A Time Travelers Guide to Solving Murder Chapter 11: Short Straw
May 28, 2017
October 10th, 2020
Talston Memorial Hospital , Talston City
Hera found Galahad sitting in the hallway outside one of the room. They were hugging their legs to their chest, their chin resting on their knees as they stared at the tile floor. There was an unfocused sort of look to their eyes like that of someone who had been exiled to the hallway for longer than their attention span could handle.
“Galahad.” Hera touched their shoulder lightly and their eyes snapped up to her in a blaze of electric green. They didn’t look worried or angry, so she was going to assume Citlali was fine and they had been exiled to the hallway.
“Oh good, you’re here!” They unfolded from the chair and stood, scooping a plastic bag off the ground from beside their seat “Annnd with Officer Kate?” The second officer was a few steps behind Hera, her arms crossed casually behind her back.
“Siobhan insisted that I have an escort,” The detective inclined her head towards Kate, who smiled, “and she was kind enough to step forward.”
Galahad shrugged, “Fair enough. They should let us in now that you’re here, any longer and I think he might have tried to jump out the window.”
Kate let out a soft laugh, “That sounds like him.” She took up a position by the door with her arms still crossed behind her back.
“Yeah, well, I bought him coffee, so,” Galahad held up the plastic bag as they opened the door, “He can’t complain.”
“I heard the words ‘coffee’ and ‘he’ in the same sentence,” Citlali’s voice carried through the thin curtain separating the room from the doorway, “and I really hope you were talking about me.” Galahad shouldered through the curtain and rummaged through the plastic bag in their hand until they found the glass bottle. While Galahad passed the drink over and then hopped up to sit on the second bed, Hera took in the room almost wearily. Hospitals had never been her cup of tea. Everything in the room was white and brightly lit by the fluorescent ceiling lights, thin panels set into the wall were set to monitor vitals gathered from sensors on the bed itself.
“You look like you’re waiting for something to explode.” Citlali commented lightly, his tired gaze following her as she moved slowly into the room. He looked beyond exhausted and drained, but he was alive. That thought filled her, surprisingly, with relief.
She stopped by the foot of his bed, “Let’s hope I don’t find anything then.” He let out a short laugh, wincing as the motion aggravated the wound on his side.
Galahad wrinkled their nose, “Can we go a few more days without an explosion? There have been way too many explosions in this investigation.”
Hera shook her head, an amused smile working its way onto her lips, “I would say this is a new record.” She raised an eyebrow at Citlali, “How are you feeling?”
“Fairly good,” He said, easing carefully into more of a sitting position, “Considering I’ve been drugged, stabbed and missing for two days.” His gaze held her’s evenly, “What did I miss?”
“Well,” Running a hand through their green/red hair, Galahad started counting out on their fingers, “We had a suspect die in custody, we lost you, we talked to a lady about her dead husband and then Hera punched some guy in the face who was tapping the dead husband’s phone and then I went looking for you and now here we are.”
Citlali raised his eyebrows and took a drink of his coffee, “Wow. Thanks, Cactus.”
“Anything for my only friend.” They gave him a two fingered salute in response and curled their knees back up to their chest.
“And,” Hera added, her smile being quickly replaced with a scowl, “that man we found confessed to being the murderer this morning.”
“What?!” Galahad practically leapt to their feet, outrage lacing their voice, “That’s impossible!” A hundred reasons why lined up on their tongue, ‘he’s too tall,’ ‘he’s not blond,’ and on and on and on.
She held up a hand and they clenched their fists but quieted, “I’m aware, but our case isn’t closed yet. We have time. Also Siobhan is on her way.”
Citlali’s expression morphed into a terror like he had just been cornered by a rabid bear, “Oh god, please tell me my brother isn’t with her.” Hera shrugged, but Galahad flipped their left arm over and started typing away on the keyboard hidden there, their tongue sticking out of their mouth in concentration as they hunted for something.
