Thursday, January 19, 2017

Pokémon Detective; The Counterfeit Badge - part 3

[Note: "Pokémon", the Pokémon world, Pokémon creatures and some characters I've used are property of Nintendo and Gamefreak.]

Chapt. 7
       A buzzing sound jolted both of them awake. Pearl was on her feet in an instant and looking for the source of the harsh sound. Mike had rolled out of bed into a crouch. He sighed and hit the “off” button on the alarm clock. He never had liked being awakened by an alarm clock – they always startled him too much. He’d spent a good deal of money over the years replacing the ones he’d smashed. He restrained from damaging this one, though clearly Pearl was considering it.
       He sagged back into the bed he had just bolted out of. Scrubbing at his scalp, he squeezed his eyes shut. Sitting on the edge of the bed he opened his pack and got their breakfast started.
       A strong cup of Pu-erh tea and a tin of stew helped to wake him up. Pearl ate daintily at the last of the Pokémon food that Professor Salvia had given them. As she finished, she looked sadly at her empty bowl. “I know, Pearl. And I don’t know how long we’ll be here finishing this up, so we’ll see what the Center has that can’t be tampered with. After that we’ll make some phone calls.”
       When they got to the lobby they found a vending machine meant for after-hours service which had sealed tins of Pokémon food. He purchased a few tins for water-type Pokémon and snacks for himself and dropped them in his coat pocket. The public phones were arranged along one wall and were simply divided by short partitions providing no real privacy. He turned to the counter where Hearthome’s Nurse Joy was helping a couple of trainers who were getting their Pokémon back. He stepped over as they left. She looked a little drawn, her eyes red and tired looking and her usually perfectly pressed clothes were wrinkled and her hair was slightly disheveled. “Hi Nurse Joy, would you happen to have a more private phone I could use?”
       “Oh, are you the ‘Mike K.’ who checked in early this morning?”
       “That’s right. Blissey was a big help.”
       “Are you also the ‘Mike’ that saved my cousin in Oreburgh?” Her eyes started to tear up. She waved at her rumpled dress and stained apron and said, “I went over there to help and was with her all night.” She seemed a little embarrassed and seemed to be mentioning this as an excuse for her appearance. “I haven’t even been able to change clothes yet.”
       “Well, yeah, I am. I’m glad you were able to go help her. How’s she doing?”
       The Nurse looked up at him with grateful eyes. She pushed some stray hairs back into place and straightened her apron and brushed her skirt. “We were able to stabilize her and get fluids going in an I.V. She’s going to be okay. We owe you and your Prinplup a lot for getting the fire out so quickly. If it had kept burning …”, she started crying and couldn’t continue for a moment. Mike watched as she took a breath and blotted her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she continued. “This isn’t very dignified of me.”
       “That’s alright, you’re only human and that’s a pretty normal reaction. And I know you’re close to your ‘cousins’.”
       “Oh! Thank you! That is so kind of you to say. Did you know that one of the mine workers was nearby when you chewed out that cop?” She gave him a very endearing, slightly mischievous and dimpled grin. “It means so much to any of us when someone says something like you did. Word is getting around and we all really appreciate it.
       “And yes, there is a phone in the office, right back here.” She motioned him behind the counter and into a small office. The furnishings were simple; two metal bookshelves full of books on Pokémon training, types, health and injuries and some old ledgers and a few photos and novels. There was a moderate sized, simple, gray industrial desk up against the third wall. It was arranged so that you would be facing the door as you sat at it. A large, very modern, flat-screen computer monitor, keyboard and mouse were in the middle of the desk. The video telephone was on the end against the wall. Most everything except the phone and computer were well used, functional and simple. “The phone is on the Pokémon Center’s network and is quite secure. Take as much time as you need.”
       Sitting down in the well-used leather desk chair, he looked up and thanked her. The cute red-head with the dimples smiled and closed the door. Pearl sat in the only other chair in the corner behind the door. Mike punched in the number of Deputy Director Rawlson. The screen stayed blank, but a voice answered; “Rawlson here. Oh, hey Mike! How’re you doing?” The screen flickered to a display of the face at the other end.
       “Hi Pete. Thought I’d check in, keep you from getting on my ass about it later.”
        “Damn right!” The Deputy Director grinned at him. “Oh, I got a call from the Chief of Police in Oreburgh. God awful mess with what happened to their Nurse Joy. And it seems like you really stirred things up there.”
       “I just talked with Joy here in Hearthome and it sounds like her cousin in Oreburgh is going to be okay.”
       “That’s how it sounds yeah. But I was talking about your conversation with someone named ‘Tomaka’.”
       “Oh, that asshole.”
       Pete bellowed with laughter. “Yeah, I’d say that sizes him up pretty well. It seems that their Chief arrived on scene just in time for the end of your conversation. Tomaka tried to report you for your ‘assault’ on him. But, even if the Chief hadn’t already been there, two of the locals had overheard Tomaka’s remarks too. So his ‘complaint’ ended on the spot. Did you know that Nurse Joy is rather well respected, even adored, in Oreburgh?”
