I checked my watch. It was ten o’clock, which meant that the ambassadors should be leaving right about now. Most of the city was clustered around South Gate, seeing them off. Laura called it a ‘historic day.’ Everyone wanted to be a part of it, even if only in some small way.
Which meant that the ‘sarian prison was short-staffed.
Which meant that when the power went out and the CS devices died, it hadn’t been hard for the prisoners to escape.
Including my niece.
I stared at the empty cell, as if she would reappear if I waited long enough. That’s what her mother would have done. I had seen Murasaki sneak out of the apartment to go meet up with boys, only to come back later, apologize to our parents, and accept her punishment.
But Saki was not her mother. I was just beginning to realize that. I had been treating her too much like she was. Saw things that weren’t there. Guilt. Shame. Honor. Dignity.
Murasaki would never have killed three guards on the way out.
I turned away from the empty cell to look at the corpse on the ground. He had a gun in his hand and a big smile on his face. The cameras had been fried by the EMP, but it was obvious what had happened. Saki had asked him to kill himself, and he had.
That was her power. People loved her. They loved her far, far more than was the slightest bit logical. They wanted what she wanted. Wanted to help her, to provide for her. To kill for her. I hadn’t seen her cause a suicide before, but this wasn’t her first kill. Not by a long shot.
The sad thing was that this was all random luck. An accident. An EMP had gone off too close to the prison during a fight between a few kemo clans. I had people interviewing them right now, but didn’t expect them to find anything.
“Honored Paladin,” someone said. It was one of Adam’s counter-song guys. I couldn’t remember his name. We had met before. He was the Dagonite who didn’t look like a Dagonite. “Two of the prisoners were recaptured.”
“The pyro and the mind-reader.”
I raised an eyebrow. The pyro was no surprise, but I would have expected the mind-reader to be better about staying under the radar.
“Ten left,” I said.
He shook his head. “Nothing concrete. One’s a hyrdokinetic, so I’ve got some friends keeping an eye on the bay, but I don’t think he’s stupid enough to try that. Other than that, nothing. With everything still confused from the war, they could be on the other side of the city by now.”
“Call the ‘sarians,” I said. “The lawmen.”
He nodded. “Right, they’ll be more equipped to deal with this.”
“Work with them.”
He flipped out his phone. “Will do, ma’am. I’m sure the detectives will be here soon. They’ll probably want to interview you.”
I nodded and walked away. I tried not to look at the bodies on the ground. Didn’t want to see what she had done. I forced myself to look anyway. Needed to see it.
I stopped. One of the bodies had something in his hand. Not his gun hand, his other hand. It looked like a piece of paper, crumpled up in his fist. I bent down and pried his hand open to get a better look at it.
The Dagonite rushed over. “Honored Paladin, you shouldn’t contaminate the scene—”
He stopped instantly. I wasn’t even looking at him, but I could feel him twitch as I pulled out the paper and unfolded it.
I cocked my head. It was a flier for a party. Just a basic New Year’s party, nothing special. There were thousands across the city right now. This seemed to be one of the smaller ones, just a hundred people or so. Barely big enough to warrant the flier.
I handed it to the Dagonite. He frowned as he read it. “I… don’t understand, ma’am.”
I grunted and stood. “Thought it was important. Wasn’t. Send someone to the party, though.” It would be weird for escaped prisoners to run off to a New Year’s party, but it was the closest thing to a lead we had right now. It was either this or twiddle our thumbs and hope someone decided to turn themselves in.
“Ma’am, do you know what ‘Portam Daemonia’ means?”
I turned back. He was looking at the flier, a thoughtful expression on his face.
He noticed me looking. “I know I’ve heard the name before,” he said. “It’s somewhere in demon territory, right?”
“It means ‘Gate of Demons,’” I said. “It’s South Gate.”
He blinked. “…oh.” He brightened. “OH!”
I frowned. “What is it?”
He showed me the flier again, this time pointing to a single line on the bottom.
‘Since Portam Daemonia is occupied, this year the party will be held at the Monarch Hotel.’
It took me a second to parse what he was trying to show me. “The Gate is occupied because of the ambassadors leaving.”
The Dagonite was bouncing on his feet. “And the guards would have known that! So a prisoner sees this flier, asks what it means, and is told what’s going on! The prisoners escape, and head to South Gate to escape the city!”
I paused. “Lot of coincidences in that story.”
“Plausible ones, though.”
“Not all of the prisoners can pass for baseline.”
“Some can, though.”
Including Saki. Saki would be able to get onto the boat easily, and once in New York, evading the police would be child’s play, since they wouldn’t have CS squads. Especially since they wouldn’t be actively looking for her. In fact, even if they did have counter-song, it would be useless to them unless…
“Call those detectives,” I said as I pulled out my phone. “Get them here. Tear the place apart, follow any lead they find.” I started walking towards the doors.
“Okay!” he called after me. He didn’t bother asking me what I was doing.
I was calling MC. The real one. And then maybe I’d call my nephews and the kensei for a little backup.
Behind the Scenes (scene 300)
The ex-Dagonite is Eric, by the way. I’m trying to focus the story back on the core cast and the main problems the city are facing, so he’s not going to be all that important. The whole thing with Leon and the murids isn’t going to intersect.