“Well, is he as chiseled and cheekboney as you are?” They paused in their typing and gestured around their face for emphasis. At Citlali’s nod, they dropped their arm, “Yeah sorry he’s here.”
Citlali dropped his head back and sighed, “I think I’d rather get stabbed again than have this conversation.”
The android huffed and rolled their eyes in Hera’s direction at the man’s theatrics, “Oh come on, he can’t be that bad.” The sound of the door opening stopped him from answering their question. Galahad darted from their spot to the other side of Citlali’s bed so they could stand just a little behind Hera, using her as a human shield against social interactions. Siobhan entered first, stepping through the curtain and holding it open for Citlali’s brother to step through. He was as ‘chiseled and cheekboney’ as Galahad had mentioned, except he was shorter than his brother, had a lot more hair and there was a permanent knot of worry between his brows.
“Detective Jones,” Siobhan rested her steely gaze on Hera, who inclined her head, “And Detective LaRoche, good to see you’re awake.”
Citlali’s jaw tightened, although his smile was amiable, “Odd to hear you call me an actual title, Siobhan.” His eyes flicked to his brother and his smile faded, “Nate.” Citlali’s brother pursed his lips, expression filled with something Hera couldn’t quite place. It was either disdain or disappointment and either way she was starting to realize she really didn’t like it.
“Citlali.” Nate said, “I see you-”
“Wait,” Galahad interrupted, their trickster smirk falling into place as they took a half step out from behind Hera, “since we seem to be going around saying everyone’s name, I’m Galahad.”
Siobhan raised an eyebrow skeptically, “So this is your…intern. I didn’t realize they were a teenager.”
“Technically an adult actually, no matter how terrifying that idea is.” Galahad held up their hands in a comical shrug, “I’m nineteen. And you won’t find a better hacker- sorry ‘tech expert’- anywhere else.” Citlali rolled his eyes, a smile twitching at his lips that was somewhat fond. Hera found herself somewhat irked by Nate’s facial expression again, as he stared Galahad down with a look that told her he had already decided that their opinion meant nothing. Apparently today was going to be one of those days where every little thing got on her nerves.
“Anyway, Chief.” Citlali sat up a little higher, wincing, “Do you actually need something or are you just here so that your husband stops pestering you?”
Nate moved to say something but Siobhan held up a hand, “You got hurt on the job, it’s my duty to check up on you.”
“Well I’m fine.” Citlali’s voice held thinly veiled venom, “Wonderful actually. It’s been so long since I’ve had a real job and all, it’s nice to be doing something with my life.”
Galahad let out a small huff, “Note to self: Pain meds make Citlali turn into Saltlali.” Hera cuffed them upside the head, but the comment had the intended effect of dispelling some of the tension. The tightness in Citlali’s shoulders drained away, although his scowl remained in place.
He sighed, “Is there another reason why you’re here?”
Nate gritted his teeth, “You’re going to get yourself killed in this job.”
Citlali snorted, “I could just as easily die crossing the street. Have you seen the way people drive in this city?”
Glowering at him, Nate took a step forward, “Its danger-”
Citlali tented his fingers, “So you’re going to try and make me quit but you’re letting your pregnant wife stay on the force?”
The room fell silent. Nate’s gaze flicked between his brother and Siobhan, who was glaring murderously at Citlali, who stared back evenly. Galahad was torn between jumping out the window behind them and traveling back to Mannheim to kick their brother for programming ‘awkwardness’ into their system. Hera remained expressionless as always. She’d noticed a lot of changes in the Chief’s behavior and reached the same conclusion.
“Uhh, herzlichen glückwunsch?” Galahad tried not to cringe too hard at their own words. Probably wasn’t the best time to wish someone best wishes.
“Detective Jones.” Siobhan snapped through gritted teeth, “You have three days to get me evidence that the man we have in custody isn’t the actual killer as you claim.” She turned and left the room, Nate trailing after her.
Hera turned her disapproving gaze on Citlali, “You’re far too proud of yourself for that.”