       “I saw how everyone there was jumping in to help right away …”
       “That particular Nurse Joy has been taking care of both the miners and their Pokémon for quite a while now. I’m told she has gone down into the mine itself many times to stabilize the injured. She’s saved a lot of lives. I understand that more than a few residents were expressing their unhappiness with the Sergeant. Lucky for him the Chief is a local and was able to get the situation calmed down. Tomaka damned near got shipped out to another town, but he’d been there long enough that he had a few friends who were ready to stand up for his general character. He’s going to spend the next two weeks helping Chansey at the Pokémon Center and then he’s going to walk a beat down in the mine for a while. The Chief thinks it’ll give him a better perspective on things.”
       “Well, hopefully it’ll work. He was helpful … up till he pissed me off.
       “Anyway, I wanted to fill you in on that as well as the situation with those counterfeit badges.” Mike explained what he’d found in Jubilife City and what had happened in Oreburgh.
       “So that’s what happened to James.” Mike saw him scribble a note. “But you don’t think that he’s involved in what happened in Hearthome?”
       “He said he wasn’t. I don’t know how far I can trust him, but my gut says I can on this. I don’t think he would’ve come to talk to me like that if he was. Hell, I don’t think I’d be sitting here if he was involved in the killing. He had the opportunity to do what he wanted after he knocked me out, but I’m still alive.”
       “Okay. Let me know if you need anything from my end. And be careful. Remember, you’re dealing with someone who is more than a little Zubat-crazy.”
       They disconnected and Mike leaned back in the chair. He wondered just what the killer was up to and just how far he would go. He activated the phone and dialed the Pokémon Lab in Sandgem Town. A young fellow in a lab coat answered and Mike asked for Professor Salvia.
       “I’m sorry, but the Professor isn’t in right now and we’re not sure when she’ll be back. I’m one of her assistants, may I help you?”
       “Do you know where she is? I’d really like to speak with her directly.”
       “I’m, uh, not really able to tell you where she is right now …”
       Mike disconnected the call. He banged his fist on the desk in frustration. Pearl had heard the conversation and had jumped up, ready to go. “Settle down. If something has happened to her, the best hope we have is to figure out what is going on. We’re not going to do that by rushing around with no plan.” She looked a little annoyed, but sat back down. He entered another number. The phone was picked up after several rings, no picture. A woman said “hello?”
       “Sergeant Kamara? I’m Mike Kohler, Lieutenant Dodson in Jubilife City suggested I call you.”
       “Oh, hi. Uh, yes, hang on a moment.” There was the sound of a chair scraping on the floor, followed a few moments later by the sound of a door opening and closing, then footsteps in gravel. “Okay, I can talk now. The name’s Monica. How can I help?”
       “Well, first, do you know a bookie by the name of ‘Billy Bets’?”
       “Oh, him,” she said in a flat tone. “Yeah, I know him. Gambling isn’t really legal, but it isn’t exactly discouraged either. He’s built quite a business on making book on various things, primarily Pokémon gym battles and Elite Four and Champion battles. Look, why don’t I meet you somewhere. I’d rather talk in person.”
       “Okay, I’m at the Pokémon Center right now.”
       “Perfect! I’ll be there in about five minutes.” She hung up.
       He stepped to the door and saw there were no trainers in the lobby. Nurse Joy had apparently changed as her dress and apron were fresh again and her hair, still damp, was pulled back into a bun. He stepped over to her, “Thanks for the use of the phone. I’m afraid I’ll need to use your office a little while longer, I’m expecting someone and we need a place we can talk. But, I’ll return the favor; I strongly suggest that you carefully check your stocks of Pokémon food for contamination, especially by Stun Spore. I have reason to believe that someone has been tainting some food supplies with it.”
       A shocked look sprang onto her face and she said; “Who would …? Oh. The same guy. Okay. I’ll go do that right away.”
       A few moments later the front doors slid open and a woman stepped in and looked around. Seeing him standing at the counter, she stepped over and asked; “You’re Mike?” She was dark with black, close-cropped hair. Short and stocky, Mike could see she was muscular, built a like a wrestler. She wore a brown sport coat over a tan shirt and dress slacks. Slight bulges under the jacket showed where she kept several Pokéballs, as well as an expandable baton on her belt. A small 2-way radio was also clipped to the belt as was a handcuff case. He also noticed that she appeared to be wearing heavy shorts under her tan dress pants.
       Monica had noticed him quickly taking in the details of her apparel as well as the items she carried. She had been doing the same, taking note of the fact that he apparently didn’t carry any Pokéballs. When she saw his eyes linger a moment on her hips, she grinned at him. “You noticed my shorts? Well, I found early on that dress pants don’t hold up well in a fight – and it’s rather embarrassing when your silk panties end up flappin’ in the breeze.”
       He smiled back at her and nodded understanding. “Let’s step in here and talk. Nurse Joy has given me the use of her office.” Mike stepped around the desk. Pearl got up from the chair and moved over between the bookshelves. As the Hearthome officer sat down, Mike said; “Would you please turn off your radio. Also, I gather from our phone conversation that you have a cell phone, please turn that off as well.”
