Chapter 45:

Accountability - Part 1


“How much water ya drink every day?” Anna asked as they worked together on the crates of the warehouse now that investigating around it brought very little of use. “Doin’ this kinda thing this much ain’t normal…”

“Shut up.” A beet-red Karim answered without much of a bite even if her tone seemed to be somewhat angry. Even if she was angry, her cataloging of the apprehended goods was still perfectly done.

“But, c’mon, I got surprised there too, lotta surprise even, but still…”

“Do us a favor and shut up, okay?”

“Fine, fine. I’ll be quiet.” The inquisitor conceded, still with a cocky smirk in her face and lightly chuckling, but conceding nonetheless. “It’s still funny though.”

“I hate you.”

“That’s cute, cutie.”

“Go to hell, please. Any of them.”

“That’s fer later.”

“You two are a pair of weirdos, you know that?” Col commented on what she had said once before as she dropped another one of the intact crates close to the other girls. “One broke half her ribs and the other, you know, and all to arrest a small fish... Wouldn’t it be easier to just take them down right away instead of trying to talk?”

“Those two were almost givin’ up back there. Shorty was this close to pullin' the ‘talk before shoot’ thing off. It would've saved us time…”

It ended as a lost bet, but it would be good if it had worked. Being able to question those two right away would likely save a lot of time.

Also, even if there was no proof, Annabeth was worried that the remaining cop wouldn't last long. She, for one, wouldn't let a possible witness survive in a case like this.

There was nothing she could do about it right now, though. No time to keep a watch on that woman and no spare forces to send away to do so.

“Not having to wait up would save time for sure, but is it worth the risk? You’ve been taking too many risky gambles lately, Anna…” Col answered as the number of abnormalities in her friend's actions were starting to pile.

“So being a herald of chaos isn’t Annabeth’s normal?” Karim asked back with some genuine surprise on her face. “Never saw her do something different.”

“It ain’t like that. Y’both just can’t see how perfect my movements are...” The red-haired gunslinger quipped back as another box full of doll pieces was closed. “Other blank ‘ere, Col. Put it with the others.”

“Will do.”

Annabeth’s order put the conversation back to a serious note and Col, for the tenth time in the last hour, grabbed the accounted crate and went outside. She would leave them with the other cops for a second glance, but it was hard to consider that they would find something the two girls didn't.

This system was only meant to keep outside interference at a minimum anyway, so that was fine still.

“We got mannequins, doll parts, paints, construction material and some very specific chemicals, so maybe we can call it a day already...” Anna said as she didn’t believe they would find anything more here and was very sure of what this place was about. "The pattern is quite clear by now."

“I would like to check everything to be safe, but it's hard to not agree with this much repetition…”

All crates and the containers they looked at had one of the five options Annabeth had listed, with barely any changes. It was to a point where the two could likely guess what would be inside each crate even.

They also found signs of something like a rudimental assembly in the area, but it didn’t help in much too. If anything, it was another sign that they weren't in the place this 'army of dolls' was hidden.

“It’s fair to assume we’ve got their assembly plant, ‘aight? We could’ve arrested the workers if we came earlier, maybe, but this place is useless now.”

“I guess we got unlucky here…” Karim agreed while also giving up on taking notes about the situation. “The problem is ‘where the things they assembled went to’, right?”

“Exactly this. I betcha that truck had some siblings, but findin’ where they went will be a problem…”

“A truck transporting goods from the harbor is the most common of a thing you can get around here, so yes, a problem for sure.”

If they were lucky, this whole army and their improvised guns would be hidden in the same place, but they could be spread out too.

There weren’t that many places one could store a high number of goods without calling attention in the end. The best-case scenario was very unlikely. And without a way to track the truck, or trucks, that carried them, the only other option would be searching everywhere.

“If we got warehouse’s overseer or the harbormaster, then we could beat some answers out of ‘em, but now...” The redhead sighed while trying to think about ways those two could have fled. “Maybe our only bet is that cop in the end...”

“See if they know another way out of the warehouse?”

“If it was that simple, then we could look fer it ourselves… There must be somethin’ more ‘ere.”

“Some sort of secret passage or maybe a teleport?”

“It would’ve to be somethin’ that ya can turn off somehow so I wouldn’t be able to feel it, but yeah. There must be some kind of trick ‘ere fer things to make sense.” Anna answered with a slightly disinterested voice. “I can’t think of how it would stay hidden after all we looked though. The office was pretty much empty too, so there’s almost nothin’ to go from.”

“Burnt papers and a sacked safe won’t help for sure.”

“At least I got some compensation there.” The redhead smirked while remembering the office they had visited earlier. “They manage to burn everythin’ in time, but leavin’ some gold ingots behind like that…”

“You shouldn’t go stealing things just because they were from a criminal.”

“If it ain’t me, then some government somethin’ will take it, ain’t I right? I’ll be sendin’ the money back to the city either way, so where’s the problem, ay?”

“Your logic is as terrible as always…” Karim continued while also going back to the main subject at hand. “Anyway, we’re considering that they have a good number of dolls, pipes and bolts, and black powder was hidden somewhere in the city, right? In more than one place even.”

“Pretty much so. And with what I saw in the truck out there, they would need some good tens of travels to prepare a decent number.”

“In this case, wouldn’t everything be either close to the harbor or deep into the factories? I would’ve heard about traffic problems if trucks kept unloading crates inside the main street.” The petite girl pointed out in search of something that could help their dilemma. “There’s only so much material you can move inside the city without calling attention…”

“That’s true too. It would work if this place had malls that need a buncha goods all the time, but the shops are too small fer that.”

“So it’s either the big factories or some construction site in the condominium area?”

“I think so. It wouldn’t be weird to see lotta materials movin’ 'round these areas, especially if yer buildin’ something. These're too far from the main street though. It would work best if there was...” Anna suddenly stopped before she could finish her phrase and then stood in place for a moment.

She saw another answer to the whole problem and this one was a terrible one. It had many bad implications, but it made too much sense to not try it out.

"If there was a big distraction to use."

A place where construction goods and materials could be moved around without calling attention and one right at the temple's face. More than that, one where you wouldn’t even need to use crates to hide the dolls around.

Somewhere that almost no one really paid attention to since it wasn't the time for such yet.

“I know where the army is.”

“You do?!”

“Yes…” The inquisitor answered her surprised partner with a rare expression of seriousness on her face. “And it's very bad.”