Eugene insists I ride with him in his sedan. To my surprise the car isn't an old surplus police cruiser but a small white hybrid hatchback with a solar panel coated roof and chipped paint on one door that has at some point been damaged. The dent has been roughly popped back out but the paint in that area is flaking off to reveal a some rust on the door panel.
"I can just meet you there," I say.
"No. No using your powers."
"I wouldn't. I was going to get a taxi," I explain.
"Just get in the car, please," Eugene says firmly.
"Will you be okay?" I ask.
To be honest, I'm more than a bit worried about him driving while upset. Would my being in the car cause him to disassociate? Is my worrying about me possibly triggering him me being patronizing?
"I'll be fine," he says then motions to the passenger seat. "You look normal enough. Just don't return to your...Basic form in the car or near me."
"This is my Basic form," I say.
He lets out a sigh. "Then get in the car."
We drive in silence with the radio turned off. Eugene keeps his eyes on the traffic and seems to drive without a problem. Once he passes the job over to me he can go home and not have to worry about this anymore. I sit up straight in my chair and look out the passenger side window to get an idea of where we're going. The highway takes us to the North side of town, then we reach a gated community full of Mini Mansions. Eugene buzzes in at the intercom.
"It's Windgate, for the Williams family," he says.
I don't catch what the person on the intercom says but there's a mechanical buzz before the large gate blocking our path rolls out of the way. The road through the gated community winds quite a ways. There's a golf course in the area with homes wedged in and out of it like knots on a tree.
We pause a few times to let golf carts cross the street. Eventually we reach a three story house faced with rough limestone. Eugene parks in front of the four car garage in the driveway. He turns to look at me for the first time since the hotel and takes in a deep calming breath before letting it back out.
"I'm trusting you aren't lying about the P.I. license," he begins. "But I wont ask to see it because I know it will have information about your being a...about you on it."
"I understand," I say.
"Good," he says with a nod. He holds up a finger, "Don't use your powers. Follow my lead."
I nod again. "Not a problem at all."
"Very good," he says with another sigh. He opens his car door. "Let's go, Detective Simmons."
I follow him to the front door. The lawn is well maintained, bright green short grass that probably uses a lot of water. There's a small ash tree in the front yard near the sidewalk that leads from the concrete driveway. It reminds me of a friend.
When Starling mentioned the family was rich I was expecting something more grand than this. Maybe a butler and a maid?
Eugene rings the doorbell. A moment later the door opens and an older gentleman in a tuxedo answers it.
"Ah yes, the detective," he says. "Right this way, sir."
Okay, I guess they do have a butler?
The butler leads Eugene and I through a small foyer, my boots sound heavy against the white marble floors. We enter a sitting room that reminds me of something from a period drama set in Victorian England. There's no television but an old style Victrola sits in the corner with a curved horn on top to serve as an amplifier. I wonder if the thing is vintage or even functions.
Who the hell lives like this?
"Please wait here. I will retrieve the Master of the House," the butler says before turning to leave the room.
Eugene seems a bit tense. He remains standing and pushes his coat back enough to shove a thumb into each front pocket of his slacks. I look around the room a bit more. There's a pretty large decorative end table that has a space built into it for a dog to sleep in. A few dog toys have been tossed in it. The cushion is covered in gray and white hair that is noticeably absent from the uncomfortable looking sofa in the center of the room.
Bookshelves and display cabinets line the walls of the room. One cabinet, that stands next to a large bay window, is tall with curved glass and filled with old photos of oil rigs. Some of the photos are ancient tin types, while others look more recent. This family may be from old oil money.
This probably isn't their only house.
The door opens again, loudly, as the 'Master of the House' enters. A tall white man with flaxen blond hair that's been combed over. He's in his early forties, thin, save for his gut which is a little round. His skin is pale and smooth. He may be from oil money but he hasn't spent much time on a rig, unless he actually used sunscreen.
Behind him is a woman with similarly colored hair and skin. She's not as tall, and looks to be at least ten years younger. I'd think she was his daughter if not for the matching wedding bands on each of their ring fingers.
"Detective Windgate!" The man says, ignoring me. He practically forces Eugene to shake his hand and barely lets him get a word in edgewise. "It's good to see you again. We've been looking forward to hearing back from you. How have you been? Any breakthroughs?"
"About that," Eugene begins.
"My son has been more withdrawn than last time," the man says. "I'm afraid he's having trouble processing what he's become, but we've been hesitant to take him anywhere to get another opinion. The leading expert in Children of Loki is apparently busy with some dreadfully important tests or study or something."