       She paused a moment, then nodded. She took the radio from her belt, turned it off and set it on the desk. A black and silver cell phone came from an inside jacket pocket and she turned it off, laying it next to the radio. She hesitated a moment, then removed the batteries from both items. “That okay?”
       “It should be. Thanks. Lieutenant Dodson over in Jubilife City told me I could trust you. But I’m finding that I need to be very careful right now.”
       “And you’re not sure just how far you can trust Dodson, right?” She shot him her big grin again.
       “Well, yes, that’s about right. The case I’ve been asked to look into is very – complicated.”
       She leaned forward in her chair to look directly at him. “Look, we both know I can’t prove to you right now whether I’m trustworthy or not. But, I’m already being ostracized by some people in the department because I’m too honest to take the money that’s going around. I’m beginning to think the only reason I’m still here is they haven’t figured a clean way to get rid of me … yet. But I will do everything I can to help you. I know what you’re here for and, as you said, the case is ‘complicated’. But if something can be done now, we may just be able to save the Hearthome Police Department from going down the sewer along with everything else.”
       He studied her face and saw honesty there. He sure hoped he was right. “Tell me about the murder.”
       She was the second Officer on the scene. The body and the area around it were still smoldering when she arrived. The body had been found by a beat cop who had seen the smoke and decided to check on it. One of the investigators had suggested that it was a “rogue” Pokémon, but finding two bullets in the chest during the autopsy put the lie to that. The autopsy was also when they found the counterfeit badge. She continued; “I started to ask around about what was being done with the investigation and was told, in no uncertain terms, that I’d better drop it. It was a rogue Pokémon, that was all. The thing was, the victim had five Pokéballs on his belt that he hadn’t even touched. If he’d been attacked by a wild ‘mon, I think he would’ve pulled at least one. I didn’t hear about the autopsy results until a week later. And then, only because I ran into the Coroner at a coffee shop. I went back out where we’d found him, but by then, the crime scene was pretty fucked up.
       “Before I’d learned about the autopsy, I had flown over to Sandgem Town to the Pokémon Lab. I tried very hard to get Professor Salvia to admit that a wild ‘mon could kill a person. In the end, she ended up convincing me that it just wasn’t very likely. That raised my suspicions, of course. Hearing about the bullets clinched it.
       “I’m afraid that one or more people in the Hearthome PD are trying very hard to cover up what happened. They’re protecting someone, possibly themselves, but someone else too.”
       “You’re the one who sent the copy of the file to the C. I. B., aren’t you?”
       “Yeah. I was at a loss as to what to do. I knew I couldn’t do much on my own, I was out of my depth. I’ve been in burglary division and I’ve been a beat cop. Murder is something else entirely. And a gun? Shit! I’ve never even seen one. I hoped that with that file, the P. W. L. cops wouldn’t ignore it.” She sagged back in her chair, clearly exasperated by the situation. Shaking her head, she looked up at him. “Mike, I’ve never seen anything so horrible as this. And when I came to the realization that a person had done this … it still makes me sick. So, yeah, I’ll give you all the help I can … if you’ll have me.”
       He nodded. “Besides the Staraptor that delivered the file, what kinds of Pokémon do you have with you?”
       “I’ve got a Torterra and a …”
       He interrupted her; “No, what types do you have with you?”
       “Oh, uh, the Torterra is a Grass type. And I’ve got an Ice type, one Rock and one Fighting type, plus Staraptor.”
       “Okay, you’d better leave the Grass and Ice types here with Nurse Joy. I’m sure she’s got a secure storage for them.” She seemed to hesitate, so he explained; “Look, we are going up against a very powerful Fire-type ‘mon. I think it’s a Charizard. I got a glimpse of it in Oreburgh and it is huge, and it doesn’t hold back on its fire attacks regardless of what, or who, the target is. It might kill a Grass or Ice type without thinking twice. Your others have more of a chance if it comes down to it.”
        “Oh. Okay. Yeah, I guess this guy is pretty fucked up.”
       He stepped around the desk and Pearl stood up with him. “Yeah, he is.” He held out his hand and Monica stood up and shook it. He opened the door, then started to add; “I hope your life …”
       She finished the thought; “… my life insurance is paid up? Yeah, it is. I hope you don’t always end conversations with bad clichés.”
       As the three of them stepped out of the office, they found Nurse Joy at the counter. “Hi Sergeant Kamara!” She turned to Mike, “Thank you for the heads up on the Pokémon food. About half of our stock was contaminated. Chansey is dumping it into the incinerator right now. I did save several samples … just in case you needed them.”
       “Thank you Nurse Joy. Please keep those samples locked up for me. Oh, while I’m thinking about it, can you contact whoever is filling in for your cousin in Oreburgh and have them check their food supplies for the same kind of contamination? With everything that was going on, we didn’t get it checked. Also, the Sergeant needs to store a couple of her Pokémon here for a while, and I’m not too confident about the usual stasis system. Do you have a secure physical storage for them?”
