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The water around us was clear. My eyes burned with that chemical, chlorine sting.

I was disoriented, exhausted, and had just enough air in my lungs to blow out a mouthful of bubbles. Like before, I watched which way they went and followed them. Wyatt had already stopped moving.

I came to the surface in the deep end of the Stocker Park public pool. It was mid afternoon.

"Drowning guy!" I yelled. "We got a drowning guy! Help me get him out!"

It took me and four volunteers to drag Wyatt's armored body out of the pool. I got his helmet and chest plate off, and the lifeguard on duty—Tara, the same one who'd been here when he disappeared—began giving mouth to mouth.

He eventually coughed up a lungful of Loningel river water. He curled up on his side, vomited a couple of times, and hugged his knees to his chest. Then he started bawling like a little kid. Wildly. Uncontrollably.

Tara looked at me, wide-eyed. "Mister, what happened to him?"

I didn't answer. Ignorance was bliss. And for a kid that watched someone vanish into another universe, Tara the lifeguard was pretty damn blissful.

I didn't want to go upsetting that particular apple cart.

I popped open the locker I'd stowed my stuff in, fished out my phone, and called Detective Miles Tanner. In no time at all, he was there with a small army of black and whites, paramedics, and fire fighters.

I stayed with the kid until he calmed down. It took a while.

As it turned out, part of the reason for Wyatt's post-resuscitation freakout was that he'd been under the influence of an illusion spell. From his perspective, Prince Ardan, the Knights Protector, and the other officers of the Emperor's Own were demonically-possessed monsters. Balada had made Wyatt believe only he could defeat them. And that any amount of violence and brutality was justified.

After all. They weren't people. They were monsters.

When the spell wore off—thanks to me bringing him back to Earth—he suddenly remembered events the way they'd happened. Not the way Balada forced him to see it.

Bottom line, he was in that banquet hall in the Etherial Tower. And he'd helped turn it into a slaughter house.

I felt for him. Bully or not, there was a world of difference between being the mean kid at a swimming pool, and crushing the life out of your fellow human beings. I didn't envy him the nightmares. I could only imagine how much worse it would have been if he made it all the way to the Citadel.

We packed the kid off in an ambulance. Likewise with Tara the lifeguard. Seeing two impossible things in a week was fraying the poor girl's nerves, and she was on the verge of a breakdown.

I suggested she get into another line of work for the summer.

Tanner stayed behind well after the hoopla died down. The pool was closed, and aside from one uniform detailed to watch the park overnight, we had the place to ourselves. This time, he wasn't nursing a cigarette.

"You did good, Dillon."

"Did I?"

"He's alive. Isn't that what matters?"

I wasn't sure about that. The kid was going to live with memories he couldn't share, and guilt he didn't fully deserve. That wasn't much of a life. I knew from personal experience.

Then again, at least he had a fighting chance. That was more than most people in his situation ever got.

We stood in silence for a minute. "What was this one all about, anyway?" Tanner asked.

"Jealousy. Someone important had a cheating wife. He was looking to get even with the guy that made a fool of him."

"Jesus. That's it?"

I shrugged. "Doesn't matter where you go, Miles. People are people. They commit crimes for the same reasons as anyone else."

I didn't know if he found the idea comforting or not. I didn't ask.

I did ask Tanner if he had my check. He said I had to submit an expense report before the chief could sign off. I was too damn tired, so I told him I'd do it in the morning. I was also hungry. I asked if he'd spot me a few bucks for a burger on the way home.

"What's the matter, Dillon? Ain't got any cash on you?"

I did have a little. But something told me the cashiers at McDonald's wouldn't accept Imperial gold.

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A note from BrainLeakage

This is the final chapter of Casebook 01. Since this was such a short "wrap-up," I figured it would be cheap to wait until tomorrow. So I scheduled it to go up 15 Min after Chapter 9.

Anyway, thanks for reading! Casebook 02 is coming soon!


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BrainLeakage

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