Chapter 144:

The Tancred Detective Agency (And Daycare Center) 2

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

At the door of the detective's office stood a Hobusian. He was slightly taller than Odell, with enough bandages wrapped around him to mistake him for a mummy if the concept existed on Resh. His grey face showed from under the bandages, and a broken, cracked crown jaggedly ran alongside his forehead.

The Hobusian leaned against the door, and several children of various species did their best to prevent him from falling over.

“Good to see you, Odell,” the Hobusian said in a low and tired voice.

“Do I know you?” Odell asked. The stranger chuckled.

“Hagan Aio, Cecelia’s uncle. I think the last time I saw you, you were this tall,” the man explained while holding his hand near his waist. Odell made an ‘ah-ha’ sound as he realized.

The name was infamous in the Hobusian noble circles, but Odell had never bothered to familiarize himself with the man’s appearance. Last the young prince heard, Hagan had taken up employment as a special agent for the king.

“The loss must have been severe,” Hal commented as he eyed the many bandages on the Hobusian soldier.

Hagan shook his head.

“I’m a little beat up, but the children thought I needed more medical care,” he said with disdain as he tried to gently but forcefully push the children away from himself. “Rym, I believe it is your turn to watch them,” the injured Hobusian soldier added with a pleading tone.

“Why are there children here anyway?” Odell asked.

“Detective work can’t pay the bills alone anymore!” Tancred said with a bitterness accenting his voice. He waved for the others to follow.

They were led down the stairs to an open room in the building. A couch and other sitting arrangements had been set up over a thick carpet. Odell and Hal sat on the sofa with Tancred, Rym sat in an empty chair, and Hagan was carefully aided into what looked like a recliner. The children that had followed him and additional ones sat on the carpet in the center and eagerly listened.

Hagan cleared his throat as he continued to speak.

“I remained in Hobz for the conference. When the news came out that King Whitlock had perished, King Fio sent a message for me to go to Nun. So I came here and began to look around and ask questions,” Hagan stopped and looked to the children at his feet. “This story doesn’t end pleasantly. Should we have them leave the room?” he asked.

“Their parents let them see worse on tablets; keep going,” Tancred said with a casual wave of his hand. Hagan shrugged and continued.

“Unfortunately, I was ill-prepared for what came. I thought I had a lead on the ringleader, but I fell into a trap. My opponents sought to play with me. They snapped my arm first, then my leg. One carried a large scythe, and he tried to cut my innards out. I barely escaped, and I only think they stopped chasing since they thought I was left for dead.”

“Did you die, Uncle Hagan!” one younger child asked.

“If I were dead, I wouldn’t be here, and I’m not your uncle!” Hagan snapped at the child. The young ones laughed in response. He cleared his throat and began to address Hal and Odell, “King Fio had given me Tancred’s name, so I managed to crawl my way here for refuge, but I have been out of contact with the king ever since. At the very least, I found something that will prove helpful to you.

The enemy is planning something new, and they have begun to move. They are still trying to stay in the shadows but are very active. The beauideal Dia is the first lead, but I figure you knew as much. She has to keep making public appearances to avoid suspicion, so I thought I’d leave investigating her for later. The second lead I found is the Hilbert Casino and Hotel. I believe several of their agents are working there; to what end, I cannot say.”

Tancred crossed his arms and nodded.

“Now you have it,” he said to Odell and Hal.

Odell nodded and looked around at all the faces. He felt he should say something meaningful but couldn't think of what words to use. Hal managed to speak up for him.

“The casino shall be a suitable location; let us gather what we need and leave,” he said.

“I thought you might say that!” Tancred said with a laugh as he jumped to his feet. “Well, let us be off; we have quite a journey! Rym, you will join us. Hagan, you will continue to watch the kids!”

“Now, hold on a minute!” Hagan began to protest, but Tancred had already run out the door. Odell and Hal quickly followed after. Rym stopped and gave Hagan a look of sympathy. “I’m not even an employee! Why am I suddenly in charge of this daycare!” The injured soldier protested.

“Apologies, your backup should arrive soon,” Rym said briskly before following The others out the door.

“Uncle Hagan, do you want to go fight the bad guys too?” a child asked.

Hagan couldn’t form his hand into a fist due to the bandages, but he shook it in the air like he had.

“I am an elite soldier that specializes in espionage and assassinations, not your uncle!”

“You must not be a very good soldier if you got beat up that bad,” another child said in the sort of innocent, but deeply cutting, way only a small child could.

The injured soldier let his head hang in defeat as the group of four headed out on the streets. The casino was their destination.