The security guards immediately went into action. First, it was Julian. While he was being cuffed, he kept giving Asra an accusingly with a dastardly looking smile. “You can’t slip away from me now, magician!” he exclaimed, while being ushered to the front of the mansion.
“Ilya, what are you talking about?” Asra asked, his face showing clear confusion.
The guards began to cuff Asra, and my heart felt like it was sinking. “Wait!” I said, my hands tightly gripping Asra’s silky clothes.
“It’s fine, love,” he said, giving me a reassuring smile. “They’re just going to take me to the police station. You can still meet me there.”
“But, you didn’t do anything…”
I gave a desperate glance towards Nadia, but her expression showed that it was too late anyway. Right… I had forgotten that these guards were assigned to arrest Julian at all costs if they saw him by chance. And that most likely included anyone who was claimed an accomplice…
“I was still accused… Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out. Together, okay?”
I didn’t reply. No, more like I couldn’t. It hurt to see him being taken away.
When I didn’t respond he continued, “So you’re the worrywart now.”
I couldn’t help but smile from his words. He was trying his best to cheer me up in the situation, despite him being the one in handcuffs. My eyes lifted, and my lips crashed into his. I knew that we would see each other again… but I still wanted to give a proper goodbye.
When we parted, the security guards guided him away towards the front of the mansion with Julian. I could feel a comforting hand rest on my shoulder. Nadia’s.
“What will they do?” I asked, my voice barely above a whisper.
She took a moment to reply, as if this wasn’t what she wanted either. And it was difficult for her too… “Well… After they’re taken to the station, they’ll get searched, and they will give samples. Then interviewed, and then the police will decide if they will be charged or not,” she explained.
“But… Didn’t you say that this city wants Julian executed? And if they know Asra is an accomplice…”
They might want him executed too…
I couldn’t even say that. It made me sick to even think that would happen. My heart felt like it had been broken in two at just the thought that people would want him… dead.
Asra was that weird, cool magician that ran the shop. Almost everyone knew him in Center City. He was always so kind to everyone. But would that help his case at all? Would that convince the police at all? Most likely not.
Nadia’s voice snapped me out of my terrible thoughts. “Don’t worry. I don’t want your special someone to be arrested for something he didn’t do. We’ll get through this.”
Asra sat in the cell of the police station, an officer just right outside. Next to him was Ilya. The one who got him into this mess. His night with his love was ruined. He could tell just from her face that she was so worried. He didn’t want to see her like that…
“So, uh, Asra… How have you been lately?” the doctor asked. Asra could see him through the cold blue bars of the cell.
How… have I been…?
“Well, the shop’s been good. I was just helping Nadia out with the up and coming Masquerade. So life has been pretty crazy, but otherwise, fine.”
“ No. Did you think that I would say something so nonchalant? You got me stuck in this cell for a crime that I didn’t even commit.”
“We’re going to be on trial for Lucio’s murder. And I know you know something about it. Something I don’t.”
Asra heaved a sigh. “I do? How long have you been rehearsing that line?” he asked.
“I- you- it’s not like I had anything better to do last night!” From what Asra could see, Julian's face was flushed. Until his grey eye widened in realization. “No, no, I won’t let you dance around the issue this time. I know there was something strange about Lucio’s death. Creepy. Probably magic.”
“Right, and if it was ‘creepy magic,’ it must have been me. Am I following?”
The doctor groaned and ran a gloved hand through his locks. “This sounded better in my head.” He stood and began to pace in the small cell. “You were at the mansion. You hated Lucio. And you cursed me, so-”
“I didn’t curse you, Ilya.”
“Wait… What? You didn’t curse me?” Julian asked, his lips parted in surprise.
Asra felt a bubbling sensation of annoyance and frustration. He answered, “No. And I could have told you that without being locked in this cell.” The magician let out another sigh, his brows furrowing. “Is that it? I’m in this place as revenge for a curse that I didn’t even place?”
“No, that’s not what I- this is impossible. You’ve always been impossible,” Julian said, shaking his head. He was also getting a little heated.
Impossible… Just like what Lucio said…
“Try again. You’ve called me worse than that.”
The officer outside of the cell banged on the door. “Hey! Can’t you both be quiet?” they grunted.