Citlali smirked, “It’s the small things in life.”
October 11th, 2020
It had been a long time since Hera had a flatmate and even then the woman who had roomed with her had been a disorganized IT student. Now she was living with a hyperactive android and an officer with a caffeine addiction.
At least Citlali cleaned.
He was sitting cross legged in front of the coffee table when she entered the living room, wielding a pen across a map of the city while fragments of security camera footage played on Galahad’s laptop. Sigi was flailing around with a rope toy, mere inches away from hitting the table and disturbing all his papers. Despite the various bits of tech scattered across the rest of the room, the resident android was strangely absent.
“Morning.” Citlali glance up briefly to assure that it was actually her before returning to his work, “I made coffee -big surprise there. Didn’t realize you had a magic fridge.”
“It’s not magic.” Hera rolled her eyes, “It’s just… selective.”
Citlali looked up and raised an eyebrow, “It rearranges to include exactly what you need at a given time.”
“I live in the void of space and time, and you’re amazed by the fridge.”
“I have low standards.”
The door opened and both their heads turned to look. Galahad slipped inside, kicked off their shoes and threw their back against the door. Sigi bounded up to them, tail working like a rotor as she bumped her head against their knees. They rubbed her ears distractedly, running their other hand through their bright hair to tug their beanie free and hit it against their leg to rid it of morning dew.
“Am I interrupting something?” They asked, looking like they were two seconds away from rolling their eyes. They had on a dark hoodie that was definitely not theirs and a drawstring bag slung over one shoulder.
“Hardly.” Hera rested her hands on her hips, “Where have you been?” Citlali stood up slowly so as to not reopen his wound and came to stand by her.
“Vietta Cliff. Where the first victim was.” They swung the bag off their back with a long sigh, “And I found something that you’re really not going to like.” Rummaging around in the bag, they pulled out a hexagonal sort of device and tossed it to the woman.
Hera turned it over in her hands and ran her thumb across the smudged blue glass, her lips tugging down into a frown, “I never thought we’d get this desperate.”
“Wait, what is it?” Citlali peered over Hera’s shoulder to get a better look at the device, “And where did you find it?”
Galahad’s expression was grim, “It’s a Teleporter. It allows someone to jump back through time without the rewinding process that comes with the Timepiece but it’s dangerous. I found it while I was looking around Vietta; all of our tech is designed to ping me when I’m nearby so that we know if anything’s been left out that shouldn’t be in that time period. If it senses that it’s in the wrong time period and we’re not going to get it anytime soon, it blows up. Same rule applies to me; can’t let anyone get their hands on an android before they’ve been invented.”
They sighed and pinned their beanie back on their hair, “In this case, I got a ping that there was a teleporter that shouldn’t have been sitting out in the woods.”
Hera looked up from the device and met Galahad’s grim, apprehensive gaze, “Only an android or someone with a Timepiece can use this without dying.”
Their mouth twitched, “And you don’t have a Timepiece.”
Citlali tented his fingers in front of his mouth and inhaled through his nose, “So you’re telling us that we send you back in time to when the first victim is murdered so you can see who it is?”
Galahad shrugged and tucked their hands into the pockets of their sweatshirt, “Sounds about right.”
“Is that…safe?” He glanced between Hera and Galahad, their expressions telling him that it was very, very not safe. When was anything in their lives ever safe?
Hera took a half step towards them, “Gala-”
“We have no choice, Hera.” They took a deep breath and took the Teleporter back from Citlali, “This needs to recharge first. I marked the spot where I found it so tonight we have to go back.” Before anyone could say anything else, they had crossed the room and wormed their way out through the window and into the Continuum beyond.
Silence fell heavily around them until Citlali took a deep breath and broke it, “What now.”
Hera stared after Galahad, grey eyes almost white from the bright light washing over her, “We wait.”
