The Emerald Angel of Vegoz, Chapter 4

As they passed a desert lot full of tall, green cacti with spiky, red fruit hanging from their bases, Heathrow hummed that same tune while obliviously prancing alongside an increasingly irate Daphne. Daphne couldn’t take it anymore, and she halted her footsteps to let out a loud sigh. Heathrow caught wind of this, and he ceased his frivolity in order to enquire, “Did you want me to stop humming and skipping too?” 

“No!” Daphne mulled over her response for a second, and then she amended her sentence, “Well, yes! But that’s not why I was groaning. I’m mad at myself ‘cause I gotta put us behind schedule by pausing for a food break! Sorry for the delay, Heathrow!”

“Oh, don’t apologize! There’s no need to rush to the Emerald Angel,” Heathrow consoled her.

Daphne brought up, “What about the Ochre Angel targeting us?”

Heathrow’s face fell as he recalled, “Oh, yeah!” He considered this notion for a moment, and then he esteemed, “Ah, well, so what! If she comes, we’ll deal with her! But if you need to take care of yourself, then don’t feel guilty about it! You won’t get there if you’re not feeling well at all!”

“You’re right!” Daphne acquiesced to his argument.

“I am? Boy, that’s a first! Hooray!” Heathrow did some lively leaps in celebration of this occasion. 

Daphne managed to push past her annoyance and persuaded her lips to portray a bit of amusement. “It’s a good thing we don’t have to use stealth to avoid Whitney!”

As she reached for one of the dragon fruits, Heathrow frowned. “You’re not gonna eat that, are ya?”

“Well, of course! They’re not poisonous, are they?” Daphne probed.

“Uh, no, but…” Heathrow started to object.

He was too late! Quite abruptly, a cane blocked her hand’s path! A man with very aged skin, a tropical shirt, and a green sun-hat growled, “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?”

As numerous elderly folks popped up between the plants, Daphne gawked at them in startlement of their aggressive stances. She attempted to assuage their risen temper by politely addressing them, “Forgive me! I was hungry, and-!”

“Psh! She was hungry!” the aged man muttered to his peers.

“She was hungry!” an old lady grumbled.

Another member of that congregation griped, “She was hungry and  very rude!”

The others concurred with his sentiments, and the aged man accosted her, “Listen, missy! How would you like it if someone trespassed into your retirement home’s garden?”

“This is private property?” Daphne puzzled. “It doesn’t look very private!”

“Do you just pick fruit from random greenery where you come from?” the old lady challenged her.

Daphne affirmed, “Yes! My town has trees in public places, and anyone can help themselves to them.”

The aged man sneered, “Well, we don’t do that here in Vegoz, so scram!”

“Yeah, scram!” the old lady repeated his command.

“Scram!” a third individual echoed.

Daphne fretted, “Goodness! I keep forgetting we’re not in California anymore!”

Heathrow joined his arm with hers, and he suggested, “Come on, Daphne! We don’t want any of these dragon fruits!”

“What are you saying? That our crops aren’t what they ought to be?” the aged man inquired.

“Oh, no!” Heathrow replied. “It’s just that she doesn’t want any dragon fruits with little green worms in them!”

The old lady carped, “Those are spines!”

Heathrow whispered to Daphne, “You want some dragon fruit? I’ll show ya how to get it!” He turned back to the elderly crowd and taunted them, “Those are worms! Bleck! Disgusting!”

The aged man bellowed, “Why, you!” He plucked a dragon fruit and hurled it at Heathrow! Daphne shrieked, but it didn’t appear to bother Heathrow much! In fact, he beckoned them to hurl some more, and a few of them did! As the crew vexedly walked away, Daphne and Heathrow gathered the dragon fruit. One of them rolled into the street, and as Daphne retrieved it, she noticed something strange coming out of the sewer…

“Crowbar!” a strong but soothing voice called out from beneath the manhole.

“What’d he say?” Heathrow posed to Daphne.

The voice restated, “Crowbar!”

Daphne told Heathrow, “He said crowbar.” She glanced around, and she spotted a crowbar in the gutter. “Ew! It’s slimy!”

“Do you wanna know why?” Heathrow asked.

“Definitely not!” Daphne answered.

The voice requested, “Open it! Open it!”

Daphne stuck the crowbar in one of the holes, and she maneuvered it so that it lifted up. Heathrow assisted her in removing the sewage cover, and when the hole was uncovered, the ash blond man inside didn’t budge an inch! “Do you need some help?” Daphne checked in with him.

“Yes!” the man confirmed. Daphne and Heathrow each grabbed an arm, and they managed to yank the man out! Daphne was expecting another bum, but to her astonishment, he didn’t look homeless at all! His silvery eyes were slightly bloodshot, and his gray suit seemed somewhat scratched up, but otherwise, he appeared too well-groomed to be hanging out in the trenches like that! Actually, Daphne would have found him rather handsome if he simply smiled! After he caught his breath, she expected him to gratefully grin, but he remained impassive as he dusted himself off! “Excuse my intrusion into your day! I’ve been stuck there for nearly twenty four hours now! And I couldn’t call for backup ‘cause some witch stole my vehicle!”

“Backup?” Daphne reacted quizzically. “Then you must be-!”

He flashed his badge and curtly introduced himself, “Detective Nick Mantin, Lahr County P.D. I’m in the middle of a very important case right now, and I was surveying my lead suspect when that suspect caught me and trapped me in there.”

