The Vanishing


Cranky Kong
Nexus GM
"The Vanishing"

Det. Erin "Evie" Valle
New Acadia Slums

Hammond Miller sucked in a long drag from a short-filter cigarette, the ensuing puff of smoke wisping away into damp morning air tinting the New Acadia streets with patchy fog. Flicking the last burning embers to the ground and crushing it, the detective pulled his long coat tighter around his body and let a tired glance jump over the hood of the car.

"Lot of friendly faces out this morning," he grumbled, his short-trimmed beard more salt than pepper these days and eyes carrying dark circles earned with too many years and not enough vacations.

"Feel free to run along home any time you like," his partner spoke as she rose from the passenger seat of the car onto the raised curb. Detective Erin Valle succumbed to her own personal vice every bit as addictive as that of her partner, bringing a cup of coffee to her lips, a loose tendril of steam escaping and rushing across the landscape of her face.

"And miss all the fun? Not today. Who's this supposed to be now?"

"Bell. Arthur Bell. He's a psych doctor down here, supposed to be some sort of 'ground roots community' rebuid kind of guy from what I've heard. We take care of our own since no one else will kind of mentality," she said, downing the last of the coffee and tossing the cup into a bin near the street.

"Then I'm sure he'll be thrilled to get a visit from us," Miller grumbled, rising up to the crub as well. "Hell of a starting place for this case."

The case.

The night before last, NAPD was contacted by Hiro and Mayu Maeda to report their only daughter, Reina, as missing. Hiro Maeda was Vice President of Operations for the Novus Corporation. Not one of the largest corporations and without its own sprawling section of the city, Novus was nonetheless making lots of headlines these days.

Novus was the leader in experimental cybernetic technology, specifically taking the next major steps in artificial intelligence. Originally a
small company that focused on the production of robotic replacements for human workers in high-risk employment, turned consumer-level AI assistance, turned attempting to breakthrough barriers in AI that had yet not been contemplated, including fully-fledged and self-sustaining AI humanoid units. It was a pipe dream, but one that had been featured extensively in the trades.

Hiro Maeda was the face of that feature. Young, talented, and charismatic, he was one of the youngest VPs in corporate history that wasn't just a son picking up on a father's legacy. Instead, he was a pioneer in the field, a visionary, and outspoken about his goals.Now, he was a shaken shell of a man, a father pushed the brink of insanity by the disappearance of his daughter.

Reina Meada was sixteen years old. Smart, but not outgoing or overly social. Exceptional grades in school, but little to no extracurricular activity. A charismatic but eccentric father obsessed and consumed with his work and a socialite mother left little in the way of a deep and loving family life, but there were no signs of abuse, neglect, or anything to give the girl a reason to run away. On the other hand, Maeda's work made Novus a targeted rival for a number of other development corporations as well as those who opposed the continued advance of AI technology.

That would be great if there were any signs of foul play. Which there weren't. Except for the missing girl. Valle and Miller had been assigned the case and began chasing down what avenues they could as quickly as possible, but it had been slow going thus far. Now, Valle was chasing what Miller was absolutely sure was a wild goose chase, but admitted was better than the nonexistent leads he'd been able to generate at this point.

For the past twelve hours, a caffeine-laced Valle had poured over the one item providing any clues to her out of the open doors to the Maeda home -- Reina's laptop computer. Valle's training in computer forensics wasn't extensive to the point of making her an expert, but it was more than most NAPD cops bothered to obtain. During her time away from active duty while recovering from her major injury and the loss of her arm, she'd had to do something to make herself stand out. It was a start.

A deep recovery of files and web traffic history revealed that Reina's social life was more robust than anyone had realized, even if she'd never left her room as part of it. Message boards, chat logs, and other items showed her flirting on the outside edges of an underground social network known as Origin. They were a group dedicated to rejecting the advancing embrace of cutting-edge technology in all aspects of life in New Acadia and advocating a return to a simpler way of life.

Valle knew a thing about being a rebellious daughter. If Reina Maeda was looking to break from the expectations of her father, a flirtation with Origin would be exactly what she would need to get that fulfillment. It was a weak start, and Valle hadn't been able to get too deep behind a few passwords get all the information, but it was a start.

So now, she needed more information on where to find some of the real-life bodies behind the web-based personalities of Origin, a group she was sure did most of their real-life meetings in the Slums. For that, she needed information. And you didn't have to be from the Slums to know that if you needed ears on the ground, Dr. Arthur Bell was a good place to start.

Bell was on NAPD's radar, or at least he had been more than once. Still, he was an example of someone who maybe did more good than harm, causing them to look the other way when they could.