“Ok, it should be just up here.” Galahad tapped quickly on their phone, leading the other two up the hill. Vietta Cliff had closed for the night, but Citlali had convinced the night guard to let them go up and look around. A few scattered lamps gave off enough light that none of them tripped but once they ventured off the beaten path they had to rely on Citlali’s phone’s flashlight and Galahad’s inherent glow.
Galahad knelt in a tiny clearing between a few trees and rummaged in their bag for the Teleporter, “Here we are.”
Citlali shined his flashlight around the trees, “This is where Laurels bag was found.”
Hera nodded, expression blank, “You’ll have to be fast, Galahad.”
They glowered up at her, “I know what I’m doing. I was built for this remember?” They plopped the Teleporter down on the ground and made sure it was secure before powering it up. Once they had plugged in the date Hera read off for them, the frosted glass in the center lit up in a brilliant blue.
“Are we sure this is a good idea?” Citlali’s voice was a touch strained.
Galahad tossed their backpack aside and stood, “Do you have a better idea?” Citlali remained silent at that, and Galahad sighed, “Figures. Well. I’ll be back. Hopefully.”
The Teleporter burst into light and Galahad leapt through the lingering tear it created, their sensors registering the flash cold of jumping between times before they landed in the same grass of Vietta weeks before. Dropping to one knee, they swiped one finger down the length of their forearm, activating their cloak. Once they were sure they were invisible, Galahad swiped three fingers down their arm, disabling their voice and dampening their electrical abilities. Better safe than sorry.
Muffled screaming made their head shoot up. They had experienced Laurel’s death through her memories, but seeing it with their own eyes was a different story. It was like passing a car crash on the highway, everything and everyone slowing down with a morbid curiosity to watch the destruction.
Laurel fell, and Galahad closed their eyes. Fear threatened to rise up but they buried it
You’re not here to save her, they reminded themself, she dies and you can’t stop it. Just like you can’t stop the killer from cutting her in half. It wasn’t a very comforting thought. Opening their eyes, they stood stockstill as the Killer, dressed in dark clothes with a hook pulled low over his face, hefted Laurel over one shoulder. He turned and started towards the top of the hill, and silently Galahad followed.
A voice broke the silence, “Hey! Stop!” It was a security guard, a young man and rather inexperienced by the looks of it.
The Killer stopped and turned slowly, raising his free hand. The security guard’s gun wavered. Something gold and circular glinted in the palm of the Killer’s hand, the space around it warped and twisted like a concave mirror.
If Galahad’s body had blood it would have run cold. The Timepiece.
The Timepiece went red, and Galahad dropped to a crouch, digging their hands into the ground as the white tendrils of light reached out from the Timepiece and latched onto the security guard. An invisible force pushed out as the tendrils dug into his skin, his screams fading to a strangled gurgle. The Continuum reached out through the time piece and devoured him, wiping a life from eternity. The force had blown the killers hood off, revealing his face.
Galahad stared with silent, seething fury at Alexander VanHerald. A deadly calm drowned out the roiling mess of emotions in their head. They curled their shaking legs under them and stood.
Somehow they made it back through the Teleporter without collapsing, but the second they were on the other side their knees locked up and they dropped. Hera grabbed their arms and eased them down, kneeling with them as their blank green eyes tried to focus on something.
“Galahad.” Hera shook them so they would look up at her, “Galahad, are you ok?”
They swallowed hard and turned their vocal processor back on, “I’m not sure which is worse.” Their voice sounded gravelly and weak, “The fact that the killer is the Mayor’s son, or the fact that he has the Timepiece.” Hera froze, grey eyes blown wide and for some unknown reason that made Galahad laugh. Short hysterical bursts of laughter that shook their shoulders.
Hera wrapped an arm around their shoulders and pulled them close as their laughter dissolved into muffled sobs. They covered their mouth with both hands and curled, burying their face in her arm.
Citali knelt slowly beside them, meeting Hera’s eyes over the top of Galahad’s head, “Now what?”
Taking a deep breath, Hera closed her eyes, “I have no idea.”