Who the fuck uses 'dreadfully' like that nowadays? I wonder to myself. Dude talks like some stuffy Victorian but without a British accent. Is this guy always like this?
"Yes, well, Mr. Williams, about that," Eugene begins.
"Patrick!" Mr. Williams calls. "Patrick, come in here!"
"No, that's alright," Eugene says loudly.
I step forward and make sure Mr. Williams can see me. "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Williams. I'm Detective Page Simmons."
He glances down at me then calls again. "Patrick!"
"Mr. Williams," Eugene begins again. "Detective Simmons is here because they are an expert on CoLs who has worked with Doctor Hailu."
Mr. Williams finally looks at me as though I'm actually standing in the room, which I am.
"You've worked with Doctor Hailu? Why would she need a detective?"
"I'm a lot of things," I say. "I've worked with her in other capacities."
"Unfortunately, a confidentiality agreement prevents me from going into detail," I explain. It is true but only for some portions of some studies, not everything in general. I'm mostly worried about potentially causing Eugene trouble right now so I'm trying to keep things vague. "But rest assured I am an expert in CoL cases."
Mr. Williams narrows his eyes and looks down at me before turning back toward Eugene. "Where did you find this woman?"
"Detective Simmons was referred to me by Doctor Hailu herself," Eugene says. "They are an expert."
"She looks like a kid," Mr. Williams says.
I really don't look that young, I think to myself.
Eugene is about to say something else, possibly in response to Mr. Williams insisting on using feminine pronouns for myself so I interrupt him this time.
"She, he, they, any and all pronouns are fine by me," I say with a smile. "I have my identification if you'd like to look it over."
"That can be faked, and I'm certainly not calling you 'he,'" Mr. Williams says with a scoff before shouting again. "PATRICK! GET IN HERE!"
There's a thud in another part of the house before the sound of footsteps coming down stairs. I track the noise through the house as it draws closer.
"Mr. Williams," Eugene begins. "Unfortunately I won't be able to-"
The door pops open and a ten year old boy with a human sized crab claw for a left hand and arm bursts in. "I'm here, Papa!"
"Geeze!" Eugene shouts with a wince and ducks.
I step between him and the kid with my hands up as the child continues to approach waving his claw gleefully. "Settle down."
"Make me," the kid says angrily.
"Now, Patrick, we spoke about this," Mr. Williams says. "That is no way to greet guests."
The kid sticks his tongue out at me. I shake my head and turn to see Detective Windgate standing tall behind me, his hair a bit more slicked back than before.
"You okay, Detective Windgate?" I ask.
He nods confidently. "Fine, safe. No problem here."
Shit, he didn't get to quit the job yet.
"If you're such an expert," Mr. Williams begins while crossing his arms. His words are biting, "Then explain to us how our ten year old son has become a Child of Loki."
I don't look at the kid. Instead I look at Starling. "What happened last time you were here? When you met the kid and before you left?"
He smirks and waves at the child who has now transformed his crab claw into several long purple octopus tentacles that flop around from his long sleeve shirt cuff. "Patrick did something like that after his parents demanded he show off his powers. I took the job and left."
"Why are you asking him questions?" Mr. Williams asks.
I ignore him.
jumps on the seat of the couch, waving his octo-arm around more while
making rocket noises.
"Mrs. Williams, has Patrick always been this rambunctious?" I ask.
It takes her a moment to overcome her shock that I've addressed her before she answers. "No, he hasn't been this...naughty before. He used to want me to read to him at night and to play with Pinot, that was our dog. I thought it was because Pinot was missing or because of the change."
Patrick hops off the couch and waves his tentacles at Detective Windgate who stares down at him impassively before the kid moves on to try to scare me with his weird limb. He jumps a little when I just squat down to be eye to eye with him. I know I told Eugene I wouldn't use my powers but I strengthen my body just in case. It wont be visible and he's already got Starling driving so maybe it will work out if I have to use them for anything.
"What kind of dog is Pinot?" I ask.
"Pinot's gone," Patrick says while smacking me in the face with the fleshy tentacles.
"What breed was Pinot? What color was Pinot?"
"What does that matter?" Mr. Williams asks angrily. "You're supposed to be an expert in CoLs and all you're doing is asking my son what color our dog was?"
I keep my eyes fixed on the kid who's still batting me in the face with his shapeshifted hand. He's trying his hardest to be as annoying and weird as possible.
"Because this isn't your son."