Today, Erin Valle couldn't look the other way.

Valle and Miller stepped inside. Valle took the obvious lead position. Miller hung back and kept his eyes keenly on the door as well as his partner's back.

"Det. Valle, NAPD. I need to see Dr. Bell."


One Jolly Cynic
Dr Bell's "Clinic for the Mentally Ailed" was probably the most well kept building in its neighborhood of slums. The recently restored 2 story, red brick clinic was a sore thumb amongst the dilapidated, grey homes that littered the area. It was as if the building itself defied the technologically progressive era, the nostalgic red bricks being a sharp contrast to today's cheap and drab poly-metal walls that made up most buildings.

The entrance to the clinic led to a very simple, medium sized lobby. It looked like your typical holding area for clinics, furnished with a number of waiting chairs and couches, fake plotted plants, coffee tables, and magazines. Towards the back was a large desk, on top of which was a sleek,up to date computer monitor and a nameplate that read "Kathryn Smiles." Seated behind the desk was Smiles herself, dressed in your everyday secretary clothes. She was typing away on a keyboard paying no heed to the clinics new arrivals.

Very briefly however, and without looking away from her monitor, Smiles gave the two officers a soft "One moment," before finishing her task with one last resounding tap. She faced Valle, who she figured was the lead of the pair, and gave her a smile that was befitting of her last name.

"My apologizes officer, work has been busy lately," she said softly without even acknowledging the fact the whole lobby was empty. "Unfortunately, Dr. Bell is with a patient right now. If you would like to leave your contact information here, I can surely get back to you when he's next availi..." at that moment the door immediately next to the secretary slowly squeaked open.

Out came a short haired girl that was barely in her teens. She wore an over sized hoodie. shorts, and sneakers that all looked like they were from a thrift shop, which was probably the case. Her eyes however, were the most disturbing feature about the girl. One eye was swollen, bruised with a deep shade of purple. Her other eye wasn't damaged, but was very red from possibly crying too much. Behind her with comforting hand over her shoulder stood the sharply eared Dr. Bell, wearing his usual doctor attire composed of a cardigan, black jeans, button up shirt and tie. Despite the horrible state the girl was in, the doctor himself still wore a light grin.

With a calm and kind tone, Dr Bell addressed his secretary. "I'm sorry to impose Ms. Smiles, but it seems like Sophie hasn't eaten anything in awhile. It would be imperative in helping her with that before contending with her situation, would you kindly take her out to eat?"

"Oh dear. Why of course Dr. Bell," Smiles replied calmly. She stood up from her spot and walked towards the injured girl. Slowly, the secretary lowered herself to be eye level with Sophie. With a warm smile asked "Where do you want to eat sweetie?"

For a moment the question seemed like a foreign request to the girl. Her good eye widened as she realized that she was just offered a meal, and anywhere at that. Her stomach grumbled at the possibilities. Struggling to find the right words, Sophie finally responded with a small voice."Ca-can we eat at a all you can eat buffet?"

"Why of course we can," and with that Ms. Smiles put her arms around Sophie's shoulders and ushered her past the NAPD detectives.

Dr. Bell watched as the two left, and chuckled at what he just saw. Finally, he faced his new visitors. Very light heatedly, he said "Don't let that woman's kind demeanor fool you. She's only here to watch me. Any acts of kindness she displays is purely because she finds it amusing for the most morbid of reasons. Anywho, I've been expected you two, come, we have a lot to discuss."

Without waiting for a reply the doctor went inside his office, which also doubled as the clinic's only therapy room. It was rectangular, and considerably spacious. In one area was your atypical therapist setup, which looked like a condensed living room. It had two comfy looking chairs, a comfy sofa, a round,ornate wooden table, and even a Freudian chair. There were also bookshelves that stood at the walls of the room, which contained the most mismatched book collection the world has very seen. It had typical sections such as encyclopedias and dictionaries, but also had seemingly random sections like manga and adventure books. There was even a section dedicated to the history of firearms.

Walking past all this, Dr. Bell led the two to the other end of the room, where his personal desk resided. In front of it were also two chairs for consulting visitors. Nonchalantly, Dr. Bell sat down behind his desk, motioned the two to sit, and said with a almost mischievous tone "Now, lets get down to business shall we?"


Cranky Kong
Nexus GM
Det. Erin “Evie” Valle
New Acadia Slums
Office of Dr. Arthur Bell

From the classic “leave a message and wait until hell freezes over” to being ushered to the corner office with literally no effort, the detectives shared a lasting skeptical glare before following the doctor. Without a word, each of the detectives pressed their hands against the jam of the doorway momentarily before stepping inside. Old habits burned in – always leave a fingerprint. Standard training for officers entering unknown territory or approaching a detained vehicle, leaving a trail in case things went bad and someone needed to be traced back to the scene at a later date.