All Asra wanted was to be home with his love. Laying in bed with her, playing with her hair, or her playing with his, it didn’t matter. Eating food, watching their favorite movies together, and maybe a little more… But, no. He knew he was going to be questioned for hours, maybe even days. And Ilya even longer. How was he going to get out of this mess? He knew that he could easily escape, even without his trusty bag. But that wasn't right... He didn't want to be like Ilya.
The locks to the heavy door clicked. When it opened the officer gestured for Asra to stand. “You got an interview since you were the accused,” they said, taking out their handcuffs.
“What about him?” Asra asked, turning around so they could cuff him.
“He’ll go straight to court for the crime he claimed he committed. And then they will decide the sentence.”
The officer didn’t answer. Instead, they lead Asra towards the room where the interview would be held. The magician gave Ilya one last look before turning the corner in the fluorescent-lit hallway.
I walked through the doors of the police station. It was the day after Asra and the doctor were arrested, bright and early. I walked up to the front desk. A woman was typing on the computer while sipping a mug of coffee, barely even noticing that I entered the building.
When she lifted her tired eyes to me, she took one long drag from her coffee before reluctantly setting it back down.
“How may I help you, ma’am?” she asked.
“Um, hello. I was just wondering if people were allowed to visit people who were already arrested. Uh, here.”
“No, ma’am. We rarely ever let people visit someone who is in the custody of the police and is already detained.”
A confident and stoic sounding voice filled the lobby. Nadia. “ Perhaps, you can make an exception for this girl here,” she voiced, resting both of her warm hands on my shoulders. She towered over me and the desk jockey since she was wearing heels that day. Her piercing red eyes were set on the front desk.
The lady seemed to instantly recognize Nadia. I could tell just from her bulging eyes and her slacked jaw. After a moment of recollecting herself, she replied, “I-I’m sorry, Ms. Satrinava. But I still can’t allow it. I would if I could, but I might lose my job…” she explained.
“There’s no need to worry about that. I’ll do my very best to make sure that you’ll be protected. I have permission from Mrs. Flournoy herself. Here, this is the document that can prove it,” Nadia stated, laying a neatly folded piece of paper on the desk.
Flournoy… Isn’t that the mayor…?
The woman sitting behind the desk seemed to be at a loss for words. She couldn’t deny that she had to let me pass. And neither could her superiors.
I made my way with another officer where the detained were held. I could hear what sounded like distant bickering echoing off the white walls of the hallway. We reached the end where Asra and Julian were, in two separate cells.
The officer that was guarding the cells looked annoyed at the arguments that were taking place. After the person explained to them what was going on, they moved aside and unlocked the door.
Asra’s eyes snapped to the door of the cell, and as soon as he saw me, a warm smile spread across his face.
“You’re alright…” he whispered, standing from the concrete floor. He moved to embrace me but got yanked back from the chains that were connected to the wall. Asra sighed and raised his cuffed hands. “Ever since I told them I knew magic, they gave me enchanted handcuffs. So I can’t escape. Even though I didn’t plan to…”
He smoothed the creases from his outfit and looked to the cell to his left. “This is the infamous Doctor Julian Devorak. I believe you’ve met him before.”
I glanced at the doctor and his eye immediately averted away from me. That’s when I realized that I didn’t tell Asra about how we met. Or when we talked at the Rowdy Raven.
“We’ve met a few times,” I said.
Asra grinned. “Really? A few times? Aside from when he broke into our shop?” he asked.
Julian finally piped up. “Uh… Listen, it’s not that interesting-”
“I found him at the Rowdy Raven. And he even offered to buy me a drink.”
“I just, you know, thought I’d get to know the person trying to find me and arrest me!” he said, almost as if he was making an excuse for himself.
Asra’s cunning eyes seemed to cut through the bars of the cells we were in. “...Oh, Ilya. That does sound like something you would do.”
Julian continued to explain. Or tried. “It was a spur of the moment thing! Rather like, uh, our current situation.”
The magician’s eyes widened at his words. And I could feel the sudden sense of bafflement in Asra’s questions. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying? You interrupted my evening with her, disrupted my plans, and got me arrested… all of some ridiculous whim?! ”
The doctor quickly tried to explain once more. “It’s not like that! I’ve been trying to find you ever since I came back to Vesuvia. I needed answers from you! So when I saw you at the mansion… I took a chance. And, uh, well… here we are.”