       “Of course. There’s a floor safe in the office that is designed specifically for Pokéballs.” She took the Sergeant’s two Pokéballs, checked the ID’s on them, went into the office and returned a few minutes later. She handed a slip of paper to Mike, “That is the combination, just in case you need to get them back out and I’m ... not available. The safe is right under the desk.
       “Oh, and I’ll move your bag from your room into my office. That way I can lock it up and keep an eye on it as well.”
       “Thank you very much Nurse Joy. You have been a tremendous help.”
       As they turned to leave, she said, “Thank you Mike, and both of you be very careful.”
       The main entrance of the Pokémon Center slid closed behind them as they carefully looked up and down the street. “First, I want to see where you found the body, there might still be something to be found. How far is it?”
       “A couple of miles, just west of town. I’ve got my bike parked around the corner. I think we can fit all three of us if we scrunch up a bit. What was that about contaminated food?”
       Mike filled her in on what Nurse Joy in Oreburgh had found in the food he had been sent. “So, I had Joy check the food supplies here, just in case. Good thing I did I guess.”
       She considered this for a moment, looked over at him and started to speak. He stopped her and said, “No, I don’t know for certain that it’s connected. But after what happened in Oreburgh, I’d bet my last Pokéball that it is.”
       She shrugged and walked around the corner into a narrow side-street. Mike’s vision of the three of them trying to ride a bicycle vanished in a puff of black and chrome. A big Yamaha Roadliner was parked next to the building. Monica said, “If I stay forward, you can sit on the back and your Prinplup can sit between us.” She walked up to the big bike and looked it over, carefully checking that nothing had been obviously tampered with. “It looks okay.” She put in the key, pushed the starter and it sparked to life with a deep, whispery rumble. She looked the bike over again and nodded. Picking up the black helmet from the seat, she swung a leg over the bike and settled in as far forward as she could. She looked at the helmet, then back at Mike and Pearl, shrugged and set it on the sidewalk. “It won’t protect me from bullets.” She rolled the machine off the kickstand and looked back with a grin spreading across her face; “You know… we could sure end up paranoid after all of this.”
       “I already am.” He settled onto the back of the seat and helped Pearl to her place between them. Gathering up the long trench coat he wore, he said, “Let’s go.”
       A twist of the throttle and the bike sped up the street.
Chapt. 8
        Monica brought the bike to a stop in a clearing just west of town. Mike swung off the back of the bike and helped Pearl down as the bike’s engine shut down. The area was quiet. A few flying-type Pokémon were singing and bug-types were chirping, enjoying the early morning warmth.
       “The body was just over here.” She pointed the direction. The clearing was to the north side of the road, surrounded by bushes and trees which thickened into forest as you got further from the road. Walking a few yards into the clearing, she waved her arm at the spot.
       Mike would’ve been able to find it on his own. There was a patch of mostly bare ground around a man-sized patch of still growing grass. In the bare section he could still see the scorched remains of clumps of grass, some starting to show new growth. He squatted down by the patch of growing grass … something didn’t seem right, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He walked around the burned section and examined some of the shrubbery around it.
       “Monica, you see how elongated that burned patch is? And see how the shrubs at the other end are seared as well? Does that suggest anything to you?”
       She looked at the burned area and walked over to the shrubs. “I hadn’t noticed the searing of those bushes before. And the burn pattern seems to spread wider at first, then gets narrower in that direction …”
       “When I looked at the burn pattern on the ground in Oreburgh, it was a smaller oval, and spread out in an almost fan-shape. I know that one came from a high angle – he was on the roof of the Center when he attacked.”
       “So this one is narrower and longer? It sounds like it came from a much lower angle?”
       “That’s right. And that also means that the attack came from over there, to the left. Yes, see this smaller burned patch of grass here, and another over here? This oran berry bush has been singed as well. It looks like the Charizard stood about here, those burns are from its tail. Let’s start looking around here and see what else we can find.”
       The only other thing they found as they looked around was that there had been any number of people visiting the scene. Mike asked, “Is there anything special about this spot?”
       “Not really. It’s just a clearing. Since it’s so close to town, people rarely stop on their way out of town since they’re just starting out. And people coming in are usually close enough to push on to town.”
       “Did you notice much blood around, or under the body? I’m not seeing any right now.”
       “Hm. No, I hadn’t noticed any. But at the time, we were still thinking that he’d died from the burns.”
       “That’s what seems wrong here. Okay, let’s go pay a visit to the Gym and see what Fantina can tell us.”
       They got aboard the big road bike and Monica turned it back towards town. As they sped back down the road Mike mulled over the crime scene. Several things nagged at him about the scene. If the victim had been killed at the clearing, being shot by a gun, he thought there should be at least some blood. That means that he’d been killed somewhere else, then dropped in the clearing and burned there. But killed where … and why?
       They arrived at the Hearthome City Gym and Monica parked at the back of the building. She led them to a side door and into an area with several offices opening off a small lobby. Mike bent down to whisper to Pearl, “Stay close. Don’t eat anything anyone tries to give you, okay?” Pearl nodded once.
