“Everyone who I don’t call, go to your regular post. The people who need to stay are: Officers Martin, Josh, Fifteen, Hero, and Marcus. Hero and Marcus may not be permanent, but they will temporarily replace Jade and Smith.” Everyone mumbled amongst themselves. This was normal. While Shelby might be in charge right now, she still has to follow this mission, as it has now been marked high priority.
“Good, our investigation team is here. It’s time we got some real evidence about this. I’m sick of Superior believing that I might be involved in these disgusting arsons. So, everyone, get to work. Here’s the address,” she tapped her communication device, and everyone in the investigation team looked at their devices. Everyone but me.
“Who’s driving with Fifteen this time?” Martin asked. Everyone shuffled nervously.
Shelby huffed. “Fine. I will. You’re all a bunch of pussies.” I laughed, and made my way out of the conference room. I was definitely going to open the driver seat door for her.
We all moved to the garage, and paired up into our various vehicles. I opened Shelby’s door, left it open, then moved to the passenger side. “Thanks, Officer,” Shelby said as she shut her door. “How did last night go?”
“The mission went well. The house was burnt down, just as we intended.” Shelby nodded at my reply.
“Perfect. That should make this investigation fairly easy.” Shelby and I didn’t speak for the rest of the ride.
Eventually, we showed up to the newest burn site. Everyone started to pile out and stare at the burn site. It was quite a bit larger than any other burn site we’ve seen before. Someone whistled at the sight.
Shelby spoke up. “Okay, team, let’s not make a habit of this. Find the basement, find the safe, and find the residents. Martin, Hero, you go talk to the neighbors, see if they know anything about the residents and why we haven’t heard from them,” The two of them nodded and got back into the car, “Everyone else, look for anything of note while we’re here. That would include their basement. Let’s go.”
Everyone tentatively moved around the burn site. They were all more concerned than they needed to be. I pushed around an amount of burnt home, and found the basement once again. This only took me a few minutes.
“Commander,” Shelby looked toward me, “I found their basement. Come take a look.” Shelby affirmed that she heard me, and hopped around the rubble to get to me.
“Good work, Fifteen. Their safe should be down there. Maybe this time we can find a will. Watch my back.” I shrugged, and followed her down the stairs.
Only a moment later, Shelby rushed back up and pushed me aside, holding her hand to her mouth. “Oh god-” she muttered only a moment before having a coughing fit. I took a look into the first room to left, where I had shot down all of the family. Their bodies were all exactly where I had left them, all piled on top of each other besides the little girl, charred and desecrated near the door.
“Ren- fuck!” Shelby had come back down the stairs. “Ren, did you know that these people were shot?” I nodded. She shook her head. “Why?”
“Commander, this isn’t the best time to discuss our personal hobbies. Let’s wait, hmm?” She raised her eyebrows just the slightest amount before she nodded. “Right, Officer. We’re on duty. Let’s get the bodies taken care of.”
She took out her communication device- which was essentially a slightly advanced walkie talkie for police use- and spoke into it. “Josh, Marcus, we have four corpses down here. All of them have been burned. I need you to get the bodies out while Fifteen and I continue investigating.”
“Aw, gross. I don’t need people on my uniform. On it, Commander.” Josh’s reply was heard through the device. He was probably going to mumble about his eight years in academy being wasted on body dragging.
I took a couple steps, and was already in a different room. It was utterly empty, except for a large black box sitting in the center of it. “Commander, I’ve found their safe.”
Shelby was with me quickly. “I don’t know about you, Officer, but I don’t think leaving a safe on the floor is very secure.”
“It isn’t. The table it was on was probably burnt, looking at the nearby ashes.” Shelby laughed.
“It looks like your old test scores are still accurate.”
I picked up the charred steel, and moved it up the stairs. “Maybe we’ll find some information concerning the attackers in here. Or, at least some account information.”
Shelby waved her hand dismissively. “Most richer families tend to misunderestimate the value of their online footprint. We’ll probably have to break into anything they use in order to get more information.
“Ren, let’s talk a little more later, okay? How does a dinner at my place sound? It’ll be much more secure there than anywhere else, anyway.”
“That does sound better than attempting to transfer knowledge here. Send me the information, and I’ll arrive.” Shelby turned away from me. “I’m glad to hear it, Officer.” Then, it almost sounded like she giggled.
“Let’s… Continue our investigation.” Shelby turned back to me, and nodded. “Let’s just find their signature matchboxes and call it a day.” I started rummaging through the charred remains of the house with Josh and Marcus, while Shelby called Hero and Martin back. Although, I did become a bit curious as to how the protesters managed to plant flammable matches into a house fire without them burning. It wasn’t very consequential, but it was interesting.
“I found a matchbook,” Marcus shouted, “It was the one they place near the sidewalk.”
“Dandy, Marcus,” Josh shouted back. I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or not.
A few minutes later, Martin and Hero returned to us. At that point, we had already found another matchbook.
Even with all six of us searching, it still took us about an hour to check the basement for the last matchbook. Turns out, it had been placed underneath the girl’s corpse. I had to stifle a laugh. Someone else also thought I took the right action.
We all collected around our cars, and Shelby summarised the mission. “We found the family’s safe. We found all of the matchbooks. We found the family’s charred and disturbing bodies. In essence, we still have no idea who the fire starters are. If we’re lucky, someone back at base will have compiled a list of the targets and their similarities. Then, we might be able to determine the serial arsonist’s next target. Everyone, head back to the station for a short debrief.” Shelby clapped twice, then got into the car. I quickly slid into my seat, and Shelby started driving away almost immediately.
“Okay, Ren. How about you just walk home with me? That’ll make setting a time and place that much easier. Besides, it isn’t very much of a secret that Commanders pick a favorite to replace them. God, I had to spend so much time with that shit-head Holland.” Shelby pounded the steering wheel as she said “shit-head.”
“That sounds fine by me.” I affirmed. Shelby laughed, probably out of stress.
“Great, that will give me some time to unwind after this shit show.” Shelby laughed more. It was a bit faster and sharper than her normal laugh. “Fuck, this is stressful. I have to solve a crime I’m helping to commit, and then I have to pretend I’m not doing it, while also trying to avoid it getting solved. But at the same time, I have to give new pieces of evidence to Superior, or else she’ll hop on my ass even more than she already is. Christ, Ren. Be glad that you don’t have to lead the investigation. It’s acceptable for you to turn up empty-handed.”
“You need some time to breath, Commander?” I only looked at her through the corner of my eyes. She nodded. “You’re not all that bad of a girl, Ren. Everyone seems so terrified of you, and quite a few people have started to call you “The Man without Mercy.” I can see why, but you still don’t seem all that terrible. Thanks.” We spent the rest of the car ride in silence.
Once we returned to our station, Shelby had everyone briefly debriefed before telling us to go to our regular postings. The rest of the day was quite uneventful, and I only ticketed one person. It wasn’t even for any sort of serious crime. I hoped that tonight with Shelby would be a little more fun.