Before Valle could offer an introduction, the doctor immediately ushered them to the prospect of “business.”

Business? What business? This should have been a complete cold call.

“I…right. Detective Valle,” Erin offered fishing the hanging back from beneath the dark brown jacket where it had been previously caught. Not at all hiding on the Slums. “That’s Detective Miller,” she motioned back to her partner while taking a seat across from the doctor. Comfortable chair. Not what she’d been expected for a rundown Slums clinic.

Miller didn’t bother with a chair, instead standing facing the bookshelves, admiring the titles. Or studying them. Or making sure that the door didn’t slam shut and trap them in the room. Either way, it was clear that he wasn’t planning to be too involved in the conversation.

“Dr. Bell, I’m looking for information about a group that’s operating out of this area. Seems like your clientele seems to think that when you need something around here, this is office is the right place to start.”

She fished a paper out of the inside liner pocket of her jacket, folded into eighths. Unfolding it as she spoke, studying the doctor intently. Something felt very strange about this introduction.

Okay. Cutting back on the caffeine, she lied to herself before placing the unfolded paper on the desk.

In front of the doctor, the detective laid a screen-printed image, an upside down V with a small circle above it.

“Can you tell me anything about this?”


One Jolly Cynic
The good doctor gave the piece of a paper an amused yet uninterested glance. In his head he made the assessment that detective or no, she wasn't the sort to know proper slum etiquette. Especially when that etiquette pertained to an underworld information broker. He knew her records, of course, however Dr. Bell always held any pre-assessment as tentative until he got to meet the subject in person. So far, her straight forward nature was evident of what he's read.

Dr. Bell shifted his gaze upon the detective, staring her right in the eyes with a mildly soothing expression, one that he was used to using with his patients and clients alike. "Ms. Valle was it?" He started, without breaking his light hearted grin. "It seems you're mistaken about something, so let me clarify the situation you're in. Free of charge." Pausing to clasp his hands together, and also to gather what he was about to say, the doctor took a quick breathe and continued.

"I'm an information broker detective. A merchant of secrets if you will. I deal in the buying and selling of info, not in giving it away like a charity. I do know hope you knew this before coming here?"
Not once did the doctor's gaze or grin wavered after saying that. Like the silver tongued devil he was, he was going to control this transaction with an iron first.

"Now that we got that out of the way, let me ask you a question Ms. Valle. The only one you should be thinking about right now. What is it that you , or Hammond over there, have to offer me to know what this is?" He put his finger on the image that was presented to him. "Hm?"
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Cranky Kong
Nexus GM
Det. Erin "Evie" Valle
New Acadia Slums
Office of Dr. Arthur Bell

The strong-arm negotiation tactics didn't hit either of the detectives as a surprise, nor did it shock that Bell knew Miller's first name. Valle couldn't deny, however, that there was a certain...unsettling nature to the casual flow of Bell's use of the information and the way that he peered through any person on the other end of the conversation.

"This isn't a pay-to-play game, Doctor," Erin offered with a tempered tone. "My investigation is time sensitive, so---"

"You know, I was going to be a doctor, but I didn't have the patience," Miller broke in gruffly with a joke so old and dry in its delivery it seemed likely to break into brittle pieces as it left the detective's lips. "Now, from what I'm guessing from having worked plenty of street work right out that window, this is usually where the local beat officer, you know, the one who claims to be far better than the average street scum here when the truth is that his apartment is only a few blocks away, offers you something under the table. It's not too bad of a hit, probably a breakeven with the cutback he's gotten for looking the other way for about a dozen businesses around here that don't want an honest cop after them. Well, we aren't Internal Affairs. Don't want that job, not asking about your other arrangements. This is different."

Valle took a deep breath before following up with a much more measured tone than that of her partner.

"Missing persons case. You probably know that trails go very cold very quickly and there isn't much time to waste if you're going to bring someone home in one of these--"

"---without needed a medical examiner and dental records," her partner chimed in.

"...and right now this is the best lead we've got. What we do know is that that symbol has been tied to a number of patients, or informants, or both, who have come through here in the last week. So I'm asking for cooperation. The alternative--"

Miller broke in again, this time coming and plopping down into the empty seat.

"The alternative is I take an extra two-man team and the four of us set up shop outside your clinic and detain every single person who comes in and out of here for questioning until we find what we're looking for. That can't be good for business, doc."