       A receptionist behind a polished wooden desk greeted the Sergeant. Monica replied, “Hi Winnie. We need to see Fantina. Is she in?”
       “She is. I’ll let her know you’re here.” She spoke into the phone, “Fantina, Sgt. Kamara is here to see you. … Okay, I’ll bring them back. … I’m sorry, yes, she has someone else with her.” Winnie disconnected the phone and led them down a short hallway.
       They stepped into a large office with a big window overlooking a well-manicured garden in the middle of a large courtyard. A thick, plush silver-gray carpet covered the floor. The office was decorated in a modern style with a lot of glass and shining steel. The desk was stainless steel and topped with thick glass. A moderate sized touch-screen computer lay on the desk. Shelves lined the left and right walls and displayed several books, keepsakes, trophies and so forth. A few framed magazine covers with Fantina pictured on them adorned the walls. There were some file cabinets to the right, behind the desk. Three chairs faced the desk with a comfortable sofa off to the right.  A small wet bar was situated on the opposite side of the desk from the file cabinets. Everything was bright, stylish and expensive and was kept very neat and in its place.
       Fantina stood up from behind her desk to greet them. She was thin, her hair colored purple and in a complicated coiffure. She was wearing a simple gray suit with pink highlights. She had the look of a fashion model, but close inspection revealed tell-tale lines at the corners of her eyes showing the years creeping up on her. “Bonjour mes amis! ‘Ow are vous today? Have a seat, s'il vous plaît. Oh! Eet iz all zo regrettable!”
       Mike shook her hand and sat in one of the chairs, Monica sat next to him and Pearl sat on the sofa. He looked up and asked; “Don’t you find it hard to maintain the accent all the time?”
       Fantina sighed and sat down. “Sometimes, but it is part of the image.” She gave a small smile and asked, “What gave it away?”
       “I’ve had the opportunity to spend a fair bit of time in France. Your French, well, it didn’t sound quite genuine.”
       “Ah. Well, my publicist thought it would be a good image to project. Now I’ve been using it so long, I think I’m stuck with it.”
       “My name is Mike Kohler. I’m a Detective with the C. I. B. of the Pokémon World League. I’m working with Sergeant Kamara here, trying to find out what happened to Mr. Peterson. What can you tell me about him? How long had you known him, what kind of person was he?”
       “He was a good kid; a good student and hard worker. Certainly one of the best I’ve had here, and I was considering him as the Assistant Gym Leader to run things and handle gym battles when I was away. He was very responsible. He will … would have been a Gym Leader himself one day. He’d been here a little over three years. I didn’t know much about his personal life outside of the gym … to be honest, I don’t think he had much life outside, he was dedicated to perfecting his knowledge and skills as a trainer.”
       “What about his friends? Did he spend time with anyone in particular, any romantic interests?”
       “Well, as far as I know, Jimmy’s friends were here at the gym. I know he was fairly close to another of the senior trainers, a boy named Louie Finch. Louie came here a short time after Jimmy, and they had known each other in school in Jubilife City. I haven’t heard about any ‘romantic interests’ as you put it, nothing serious anyway. I gather he went out on dates with various girls, but he hadn’t singled anyone out. The students here are allowed their privacy and free time, so it isn’t unusual that I wouldn’t know a lot about their private lives. Granted, because he was my best student I was a little closer to Jimmy than most of the others, but I didn’t intrude on his private life.”
       Mike thought it was a shame she hadn’t – she might have been able to give them something. Out loud, he asked; “Where was Jimmy supposed to be on the day he was killed?”
       “He had been teaching our beginners class in the morning. We run several classes for youngsters who are just starting out. If my senior apprentices are good enough, and Jimmy was, I have them teach most of these classes. After that, he was supposed to work on the set up for a Gym Battle with a trainer we were expecting that afternoon. Jubilife TV was going to televise it, so he was also going to assist them with their camera feeds – they generally tap directly off the video system in the Gym and then add a couple of their own cameras. But, he came to me shortly after the morning classes and said he was going out to get Pokémon food.”
       “Were you low on Pokémon food?”
       “Well, now that you mention it, I didn’t think we were. That is a little odd. We get regular deliveries to the gym, along with other supplies such as medicines, fresh vegetables, other food stuffs and so forth. I wonder why we were low?”
        Mike shrugged, “It probably isn’t important. Can we see his room?”
       As they walked out of the office the Sergeant quietly asked him, “That bit with the food, odd coincidence with what you’ve found. You think it’s connected?”
       He nodded and whispered back, “Probably. A lot of loose ends yet.”
       Fantina led them to the other side of the building from the offices. They walked down a short hallway with a door on either side then through the left-hand door. It opened into a largish room with ten beds arranged in a barracks style. There were four doors along the left side of the room and these opened into small private apartments. At the far end of the dorm a sliding door opened into the bathing area.
       “This is the boy’s dormitory. The girl’s dorm is through the door across the hall. The four apartments to the left are for the senior apprentices. Right now I have, well had, two senior male apprentices and two senior girls. The room with the padlock on it was Jimmy’s. Here are the keys and a master key card.”