Daphne petitioned him, “If you were in the middle of a shift when this happened, wouldn’t your fellow officers have realized you were down when they tried to check in with you?”

“Uhh… Well, it wasn’t an official case, you see…” Nick abashedly admitted. “I was acting on a hunch, and I was hoping to collect evidence to make it official, but that didn’t work out too great! Do either of you have a phone I can borrow?”

“Daphne has a cellphone,” Heathrow notified him.

After taking her broken device from her pocket, Daphne briefed him, “It won’t do you much good unless you wanna chuck it at the person who made off with your car!” Daphne observed that he nearly smirked at her joke, which caused her to beam in pride. She got this vibe that he had been through a lot, so she liked thinking that she could have a positive impact on him! She further strove to entertain him by kidding, “You’d be better off tying a note to my cat and sending him to the police station!”

She anticipated a small chuckle, but instead, Nick gazed at the feline and pondered, “Can he do that?” 

“Um, no!” Daphne bashfully communicated to him as she absorbed the sting of this miscalculation. “Tater follows me around ‘cause he has an emotional support job to do.”

“Oh!” Nick somehow grew even more disappointed than he already was. “Okay, I guess I gotta walk somewhere where I can make a call! Thank you for getting me out of that bind!”

As Nick began to leave, they heard his stomach emit a very audible gurgle! Heathrow genially advised him, “Why, you can’t travel on an empty tummy! We were just about to snack on these dragon fruits. Won’t you join us?”

Nick’s expression clearly indicated his hesitancy on eating with the two of them, but he couldn’t deny his hunger, so he relented, “Oh, alright!” He sat down between Heathrow and Daphne, and they each cracked open a fruit and munched on the substance inside. As they supped, Nick eyeballed his two counterparts, and eventually, he blurted out, “Why are the two of you fraternizing together? Are you his social worker or something?”

Daphne started contemplating some plausible explanations for their actions, but to her dismay, Heathrow beat her to the punch, “No! We’re off to see the Emerald Angel of Vegoz!”

“You’re off to see the Emerald Angel of Vegoz?” Nick reverberated in a skeptical manner.

“Uh-huh! He’s gonna give me a brain!” Heathrow attested to Nick.

Nick definitely didn’t share Heathrow’s optimism on the subject. “Yeah, I’ve heard he can pull off great miracles, but what makes you believe you’re worthy enough for his exclusive services?”

Heathrow laughed, “Me? I’m probably not worthy whatsoever, but he’ll see me ‘cause he’ll see her for sure! She’s got the Carmine Clogs!”

“Wow! Those are the real Carmine Clogs?” Nick reached out to touch them, and the shoes gave him a mild shock! “That’d be a yes!”

“Sorry! I didn’t know they could do that! Or anything really!” Daphne apologetically regarded him.

Nick pressed her, “How did you get them?”

Daphne spelled out for him, “They magically appeared on my feet when Whitney was trying to grab them off of her sister’s body.”

“Almira’s dead?” Nick responded in astonishment. “But it’s nearly impossible to kill a fallen angel!”

“Not if you have the right house!” Daphne espied the confused expression on Nick’s face, and she clarified, “The mobile home I was staying at got caught in a tornado, and it fell on top of her.”

Nick rubbed his chin speculatively. “Interesting! And you say that Whitney was on the scene?”

Daphne remarked, “Boy, and Sapphire said that law enforcement wouldn’t have any interest in this crime!”

“Actually, she’s absolutely correct,” Nick countered. “They wouldn’t even be able to prove she’s missing since no one is missing her.”

“Oh! That’s what you were unofficially investigating, wasn’t it?” Daphne deduced. “You were hoping to catch Whitney committing an offense so that you can finally penalize her for her misdeeds!” Nick stayed silent about it, but she inferred the truth from this behavior. “I was investigating her too! I mean, the killer could turn out tobe anyone, but it seemed odd to me that she got more upset about footwear than her deceased family member! And this witness described a strained relationship and possible disputes over power and territory!”

Heathrow visually scanned the area as though he wasn’t certain who she was referencing. “Do you mean me? I couldn’t have uttered something so smart!”

Daphne elucidated, “I reworded your story, Heathrow.” Heathrow comprehended this, and Daphne switched her focus back to Nick, “Oh, you gotta tell me everything you’ve learned about her!”

“No, I don’t!” Nick disagreed. “I’m not gonna involve a civilian in such a dangerous matter!”

“But this isn’t an official case, so aren’ you a civilian too?” Daphne retorted.

Nick couldn’t argue with that logic, but he didn’t feel compelled to divulge anything, so Heathrow appealed to him, “Come on, brother! Have a heart!”

After making a noise of derision, Nick proclaimed, “I don’t have a heart! I don’t need any feelings, they only get you into trouble! My position already attracts enough struggles, I don’t wanna tempt any more into my life!”

“Oh, please!” Daphne scoffed at that claim.

“The best ones are!” Nick insisted.

Daphne rolled her eyes, and Heathrow suggested, “Maybe the Emerald Angel can give you a heart!”

Nick adamantly folded his arms. “Hearts will only be useful when they’re unbreakable!”

“Gee, it’s too bad you don’t wanna go! I was planning on asking the Emerald Angel about Whitney, and I’ll bet he has loads of information on her! I would’ve been willing to give it to you later if you had shared what you know, but it sounds like you’re not interested in cooperating!” Daphne teased him.

“Ah, getting acquainted, are we?” Whitney materialized in front of them and let out a huge cackle at their bewilderment…