One Jolly Cynic
"Oh?" Dr. Bell responded with a mildly amused voice. Very faintly, the tips of his mouth widened, giving a seemingly more expressive grin. "And here I thought I was going to have a lovely one on one conversation with an equally lovely Ms. Valle," the doctor started, shifting his gaze right on Hammond.

"For you sake, detective, and the sake of your superiors, I would implore you not do something so rash. You probably know this, but the good and bad men, women, and adolescents of these slums regard me as the only saint to listen to their woes. Seeing as what I do in my clinic is a charitable whim, such a title isn't so far off for people living in this urban Hell." Dr. Bell took a quick sharp breathe, as if he was about to explain something rather riveting.

"If you strangle their only hope of sanity, Mr. Millers, you get insanity. Enough to put your kind into conflict with the most traumatized and distraught of my patients if you were to detain them from seeking care. And please don't think for a second that being part of the "law" will deter anyone from picking a fight with your lot. A number of my patients come here solely because of, rather ironically, how the NAPD abuses them. Take Sophie for example. She was an innocent girl before some cop decided she was a nice looking "delinquent" on street to have fun with. "Fun" being mix of rape and brutality, mind you. Her reason for coming here today was because she managed to escape that a second time around." As morbid as every word uttered from the doctor's mouth, his demeanor, nor did his tone change from that used for pleasant conversations

"My point is, given the chance or reason, my patients wouldn't mind putting a bullet through either your heads. And trust me, not all them are defenseless little girls. Now imagine what would happen if, somehow, they found out that your hypothetical 4 man detention team was harassing their saintly doctor because some well to do corporate higher up decided his daughter was more important than the mental well being of the entire slums of New Acadia. Hm?" Dr. Bell gave a brief pause, making sure the detectives were following, before finishing his statement.

"You would cause causalities, Mr. Miller. On both sides, which would lead to riots in this slum area to the next, and those would lead to more causalities, which would lead to a really unhealthy PR's rep for NAPD and its employers, such as the company that hired you in the first place, and et cetra et cetra, all because you decided to follow up on very measly threat." Dr. Bell gave the implications in a rapid but orderly flow, and slowed down with a slight sense of wicked grace for his final point in the matter. "And don't doubt the reliability of mob mentality in the slums my friend. Quite frankly, it's a simple thing to incite."

After giving a somewhat long "what if" explanation, the doctor gave a quick yawn. He was, after all, still a bit tired from the day's therapy sessions and rebutting threats lost its value in entertainment. "So yes, do what you will if you think its for the best Hammond. But please, if you want this case to have any probable chance of being solved, be a good dog to your masters in New Acadia and don't make stupid suggestions. Unlike the NAPD, I would like to get things done in an efficient manner, and fortunately for the two of you this is part of my agenda." Dr. Bell made his last remark by holding the picture of the symbol up in the air. "If we cooperate and negotiate with some civility, you'd be pleasantly surprised of what might happen. Now, lets try this again. offer me something, please, anything. I assure you it won't hurt your sense of lawfulness one bit."Again, the doctor gave a reassuring smile to both his guests. In truth, it didn't matter what they would offer, he would of denied it anyway. To Dr. Bell the information broker, formalities and procedures should always be kept when doing business, even if that business itself was more of a playful facade. Appearances must be kept, after all.


Cranky Kong
Nexus GM
Det. Erin "Evie" Valle
New Acadia Slums
Office of Dr. Arthur Bell

The explanation was a combination of a witty response, passive aggressive snark, and thinly-veiled threat. It was sophisticated wrapping, for sure, but the core was a language anyone who wanted to survive in the Slums -- apply pressure until the other side backs down. The hard part of about playing chicken? Knowing when to blink.

"I'm just hoping my insurance covers the visit, doc," Miller said, standing up out of the chair and returning to the back of the room and his seemingly casual scan of the books positioned here.

"Okay," Valle jumped back into the conversation. She wasn't playing around anymore. "Let's talk business. Give us what we need and I'll personally run the investigation on your Sophie's attacker. If he's on the force, you aren't going to be able to crack him from the outside without having a martyred cop against the word of your clientele. You let me do it right.

"If you're looking for a payment, doctor, you can stop looking at either of us. But since this obvious isn't going to be a one-way street of information, let me tell you who is ready to cut checks and dump credits on this. Novus Corp. It wouldn't take much more than a phone call from me and their development funds can be allocated in all kinds of ways if it opens doors for me that a tightly-controlled city budget normally finds a little rusty.