       He unlocked the padlock then swiped the card on the door. They stepped into a single-room apartment. It was a modest size and comfortable enough for one person. A good-sized desk was pushed up against the right hand wall. An open door next to the desk revealed a clothes closet. A single bed in the corner, a chest of drawers and a tall bookcase completed the furnishings. There was a braided rug on the floor by the bed. Books were scattered around the room with a couple of them open on the desk.
       “Thank you Fantina. I think we’re going to be here for a little while. If you could have that friend of Jimmy’s, was it Louie? Yes, have him come down here, I’d really appreciate it.”
       After Fantina left, Mike asked, “Sergeant, did you come in here after the murder?”
       “I did.” She looked around, “I think everything looks the same.”
       “Did you find his computer?”
       “No … but when I was here before, I didn’t know what had actually happened. So, mainly I was just here to secure the room. We had maintenance put the hasp on the door and I locked it up. I’m sorry, I didn’t look for a computer or anything else really.” She stepped back to the door and inspected the hasp and lock. “These look okay, the screws were new and they don’t look like they’ve been removed. The lock was new too, I removed it from the package and gave Fantina both keys.”
       “Okay. Let’s see what we can find” and he started looking through the desk. Monica was looking through the chest of drawers.
       Pearl wandered into the room and looked around, then bent down and peered under the bed. She said “Prin?” and pointed under the bed.
       He walked over, knelt down and looked under the bed. “Good job Pearl!” He reached under the bed, almost to the wall and removed a black laptop computer. He put it on the desk, opened it up and pressed the power button … nothing happened.
       “Here Mike, try this.” She handed him a power cord that had been on top of the dresser. He plugged it in and turned the computer on. He brought up Jimmy’s contacts list and started scrolling through them. “Well, now there’s a name I didn’t expect to see.”
       Monica stepped over to look at the screen; “Billy Bets? Hmm. Maybe the ‘good kid’ wasn’t entirely good.”
       Just then the door from the hallway opened and closed. There was a knock on the room door and a young man said, “excuse me sir, you wanted to see me? I’m Louie Finch.” He was blonde, with a ruddy complexion and was a little on the heavy side. He shifted nervously from foot to foot and looked from the one to the other of them.
       Mike closed the computer and stood up. “Yes, we did. Fantina tells us you were pretty good friends with Jimmy.”
       “Yes sir, we both went to the trainer’s school in Jubilife City. Jimmy was in the year ahead of me, but we became good friends. He travelled for a few months before he started here. He’d always write and tell me how great this gym was, how much he was learning and all the fun he was having in the city. Of course, we both had a crush on Fantina, so I came over after I graduated.”
       “So, what kinds of things did he like to do here in the city? Did he have a girlfriend?”
       “Mostly he was dedicated to Pokémon. He studied a lot and we would have practice battles. He could use the Gyms teaching Pokémon just as well as his own. Besides that, we did the usual things boys do I guess. We’d go to games, we both loved basketball and soccer. We went to the movies most every week. When we could, we’d take a couple of the girls from the gym or some that we’d gotten to know around town. But he wasn’t going steady with anyone. He was too serious about becoming a Gym Leader after he finished his studies here.”
       “Okay, what about the day he died? Had you seen him at all?”
       “Yes sir. Saw him a couple of times in the morning. He’d been teaching a beginner’s class and we met in the cafeteria for a coffee after that. Fantina was expecting a challenger, so we needed to set up for that later. But we made plans to go out that evening. Just after lunch, I was in my room working on a research paper when I heard him yell something from his room. My door was open – it’s the second one over – and I looked out as he threw his door open. I asked what was going on and he just said he ‘knew someone had been messing around’ and ran out. He never came back.” Louie hung his head and covered his eyes.
       They gave him a moment, then Mike asked, “Did you hear or see anything unusual after that? Any loud Pokémon screams, or anything that sounded like an explosion?”
       “N-no sir, nothing unusual that I remember. And nothing like an explosion, I’d remember that. But at the time I think Fantina was working with the junior apprentices on battling techniques. They were working with some of the Gym’s higher-level Pokémon and they can get pretty noisy.”
       “Where were you boys going to go that night?” The teen looked a little embarrassed and Mike added; “Look son, I’m simply trying to get a good picture of Jimmy, if you guys weren’t doing anything wrong, you’re not going to be in trouble. If you were involved in something you shouldn’t have been, you’re better off telling me now, if it isn’t too bad, I’ll keep it to myself. Okay?”
       He looked at the floor and said, “We were going to go to an underground casino. Jimmy loved to play poker. He started playing a couple of years ago and he got me hooked on it too. But he was a lot better than I was. I was usually lucky to break even or just come up a little short, but Jimmy almost always came out ahead. I never played for big stakes, usually a 50 or 100 PokéYen bet limit. But Jimmy sat in on bigger games sometimes. I don’t know for sure if it was just luck or skill or both, but he was good. He kept trying to teach me how to be better, but I just liked going out. If I ended up short of cash because of it, he’d usually make it up to me. That’s the kind of guy he was I guess.”
       Monica asked; “Do you remember which club you were going to that night?”