Asra was quick to reply, “Ilya, I don’t just vanish into a cloud of smoke! You didn’t need to get me arrested just to talk. I’m not that hard to find!”
“...Am I?” he asked. It sounded like he was questioning himself more than us. But Julian looked to me for a second opinion, and eventually, Asra did as well.
I remembered the times that I wanted to contact Asra. I rarely got a reply. He didn’t read my messages either… And sometimes, he just left without a single word about where he was going, and what he was going to be doing. The only indication would be postcards that he’d send or give to me when he miraculously came back. And that’s the thing though.
He always comes back…
But… maybe Julian did have a point.
“You do like to vanish sometimes,” I answered. Asra shuffled his feet in the increasingly uncomfortable silence.
“If you couldn’t follow me… if you didn’t share my troubles… I thought that I might’ve been able to protect you. But I was wrong. The time for keeping secrets is long past. Just look at Ilya and I,” he said, gesturing to the other cell where the lanky doctor sat. He continued, “I wasn’t avoiding you, Ilya. I’ve been leaving for my own reasons, but also for more information about Lucio too.”
“And I came back to Vesuvia for the very same thing. Ooh, the irony is delicious. I should write a play about all this,” he said, giving a toothy grin.
But the air changed when Asra mentioned the goatman. “Ilya… We saw Lucio. Or something that used to be him.”
Julian gave Asra his full attention. “Are you saying that… Lucio is alive?” he asked, his voice low and discreet.
“Not exactly alive. But he is coming back. I’m sure of it.”
I understood the look of disbelief on Julian’s face. It all sounded pretty crazy.
“...What?! Where? How?” he asked.
“We first saw him in the forest outside Vesuvia. THen at the mansion. And he’s stronger each time he appears. The beetles are back too. We found a whole swarm of them in Nopal,” Asra explained.
Julian’s face went pale. “You’ve also seen the beetles? Both of you?”
I nodded. How could I have forgotten about the blood-red swarm in the depths of the dam we were in.
The doctor shook his head, looking dejected. “I thought the beetles were a figment of my guilty imagination,” he said.
“As imaginative you are, the beetles are real. And so is Lucio. We were with Nadia, figuring out what to do about all this when…” Asra shook his chained arms in front of Julian.
“Oh. I, uh, I didn’t know. I thought you might be up to something more… nefarious.”
“Of course you didn’t know. I didn’t tell you. I wasn’t even sure if you’d believe me about Lucio.”
“Well, it makes sense. If the beetles are back too,” Julian said. His lips curled into a charming smile. “But even you have to admit, it sounds like a ghost story. Or a scary movie.”
The tall doctor stood and thrust out his chest in an imperious pose. “Ooooh, I am the murdered CEO! Back to haunt my city that I could never truly control!” he said, dramatically falling to his knees with his hand over his face.
Asra tried to frown, but he couldn’t help the smile that cracked through. “That’s not nearly as overbearing as Lucio.”
The mood changed, and they didn’t seem to be as tense with each other as before. But I knew that that didn’t change their predicament. They were still in the police station, and they might’ve been up for trial.
“We need to focus on what’s next,” I said.
Asra nodded his head. “You’re right, love. One problem at a time. Well, Ilya? When you’re up for trial are you still going to martyr yourself?” he asked.
“Well, we still don’t know what’s going to happen with you, Asra. I know for a fact that I’ll be going to trial though. But if you do end up with me, then who will be trying us?” Julian asked.
“There will be a jury and a judge,” I answered.
The doctor paused, thinking. Asra only looked over to him and grinned. “You always say that you’re good with people, Ilya. Maybe it’s time you put your theatrical skills to the test.”
Julian smirked and replied, “Is that a challenge? I believe that’s a challenge.”
“I wouldn’t dream of challenging you. Warming people up to me isn’t my strong suit.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. She came all the way down to the police station and past the officers just for you. Which is a rare circumstance,” the doctor said.
For the first time in the police station, the magician paused. As if he realized…
Asra turned to me, holding out his hand. “He’s right. Oh, love. What would I do without you?” he asked, pulling me closer towards him. My arms snaked around his torso, tightly embracing his warmth. He did the same, sighing contentedly.
