Roswell Labs, StrangerVille
At first, the smell in the closet was worse, so much so that he rested his head on Titania’s shoulder, afraid he would pass out.
But no sooner had he felt his legs go weak; than the smell faded, allowing him to think clearly.
Hiding was the right move. Mortals weren’t hard to kill, but it was an administrative nightmare. Yes, some sims decided to live off the grid, but it wasn’t 1882 anymore. Even if you “left town,” your family expected a text message or a Simsbook update.
After the voices and commotion faded, he pushed the door open. Titania tumbled out, landing hard on her hands and knees. As he knelt to help her, the smell rushed back with a vengeance.
“You were filtering it?” He helped her up.
“Glamouring, every inch of air around us so your stupid vampire ass didn’t fall on me.”
She tapped his cheek playfully, but her eyes were tired. “Just think of it as a ‘thank you’ for kicking Oberon’s ass.”
“My sister said you’d be annoyed.” He grimaced at how rough his voice sounded. Titania was completely unhinged in a way that he found alluring and terrifying. He wished the alluring part was weaker because he knew she was not who he should be with.
“I am, but I also really enjoy Oberon’s suffering, so I’m going to let it go without locking you in the palace dungeons.”
Caleb chuckled, but he wasn’t sure she was joking.
“Hey!” A man matching the voice from earlier called out. “Do you two have clearance?”
They adopted a defensive posture almost automatically.
The man lifted his gun, “I don’t recognize you two. What are your ID numbers?”
Caleb hadn’t actually planned for them to talk to anyone! Shit! “I…uh…we…”
Titania put a quelling hand on his arm. Her posture changed from defiant to seductive. “Our numbers are 46357 and 57546, sir. We don’t have clearance. We thought this facility was empty, and we’re just looking for somewhere”—she coughed—“quiet.” She brushed her hand against Caleb’s.
A spike of excitement lashed through him even though it was all a ploy.
The gun didn’t lower, but an older man walked up and put a comforting hand on the officer’s shoulder. “That’s alright, Jerry, let ‘em go. We were all young once.”
“Congratulations on your retirement, Grand Marshal Beeden,” Titania leaned forward, her tone simpering, “After a long service, we’re all sorry to see you go, but we look forward to serving under the new Grand Marshal Beeden.”
Caleb bit back a smile. He didn’t even need to be here. Titania could’ve run this entire operation by herself.
Her flattery did the trick. They were escorted out of the building and walked a mile past the lab before Caleb used his vampiric speed to carry her back to town.
“Still want to go to the gem room?” he asked.
Titania frowned, “Of course, you’re not getting out of your payment that easily. Take me to this stupid museum, and gods have mercy if the mortals who took my shit are hanging around.”
Caleb balked, “Wait, is that why you want to go? To rob the museum?”
Titania gave him a cool look and swept past him, “Only because they robbed me first. It’s called colonialism, dummy; look it up.”
Natural History Museum, Newcrest
The museum was closing when they arrived. Titania paid the warnings no mind as she covered them in more glamour magic. They weren’t invisible, more like a passing shadow. Mortals sensed they’d seen something out of the corner of their eye…
But when they went looking…
…it was gone.
Caleb liked their small gasps of fear more than he wanted to admit. And coupled with Titania’s tinkling laugh? The whole thing had an air of playful mischief.
It took her no time at all to retrieve the gems. She conjured a small portal, cackling as she tossed them back in.
“So we’re done here?” Caleb asked, anxious to get back to reviewing the case file.
“Your payment has been accepted,” she studied her nails, “Though it seems a waste not to enjoy the museum. And besides, you need help with your case.”
They wandered into the Historical Artifacts section, which had a new exhibit of Princess Cordelia’s furniture.
“I can’t believe mortals treat this shit with such reverence,” she grumbled, “It’s not even that old.”
Caleb laughed. “All this obsession over accuracy and ‘truth’ about the past, and they haven’t the faintest idea how it happened. The room didn’t even look like this.”