       “Yes ma’am, I think it was called ‘Meowth’s Charm’ or something like that.”
       Mike felt that some pieces were starting to come together. “Did Jimmy gamble on anything besides poker?”
       “I don’t know for sure. I know he always had money, maybe not huge amounts, but enough that we could have fun. He told me he was saving up money too, to be able to travel and to start his own gym some day.”
       “One last thing. We’re going to need to check into some of the things on his computer, do you know if he kept a list of passwords anywhere?”
       “He had a small black book that he kept them in, like an address book, but I don’t know where he kept it.”
       “Thanks Louie, you’ve been a big help.”
       Mike turned and looked out of the window in the wall across from the door. He stared, lost in thought for a minute, and then his eyes focused and he perked up. The window looked over a yard and loading dock at the back of the building. Nodding at the window he said, “Monica, look out there.”
       She looked and said “I don’t see anything unusual.”
       “I don’t either, but the scene itself is suggestive. We’ll check it later. Let’s finish looking through this computer.”
       He opened the computer up and it sprang back to life. “So, we already know he’s a gambler. Plays poker and is probably betting on other things through ‘Billy Bets’. Let’s check his e-mail. … … Hmmm, from mom, from dad, a couple from a girl named Theresa …”
       “That’s his sister. I made the next of kin notification. They live up in Celestic Town.”
       “Okay. Wait, here’s one from Nurse Joy at the Center in Celestic Town. Now that’s interesting! He sent her a sample of Pokémon food … and she found that it had been tainted with Stun Spore.”
       “Just like you found at the Center here and in the food that had been sent to you?”
       “Yeah. There’s definitely a connection here.”
       He started to close the computer but Monica stopped him. “There’s an icon there labeled ‘cameras’. Didn’t Fantina mention Jubilife TV using the Gym’s cameras? I wonder if there are cameras besides at the battle arena?”
       “Good question.” Mike double-clicked the icon and a window popped up asking for a password. “Damn it! Let’s find his address book.” They started opening drawers and searching for the book.
       Looking for a place she could search, Pearl walked across towards the book case. As she stepped into the middle of the small rug she felt a slight movement under her foot. She stepped back, then stepped forward again and felt the same shift of a board. Bending down, she grasped the edge of the rug in her beak and pulled it back. Exclaiming “Prinplup,” she pointed to the floor.
       Mike looked over at her. “What did you find?” There was a slight, but noticeable gap between two floorboards and he could see marks from one being pried up. Monica handed him a pocket knife and he lifted up the loose board, then sat back on his heels and whistled. “Look at what you found, Pearl!”
       Monica said, “Well, there’s his address book … right on top of a fucking huge pile of cash.” She bent down and looked into the dark space beyond what they could see. “There’s more stashed further back in there. There must be three or four hundred-thousand here. What the hell do we do with all of that?”
       Mike stood up and walked over to the door to listen for a moment. It wasn’t latched, so he quietly pulled it open, then checked the dorm and found it empty. He checked the other senior apprentice apartments and found them unoccupied as well. Stepping back into the room, he closed and locked the door and said, “For right now, we’re going to leave it where it is. Since you’re not sure who all can and can’t be trusted at the Police Department, we’re going to close this up, put the rug back in place and keep it to ourselves. In the end, well, we will have to follow certain procedures … but I expect his family could use some help.” Removing the black address book, he quietly put the floor board in place, laid the rug over it and turned back to the desk.
       He found a password under “video”, a 16-digit mish-mash of numbers letters and symbols. He typed it in and a menu opened up with various cameras listed. They found six views of the Gym’s battle arena and one for the main entrance and another for the office entrance. The corridor to the dorms was covered as well. They also found cameras labeled “kitchen”, “warehouse” and “loading dock”.
       Monica pointed to the left side of the window where there was a folder marked “saved videos”. “Let’s see what he had been looking at.”A second window opened with a list of video files labeled with dates. She pointed to the first one, “That one was about two weeks before he was killed, let’s start there.”
       He double-clicked the file and a video player popped up and began playing. The video showed them a view of a dimly lit warehouse. A door opened and a figure walked in. It appeared to be a man wearing dark clothing. He was a very ordinary looking person; he didn’t look very tall, a little heavy around the middle, just average. They couldn’t see his face very well, but he didn’t appear to have a beard or mustache, his hair looked dark and cut rather short. He had a satchel slung over one shoulder, the kind almost any Pokémon trainer would have. The door closed behind him cutting off the daylight from outside. The camera focus shifted a little as it adjusted to the lower light conditions. The man turned on a small flash light and walked directly to a shelf off to his left. He opened a large square bin then withdrew an object from his satchel. He removed a lid from what appeared to be a small jar, took a handkerchief from his pocket and covered his nose and mouth and poured the contents into the bin. He took a scoop from a shelf and appeared to mix the contents of the bin. He closed the bin, wiped off the outside of it and slipped out the door. The video cut off at that point.
       They looked at each other and both said; “Pokémon food!”
       “Do you think we can get a screen shot of his face?”