Suddenly, I could feel a playful spark coming from Asra’s aura. He smiled into the crook of my neck and then turned to the doctor. “Ilya, she gives the most wonderful hugs,” he said, a glimpse of mischief in his eyes.
“W-well that’s nice and all, but I can’t really do anything with these bars,” Julian said.
I decided to play along…
I glanced towards the cell’s door and saw the two officers facing the wall adjacent to us.
I lifted my hand to the blue bars and gripped the cold metal. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I imagined the unsettling and uncomfortable feeling to just… disappear.
I did this many times before under Asra’s watchful eye. He said that it was a good trick if I ever wanted to get out of a pickle. I knew that he could've done this before when he first arrived to the station. But Asra wasn't the one to just blatantly escape without a well thought out plan.
Soon, my hand seemed to close and clench into a fist with nothing in between. I opened my eyes and saw that I created a perfect hole for me to step through and into the doctor's cell. The edges phased in and out. I didn’t have a lot of time. I took one more glance over at the officers and climbed through, holding my hand out to Julian. I gave him an encouraging smile and tried hard to conceal the laughter that was bubbling up in my chest. His face was priceless…
He looked as if he was at a loss for words. His one eye was as wide as a saucer, and his brows raised high in shock. After another moment of just getting a hold of what I just did, he finally spoke.
“W-wait, uh, how did you…?” he trailed off, rubbing his eye at the waves of energy coming off the edge of the hole I created.
I grabbed his hand and pulled the lanky man through and into Asra’s cell. My arms wrapped around his, pulling him just a bit closer to the both of us.
“I promise I won’t bite,” Asra whispered, playfully grinning at the flushed doctor.
“R-really? I, uh, I hope not.”
My hands slid only a little bit further up his arms and Asra’s did the same. I could feel the heat radiating off of this man.
“See, Ilya? It’s not so bad after all,” Asra said, his voice low because of the officers.
“...No, not so bad. Thanks… But, uh, why do you both smell like a calmer version of a Bath and Body Works?” he asked.
“Nadia helped us freshen up at the mansion. I hope I still look presentable for the court.”
“Hah! That’s if you go to court. And you don’t look like you’ve spent even a minute in police custody!” Julian’s gloved hands roamed across the fabric of Asra’s outfit.
“Magic, Ilya. And a little motivation…” Asra said, winking at me. He sighed and closed his eyes. “I’d love to stay like this, but we have a visitor.”
Asra gently let go of the both of us and kneeled. I could see a hint of lavender making its way through the other empty cells, avoiding the eyes of the officers. Faust. She slithered up Asra’s arm, flicking her tongue in greeting.
“I was wondering when you would join us,” Asra said, very gently rubbing some dust off the top of her noggin.
“Big friend coming!” she whispered.
“He’s coming here? But… this place only has terrible memories for him. If he came back because of me…” Asra trailed off, a mix of worry and sorrow in his eyes.
“What? Who are you talking about?” Julian asked. The doctor began to make his way back into his original cell, still giving the edges of the portal a baffled look.
“A friend of mine who’s coming. But he’s… not good with crowds.” I instantly thought back on how there was a growing number of people outside of the police station since Nadia had arrived with me.
I closed the hole that I created, and turned to Asra, who gave me a meaningful look. “Remember the smell of myrrh?”
I recalled the sweet, earthy, and warm scent. And I brought to a name that was tied with it. “Muriel.”
Julian looked utterly perplexed, glancing at all of us before asking, “Muriel? Is that another magician?”
“No. You wouldn’t remember him… At least not by that name. Faust, can you make sure he’s all right?”
“Yes!” And she slithered away before one of the officers turned around and knocked on the heavy door. They didn’t wait for a reply and instead, just opened the door, suspiciously glancing at the two of us.
Then, I could hear Portia’s voice coming down from the hall. “Are you still down here? I don’t think we have much more time!” she said. “They want to question you too though. Since you were technically Nadia’s lead investigator in finding Julian.”
I turned to Asra one last time, not wanting to leave him at all. But he gave me an encouraging smile and waved to me. “Don’t worry about me. I still have to get questioned again soon…” he said. I nodded and tried to give my best smile. I didn’t want him to go to court. Because that would stick with him forever…
I reluctantly went to go get questioned. At least I knew that if Asra went to court with Julian, I would be there as well.