballs, Swift put a hand on my arm.
He whispered into my ear. “Right,” I said. “Coordination, then.” I threw out one of my balls, and Swift his. Bell appeared in a flash of scarlet and Roxy, Swift's Pidgey, came out in a burst of gold.
“Wow,” said Jackson. “I should pull one of my Pokemon back, give you guys half a chance to win. But...Thora, use Seismic Toss. Sukis, Peck away at Pidgey.”
“Bell, scorch her where she stands,” I ordered.
“Roxy, you know what to do,” said Swift.
Immediately Roxy and Sukis went at each other, beaks and talons and all. Thora picked up a large stone on the garden pathway and began to windup to throw it. “Move, Bell!” I urged.
Bell sent out a short stream of fire at Thora and then leapt to the side as Thora threw the rock with amazing power. It shot just past Bell and hit a nearby tree, snapping a limb in half.
The battle went on like that for a few more minutes, each party snipping at the others heels, nobody really getting anywhere. It was more like a game of endurance and I would have been bored if not for the fact that so much was riding on this battle. I was surprised at how strong our unevolved Pokemon were, but still they were no serious match for the hybrid and the Machamp. But when we put them together we got an incredible result.
“Now,” whispered Swift. I nodded. Roxy had forced Sukis to fly just above Thora's head. Both Pokemon were within range of each other.
“Bell, Flamethrower on Machamp!” I said as Swift said,
“Roxy, Wind Tunnel the fire!”
It was a longshot, but it was our only shot. And was it ever a shot. Roxy began to pump his wings as hard as he could, sending large gusts of wind at Machamp. Simultaneously, Bell opened her mouth and a stream of blazing fire shot out. For a second her fire wavered, almost put out by the wind, but then she kneed into the dirt and pushed harder.
It was spectacular. The wind wrapped around the fire, fanning it with more air and creating a spiraled stream of red and blue. The edges of the stream whipped around, giving us an unusual combination of dry heat and air. Then we called them off.
When the fire and dust had settled, there lay the two slightly charred bodies of Sukis and Thora. Jackson stood a distance back, gaping at his Pokemon.
“Ah ha!” yelled Swift. Before I knew what had happened, he had taken a stone and thrown it as hard as he could at Jackson, striking the thief on his head and knocking him out cold.
“See, Mike? Wasn't this much more entertaining than a trip to Kainville?” said Swift happily.
The wrap-up is a few short sentences. We called the local patrol; they took Jackson into custody. Then there was an arduous ordeal with the police from Kainville. Then there was a big 'Thank You!' from the queen. It has all faded into a blur.
The details are rather more mundane now that we actually know what happened. Jackson was actually married to Jesse! What a brute. Anyway, they stole the diamond in Kainville, came back this way for their escape and of course due to the sudden birth, their plans were deterred. Jackson did not want to get caught with the jewel so he dropped it off at my house. When he failed to retrieve it, he came back to the Bastion to pack and make his getaway. His wife was in Kainville with the baby.
I'm rather at a sore point here. There is no way that I could show you the depths that surround Swift. Just his experimentation over the years would alone fill volumes. It is my goal to educate the public on this man's incredible and passionate existence. His love, his passion, his courage...
Nobody would listen if I were to put it all in a textbook style of information, so thus I use more subtle and fashionable means to introduce Swift to the public. But it is a slow means. This was just the start of our friendship. It is not the best way to introduce him, because while our first adventure was of a detective style, Swift was not really a detective. Yet I need something to set a solid foundation and this was it. I will narrate more and will illuminate what I meant when I spoke of “no coincidences”, but for now, I say goodbye.