       Mike said, “Let’s see if Jimmy already did.” He opened up the “pictures” folder on the computer, “Yep, there are two with the same date as the video, one with ‘A’ and one with ‘B’.” He opened them up to find that they were indeed the person’s face.
       Monica looked closely, “I can’t recognize him, but these are pretty blurry. The dim light in the warehouse didn’t allow for a very clear shot.”
       “Okay, let’s see what other movies he’s been enjoying.” The next video was from three days before the murder and showed the same man climbing the steps to the loading dock, the time stamp showed it to be late afternoon. There was another saved video from the same time that showed him again entering the warehouse and putting something in the same bin, then mixing the contents. The loading dock video was clearer than the darkened warehouse. They found a corresponding still shot saved to the hard drive. “You still don’t recognize him?” Mike asked.
       “Not really. He’s a nice looking guy I guess, but rather plain. I think he’d tend to really blend in with a crowd.” She looked again at the screen shot; “Zoom in on his face a little more … there, is that a scar on the left side of his face? I can’t say for sure, but see how his mouth is drawn to that side? We might be able to recognize him from that.”
       “Yeah, good eye. Let’s see how far back the video server saves these camera feeds.” He clicked on the video search function. “It looks like they go back about two months. Hmm, except for the loading dock camera, that only goes back to the week before Jimmy was killed. That’s odd.”
       “Not if he just put it up. If he’d found out about the tainted Pokémon food … ” They both looked out the window at the view of the loading dock. “He saw him out the window, didn’t he?”
       “… and added this camera to get a better look at the guy. I saw some receipts here in his desk.” Mike opened the top left drawer, “Yeah, here they are … basketball game, movie, movie, some clothes, ah! One digital video camera. It wasn’t cheap, but I guess he could afford it. He paid cash.” Turning back to the computer he said, “Okay, what did the cameras catch on that particular day.”
       He did a quick search and brought up the warehouse camera for the day Jimmy was killed and clicked fast-forward. They saw the outside door open and Mike put it back to normal speed. The unknown man came in and again added something to the bin and mixed it. They watched him leave and a few minutes later they saw another figure come into the warehouse from a door behind the camera. He went to the bin, opened it, then went out the door the other man had used. Mike checked the loading dock camera and saw their man climb up the steps and enter the warehouse. After a few minutes, they saw him leave again and walk around the corner of the next building up the street, followed a short while later by Jimmy.
       Mike saved both videos. “Damn it! Why the hell didn’t he tell someone what was going on? Alright, let’s go take a look at the warehouse and loading dock.” He looked around, “We need to find a place to hide his computer. It won’t fit in where the password book was.”
       “No, but the hard drive will.” She looked out the window to be sure no one was watching and closed the curtains. Opening a pouch on her belt she pulled out a multi-tool, opened the bottom of the laptop and removed the hard drive. Placing the hard drive into the space under the floorboard she carefully replaced the rug and said, “There we go, snug as a Swadloon.”
       Mike dropped the password book into a pocket. The three of them stepped out, locked the door to Jimmy’s apartment and went looking for the warehouse. One of the students at the arena showed them the way. He found an electrical panel next to the door and switched on the lights. Mike asked the student, a girl of about 15 named Cassie, where the food bins were and she led them across the big room.
       “They’re right here sir.”
       Mike looked up and found the camera in an opposite corner and located the bin which had been tampered with in the videos they’d seen. “Cassie, there’s a ‘G’ on this bin, what is that for?”
       “That’s food that is especially formulated for Ghost types. It’s the food that Fantina feeds to her Pokémon.”
       “Thanks Cassie. You can go on back to the arena. We really appreciate your help.”
       As she walked away, he opened the bin and looked in. He was unable to tell if there was anything wrong or not. “Monica, see if you can find something to put some samples in.” She came back with a trash bag and cut off a corner and handed it to him. He dropped a few pieces of the food into the bag. Looking around he found a case of tissue, pulled some out and wiped the inside of the bin and dropped it into the other corner of the bag which Monica handed to him. They taped the bags closed then closed them into another bag.
       Monica asked, “What now?”
       “Now, we have your Staraptor take this to Nurse Joy with this note. We’ll have her test these samples for Stun Spore.”
       They walked out onto the loading dock and Monica opened a Pokéball and a large black and white bird appeared in a flash of red light. She handed the packet with the samples and note on it to the Pokémon. “Staraptor, take this to Nurse Joy. Please wait for a reply then come find me.” It flew off at high speed and disappeared over the building.
        Mike looked around and pointed up to an awning above them, “There’s Jimmy’s camera.”
       The loading dock was off a wide alley between the Gym and a storage facility. There was a large lawn in the area between the dorm wing and the Gym’s warehouse. “Jimmy followed our suspect around that corner and up that street. Do you know what’s up that way?”
       “There’s a shopping district up that way, small shops that cater to both locals and tourists. There are a couple of bigger stores too. Several of the buildings have apartments above them. There’s an industrial district further up. Do you want to go take a look?”
       “Not yet. I want to go talk to Billy Bets next. I want to see how he’s connected to all of this.”

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