Episode 1 Chapter 29

Theodore wondered what he was doing. He tucked his ticket to freedom into his pocket and pushed open the door to his old office. Work was piled high on the desks, with stacks of unfiled reports everywhere. Either the dome had failed to assign a replacement, or the person selected was incompetent.

“Theodore?!” Randall, his old co-worker, fumbled with an armload of paperwork before dropping it all on the floor. He looked relieved beyond words. “Does this mean you’re back?!”

“No.” He brushed past Randall and forced himself to focus on the task at hand.

Every citizen of Laien left a paper trail, even creatures. The corner of the archive devoted to creature records was thinner than the rest, and rarely accessed, but Theodore knew those records could tell him what he needed.

He pulled a list of all known members of the Red Caps from the Watch’s reports. Silas Jack and Glut topped the list. He did not recognize the other names, but they gave him a starting point. Theodore flung open one filing cabinet after another and fingered through, cross referencing with the practice of an orchestra maestro in the throes of symphony. Data piled up on the table, and then he dug into it.

Silas Jack had a laundry list of criminal warrants. Assaulting Knight Officers, resisting arrest, conspiring against the crown, sabotaging government property. It all started six years ago. Prior to that his record was spotless. Had something happened? There was an answer here, somewhere. Theodore spread the documents out, scanning and rearranging the puzzle pieces.

Before his criminal spree, the census recorded Silas as living in a place called the Hollows. A marriage certificate was issued fourteen years ago. He was married to another ghast named Scarlett. Both names appeared on a birth certificate for a daughter called Nixie. Were they part of the Red Caps as well? Those names did not appear on the list.

Silas maintained a city visa for decades. He paid taxes on a job as, of all things, a government employee. His job was transporting harvested magic from the Fount to the capital. Eight years later, he stopped filing taxes. Was he fired? No. That was around the time the train was completed. He would’ve been laid off. In place of an income, there were other government job applications, requests for haunting territory, and pleas for financial aid. Everything was stamped for rejection. Theodore narrowed his search to documents after this point, and that’s when he found the court case.

Scarlett and Nixie were charged and convicted with home invasion, burglary, and using haunting territory not assigned to them. Crimes of desperation. Both of them were sentenced to execution. Six years ago, the census noted them both as deceased. Two months later, Silas was registered as wicked for crimes of violence. That’s when he became the first Red Cap. Theodore leaned back. All the puzzle pieces were put together, and what they revealed was a tragedy. Now the anger made sense.

There were similar stories to be found among his accomplices. Glut the Terror was never allowed to enter the city for exceeding acceptable levels of monstrous appearance. The troll Dina reported that she’d been driven out of her home by humans, but there was no record of follow up from the Ranger Deputy. Rowan the nymph filed complaint after complaint that his work on government farmland was never paid. They were all the sort of problems the Ranger Deputy was expected to investigate, and yet they were not. The pattern continued, and then the Ranger Deputies started to disappear.

There was the solution. Theodore collected his notes and hurried, worried he had wasted too much time researching. Outside, the skyline had turned a golden amber. He raced out of the office, forgetting to refile the documents, forgetting his suitcases, and caught the first trolley bound toward the city gates.

After a restless ride, he climbed off the trolley before it came to a full halt. He ran all the way to the train station just outside the city. There was a skeleton crew of watchmen, and the train was gone. Theodore grabbed the first guard he could find.

“Where is Captain Red River?!” Theodore said, pointing his badge in the man’s face. “I’m the Ranger Deputy and I need to speak to her at once!”

The watchman pushed him off. “You missed her. She took every knight we could spare for a raid on the Red Caps. Come back in the morning. With any luck, she’ll have them all slain by daylight.”

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