Built on Sand

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Agent Bob

You crave for interesting cases only until you meet one. When that happens, all the excitement and cinematic stuff you had anticipated and that made your job sound at least vaguely cool, all of that was replaced by working overtime and general annoyance. But, whatever, it's not like you really can complain, either way.

So, he'd done his job just right, and same could be said about his mate. And after a day of walking and talking, there they were at the station, waiting for Steele. What was his actual name, by the way? Surely he'd learnt it some time, but the information didn't really stick. Bob was quite the opposite from that point of view. Robert McKinna on his I.D., he was almost universally known as just Bob. His colleague was a more nuanced case, being David Richards or Dave or David or "hey you" depending on the circumstances.

For totally unrelated reasons, unless you cared about some weird sense of symmetry, Bob that day was the one supposed to tell all the story. Which was better than interrupting each other or taking turns like Huey, Dewey, and Louie (or didn't they? Not that it really mattered at the moment, except for a sudden desire to go home and look for old-timely cartoons, probably on YouTube).

Anyway, sitting in the drably furnished room - was drably an actual world? - he looked now at the door, now at his notes. Now at stacks of random stuff laying around. "Governmental-gray", that should have been a word.
Sometimes, a case had all the answers available right away. This wasn't one of those. In fact, the case with the British scholar had ended up having more questions than usual – and seemingly not all that many obvious answers. Still, the answer to that was time. There was no such thing as a perfect crime. Evidence was left behind, witnesses were bound to be found eventually. Putting the facts together gave way to results.

Steele's day had just started, but others had worked on the case while he was enjoying some well-deserved rest. The baton was about to be passed. Steele already got mentions of him being needed elsewhere as we was getting dressed in his uniform at the lockers.

A steady, slightly oppressive set of heavy steps approached the room Steele was supposed to grace with his presence as the cop in question made his way in. A couple of strong knocks were delivered on the door frame, but he didn't wait for a response or a call in. He was already expected, after all – and then again, Steele hardly was the most formal officer around.

"Hey," came his gruff greeting as the man poked his head in, taking a look at two familiar coworkers. Well, maybe not that familiar, but he certainly recognized the mugs staring back at him.
"Heard there was something to report," Steele continued as he walked in.
agent bob

"Sure". No need to talk the useless talk with Steele, right? Well, when in Rome... or even better, when with your superiors... "First of all, we had a talk at the Willowhill Hotel, where the victim was living. The receptionist said he left after 7 p.m., he was talking at the phone to someone he called "Mike"... which has a chance of being our Mr. Sargent, as it is known they were good friends". As he spoke, he casually tapped on a notebook on the table. A notebook full of notes, just in case more details were needed. Although, that talk was meant to convey all the essential.
"They also said that, lately, he spent more and more time in his room. Working, he said, although he was less prone to disclosure than he used to. You know, not long ago he was holding lectures, sharing his discoveries with anyone interested... that'd changed quite radically. Also, chances are his room is full of stuff that might be relevant to the case. There would be something to do about that, before anyone tampers with it. Then... then we might have something close to a witness, although it'd need some more check...".
Steele closed the door behind him as he took a seat across the two men, his posture quite relaxed – but he was attentive, nevertheless. His lips pressed together into a tight line as he listened, mulling over the facts and what they could mean. Things definitely were sounding rather… Suspicious. The victim had suddenly altered his behavior before his death… What had he gotten himself into?
"Don't think we have any handy suspicious people having recently visited the guy?" Steele asked after a moment of silence. That would be too easy, wouldn't it. This Mike, though… He might have been the last person the victim spoke to. Or perhaps, the last person the victim met. But before there was time for more questions, a certain word caught the cop's interest first.
"A witness? Someone other than this Mike, or…?"
agent bob

"Mr. Sargent is surely worth having a talk with... if he's "our" Mike, and even if he's not. They were good friends, apparently, so odds are he knows something about Mr. Elliot... or Sir Elliot-Calthrope? Well, about the victim's habits and issues anyway. As for being suspicious... too early to tell, isn't it?" Because, a friend turned killer wasn't an impossible scenario. People were killed by their friends all the time for all sorts of reasons. But again, too early to tell. And their local history geek didn't look strong enough to produce that kind of mess, although of course he could have hired someone bigger. Which lead to the other piece of news. "Another one, yes, one that actually ran to us to tell the story as soon as the news became public. Robert Sullivan, he works for an insurance company, that night was coming back from a night out with friends... and he saw Elliot-Calthrope arguing with a huge guy in an alley. He could not hear all they said, but the man looked huge, sounded threatening, and had a serpent tattoo on his arm. So that's something to consider, too..."
Steele let out a quiet hm as Bob continued talking about Sargent. Definitely sounded like a guy who would have something to say – but whether or not that was a useful something was still unknown. But if he had possibly seen the victim on the day of the murder… Well, it should shed some light into the situation.