"Just say the word, Dr. Bell. Either way, I'm going to keep looking and Novus is going to spend its money on making sure they get what they want out of this."


One Jolly Cynic
"Always the comedian aren'tcha, I like that." the Dr. Bell replied, facing to the gruff officer. As he left his seat the doctor focused back on his partner. "As far Sophie's assailant..." the doctor sat there motionless for a moment, still maintaining his ever pleasant expression. In that moment, he had read through his own messages through the networking capabilities of his eye confirming his next words.

"I had no intention of making a martyr of him. I help deal with my patient's trauma, not barbarically behead it at its source. However, due to my secretary' can say this...many "vices" the matter was just resolved. In rather painful, but still un-fatal, fashion I might add." Dr. Bell delivered that with a hint of annoyance towards his "employee."

"However, I do thank you for your offer detective, that was very sincere of you. And please, when it comes to the children just refer to them as they are. Patients, or more so, individuals that just need an ear to their problems, not clienteles, or your previous title of informants." The doctor chuckled at what he was about to say.

His tone, very faintly it seemed, became tad bit remorseful. Some might even say a bit sincere. "I might seem like a cold and calculating bastard, but I'm still a doctor at heart, Ms. Valle. I take responsibility of my actions when it comes the psychological treatment of my patients. And It's because of my own ethical code that I must refuse your offer, detective. Under normal circumstances, that would have been a fine proposal. One that I would have accepted graciously. Unfortunately, these aren't one of those circumstances." Returning to his usual playful tone, he continued on to what he had in mind,

"Before moving any further, here's my counter proposal. ...." he fished out a simple manila folder, opened it, and slid it towards the detective. The contents of it was a whole dossier on a pimply 18 year old male with short black hair, who looked like he never saw an ounce of daylight outside of his room.

"His name is Jhin Soto. He's what the Japanese call an otaku. Stereo typically, it means he spends most, if not all his time, behind a screen either going through the web, watching anime, gaming, or doing any other form of electronic culture that hinders his ability to interact with others. Also partly the reason why I went through the trouble of getting that," Dr. Bell pointed at a section of manga that resided on the shelves. "Unsurprisingly, not so many months frim now, the boy came into my office seeking social therapy. It went well for a bit, until a few days ago. I thought we made what seemed like a breakthrough in his treament but......" He sighed, as if his next statement weighed heavily on him, with his grin slowly fading away.

"He came here that day, ecstatic about something. He said that he established some sort of friends "meeting" with other individuals that suffered from his condition. He was still unsure as to if he should of attended, and for lack of my own better judgement, I encouraged him to go ahead and try it out. He's been missing since then. As you might guess this symbol," again, he took up the picture, "is related to his case as well. So...." taking a slow breathe and the guilt that followed, the doctor continued with his proposal.

"I offer you ever bit of information I have on this case, and information on any other investigations you might have in the future. In return I only ask that you personally bring me to every operation conducted from this point on concerning these two, as insurance for my own agenda in bringing Jhin back alive. If we pool our resources together, we can indefinitely ensure the safety of our people. What do you say Ms. Valle?" He stared expectingly at her, with his own demeanor relaxing back to his usual lightheartedness.
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Cranky Kong
Nexus GM
Det. Erin "Evie" Valle
New Acadia Slums
Office of Dr. Arthur Bell

All a game. Every word, every intonation, every expression. It seemed that the entire conversation was just a scripted note for Bell, with each step just another line in a play that Bell crafted for his own pleasure. The endgame had already been determined before either of them began the conversation, but the case had dictated that Valle play the regardless to satiate the cast of characters. The part having been played, Valle mulled over the final option.

"You'll know where to be, but don't expect a chauffeur to carry to you everywhere, Doctor. Something tells me that you won't have much trouble finding your way from Point A to Point B."

The dectective pushed back a few locks of red hair as she stood from her seat and glanced back toward the door.

"We'll be in touch, doctor."

With that, the detectives were gone and back in the car.

"You think Soto and Maeda are connected?" Miller asked as he pulled the car back onto the street.

"Won't know until I finish getting all the logs downloaded, but it seems like too much to be a coincidence. Someone told me to stop believing in those."

"Atta girl, Evie," the older detective mused with a grin.


Active Member
Little did Detective Valle know that through the window and across the street of the Office of Dr. Arthur Bell was sitting one Cale Rogers, listening in on her little conversation. Rogers bugged the office a long time ago and, after months of sorting through children's physiological evaluations and adults therapy sessions, it had finally come in handy.

"Well well well," Cale said, "It looks like the NAPD is back on another missing persons case. Stick to what your best at... parking duty."