“You would know,” Titania quipped. Her tone had no judgment, which Caleb was grateful for. Vladislaus’s marriage to everyone’s favorite princess was something he’d love to forget. His mother had constant affairs with Cordelia in hopes of pissing Vladislaus off. Meanwhile, his father responded by directing the royal guard to set fire to his mother’s properties, and then there was the mortifying year that they lived as a throuple. Family dinners were a nightmare for a good portion of the 19th century.
“I thought you liked mortals,” Titania said accusingly. She whipped up a bit of magic to animate the mannequins.
The one dressed in one of Cordelia’s old gowns stuttered to life and then politely pulled out chairs for them and began mixing drinks from the globe bar.
“Akira said you’re always going on and on about the rules,” she continued.
“Rules, yes, mortals….” Caleb hesitated. He liked Bella, but that was despite her mortality, not because of it. He cleared his throat. “I’m an agent of the MIU, Titania, it’s a real job, and there are protocols around lots of things, including mortals.”
“Very few protocols,” she smirked.
She was right, but he ignored it. “I’m dedicated to my work. Speaking of which, you said you were going to help me here,” he thrust the folder at her, “Look through some of these papers with me.”
As they read, he filled her in on the case. Explaining it out loud to someone else who wasn’t involved was helpful. The more he spoke, the more pieces began to fall into place.
“Well, your vampire is Salim,” Titania said.
“Why do you think that?”
“It’s obvious. Johnny was on the crew because he could deal with the werewolves. Alice was there for her thieving skills—someone with a brain had to break into the museum. That leaves Salim as your ringleader.”
“And what about Eliza?”
Caleb sighed and waved for the mannequin to continue playing the violin. Eliza was the problem he couldn’t solve. Alice’s juvenile record proved she was mortal—natural born vampires like his father were rare nowadays. But as Titania pointed out, she was a mortal with skills. Eliza was also mortal but for the life of him, Caleb couldn’t figure out what she brought to the table.
“Why did they need the teeth?” Caleb wondered absently. “What were they stealing?”
“That’s easy,” Titania crossed her legs and signaled for the mannequin to refill her glass. “The military reimbursed the museum for damage to the Space Exhibit and the Historical Artifacts Gallery. Your vampire chose the perfect mortal girlfriend, by the way. The only thing missing and not recovered was the Wand of the Inferioriem.”
Caleb stood up, alert. “The Wand of Infer-what? What the fuck is that?”
“The Netherwand,” she rolled her eyes, “Gives you the power to control the dead, convert life energy, destroy it.”
“That sounds…unnatural.” A chill ran up his spine. “Why would the Sages let such a powerful item out into the mortal world?”
“It’s cute how you think the Sages are in charge of everything.” She tossed the papers down on the desk and got to her feet. “The rulers of the Magic Realm are one missing immortality potion dose from turning to dust. They aren’t all-powerful, even if they torture your little vampiric ass, and they’re no match for Gods. If the Fates want the wand in the world, they will make it so.”
There was that fairy fanaticism again. At least they could agree about the rarity of the artifact. “What would someone do with this Netherwand and werewolf teeth?”
Her expression turned thoughtful. “The Netherwand is ancient; even I’m not old enough to remember what stories about it are real and which are myths. But powerful witches usually use werewolf teeth as part of anti-aging potions.”
“That makes sense,” Caleb mused, “Unlike us, werewolves age slowly. If Salim wanted to undercut the spellcaster market, he’d make a killing. Johnny mentioned being able to ply him with money.”
It was also more evidence his mother was right. A young vampire still needed to secure their wealth. If Salim was a few decades or even a century old, he’d be trying to get enough capital to fund an immortal life. You couldn’t afford to work a job for decades when you didn’t age. Most vampires took long sabbaticals between careers to ensure they didn’t raise any red flags. That Lilith had gotten away with attending and teaching at the same university for decades was a testament to her ingenuity. He’d seen her morph from errant graduate student to harried professor right before his eyes, without even changing her clothes.
Speaking of which…
“Clive Beeden let us go because he thought we were stealing off to have sex.”
“You’re welcome,” Titania arched a brow, “I’m quick on my feet.”
“Yes, but he said, ‘we were all young once.’ You didn’t make me young. You made me middle-aged and balding.”
Her sigh was long-suffering. “Honestly, Caleb, I didn’t think you had such a pronounced sense of vanity.”