And speaking of light, the cop's eyes seemed to lit up with interest when the story of a witness was relayed to him. An argument with a big, threatening guy with a fancy tattoo that served as a pretty damning, unique way to identify someone? The trail was getting hot.
"Can I get a copy of the witness' statement? And any luck of having someone with convenient snake doodles on them in our database?"
agent bob

"Sure". He handed Steele a pile of papers. "Aaaand... yes and no. There's something about a guy with a very similar tattoo, at least the description was similar, I mean... He was seen hanging out at a tavern where someone might have tampered with books and drugs - the Sheriff was looking into that case, actually. Anyway... similar tattoo, but very different guy - one a huge thug, the other a small thing. So unless the tat gives one shape-shifting powers, I'm quite sure they're not the same person".
Steele reached over to grab the papers he had been given, leaving the pile on the table in front of him. His eyes glanced on the words occasionally, but he gave himself more time to read when there wasn't talking he had to concentrate on. The cop's steely gaze rose to look at the talking man when he started giving him more details of the tattoo – or more like, a very similar tattoo's different owner. He frowned slightly.

"Obviously not. If the tattoos are near identical though, either these two were inspired by the same thing or they're a part of the same thing. Like a gang or something," as it wasn't that rare to have gang tattoos. Not that it was a very smart thing to do, identifying yourself as a part of something criminal, but hey. Made their job easier.

Or there was some kind of a cult. A crazy thought that, unfortunately for Steele, forced its way onto him. Surely not, right? Sure, the whole case was weird, but it didn't mean there had to be a whole bunch of weirdos they had to worry about all of a sudden.

"Carter's going to share us her findings about the tattoo guy? Should figure out if he's involved in something bigger."
agent bob

"That'd be great, right? But there isn't much in that sense... Apparently, tattooed guy number two appeared and disappeared, and we're not even sure he was connected to the issue. I mean. Tourist girl got poisoned or something. Apparently she'd been to a book exchange and that was the most suspicious activity of her entire holiday. And guy with weird tattoo had been there, and the owner noticed it. I mean, we might have a story but it takes a bit of imagination, uh? Big guy cornering Elliot-Calthrope, however... I guess they could be part of a cult, what do you think? That'd make highly visible tats a bit less stupid. Well, still stupid, but you could see why they aren't so pragmatic". Not that gangsters were always pragmatic, but then that story was so full of creepiness. The local press was going to be a bit too happy...
Steele frowned as he listened to the story, still not given any juicy details to latch onto. Sure, there were lots of weird bits and bobbles in this whole thing, but what was connected and what wasn't? The second tattoo guy? His sudden disappearance? Part of the same group? A cult? Steele's eyes flicked back to Bob, his brow furrowed. He didn't look like cult was the first thing his mind jumped to…

"…Well, can't say it wasn't a cult, but do we exactly have anything pointing towards something like that? This ain't no work of fiction, after all," the cop leaned back in his chair. Well. He supposed the body did have some rather peculiar cuts on it, but that didn't take a cult. Just any madman would do.
"The woman who found the body… Doubt she's the killer we're looking for, but what's her story? Completely unrelated?"
agent bob

"Maybe it's not a cult and they want us to believe it is. All those cuts weren't done for practical reasons". True, a cult would've been a bit too movie-like even for his tastes, but that was the vibe, if you believed in vibes, of course. As for the lady..."Other than the fact she must let you know she's got a PhD? Which lumps her together with a few comic villains?". He shrugged. "She was there studying bugs, everyone who knows her confirms it's what she does for a living. If you look more into her story you find lots of difficult papers on bugs that I wouldn't bother reading. Although, I saved the list if you like..." Really, Bob felt he'd learnt more about bugs that day that in all his life. "But, I'll try and get more info on the drug investigation. It might be totally unrelated, but I doubt snake tattoos are just the newest fashion, and, well, all this shubnam story is weird enough on it's own, it could very well attract "interesting" people, including our unfortunate victim".