“Hey, look everyone! Casey is back!”
I stepped into the office to the sound of cheers and standing ovations. No other proof was needed – the world had gone crazy. There was no other explanation. I had been gone for one week, and now the entire office had gone mad. “Jeez, guys. You make it sound like I’ve been gone a year.”
“Feels like it!” Came a cheery response from somewhere in the back.
Dad walked out of the kitchen with a giant cup of coffee. “All right. All right. That’s enough. Leave the kid alone.”
I walked over to my desk and noticed Aidrian staring at me from his spot opposite me. “What?”
His easy smile appeared. “Nothing. You look good. No visible scars on your face.”
Making sure not to thank a pureblood fae, I chose my words carefully. “Yeah, it all healed up pretty nicely. I hear I’ve got you to thank for that.”
Aidrian shrugged. “Nah, it was the least I could do after getting you in that situation. The ring was supposed to numb him, but I guess Thomas Pelletier had been stealing a lot of life-energy. Sorry about that.”
Look at that. The mighty Aidrian apologising. Miracles did happen. “Apology accepted.” I nodded towards a giant pile of paper on his desk. “Working on anything interesting?”
“Nope, not at all. Mrs Richardson’s Siamese has been missing since 2pm yesterday. I’m the man in charge of finding the wretched creature.”
“Why has she come to SPI? What’s the supernatural element?”
“Mrs Richardson is convinced her cat was kidnapped by aliens.” He managed to say it with a straight face.
“Ah… And Tom didn’t turn down the case because?”
“He blames me for getting his little girl attacked by an insane, evil, skin-walking mutant.”
“Ah… Sucks to be you.”
Dad had told me that he would assign Aidrian to all our missing cat cases, but I thought he had been joking. Apparently not.
The man himself walked over. “Hi, Casey. I’ve got a case for you.”
“Sounds great. What am I doing?”
“You’ll be investigating a suspicious suicide in China Town. I would have put Ying on it, but she’s busy with another case.”
“Eh, okay. Interesting.”
Dad dropped a thin folder on my desk. “Mr Chen came in yesterday and wanted us to look into his daughter’s death. Alice Chen, 19, lived with her mother in China Town and was found hanged in her room. The door had been locked from the inside. No signs of a struggle or bruising on her body. Coroner has ruled it a suicide. Normally, I would have turned down a case like this, but Mr Chen said that his daughter’s death was one of a dozen recent suicides in China Town within the last few months.” Dad opened the folder and pulled out a newspaper clipping. “He gave me this.”
I took the piece of paper and read the headline: 27 suicides in three months – is China Town cursed? “That’s a high number for such a small population.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Could you please have a look at this and find out what’s going on?”
“Sure, no problem.” I started flicking through the transcripts of Mr Chen’s statement.
“Great. Thanks, Casey.”
Tammi walked passed us, her arm in a sling. “Hi, Casey. Good to have you back.”
“Thanks, Tammi. It’s good to be back.” Dad and I watched her walk into the kitchen.
“What happened to her?”
“Don’t ask. It’s too bizarre.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Do tell.”
“Let’s just say that it involved a haunted hair dryer, a stuffed canary, and a cotton candy machine.” Shaking his head, he walked towards the big meeting room.
I scanned the article again. It was from a local paper, but other than state the 27 suicides, it didn’t really provide any useful information. The first of the suicides had been a young woman who had hanged herself in a temple nearby, but besides the unusual location, nothing seemed out of place. The journalist clearly didn’t have a clue why 27 people had killed themselves. Guess I had to go and get the information myself then.
As soon as I stepped out of the office, I was assaulted by the heat. It was the end of January, which would normally mean that it would be cold enough to make a polar bear freeze its ass off, but for the last two days, a magic heat wave had gripped the city in a suffocating fist of hot, humid air. Instead of my thick winter coat, I was sporting a pair of shorts and a tank top. Luckily, my car had an effective air con system, so the 15-minute drive to China Town was spent in a lovely 20C atmosphere surrounded by the soft tunes of Vivaldi’s Winter.
“Hey, look everyone! Casey is back!”