I felt a familiar white heat build up in the pit of my stomach. I snapped my fingers and released it out the tips of my fingers. As it vented out, wisps of flame crackled into existence. I fished around in my coat pocket and pulled out a thin vial. With a few purposeful movements of my digits I forced the fire into the glass. Once it had been contained I corked it and dropped it back in my pocket.
“Sorry about that Ma’am.” I apologized. “I usually don’t do that in front of people but I just couldn’t contain it any longer. You came in a little earlier than I had expected.”
As a pyromancer I needed to vent occasionally, or risk boiling my internal organs. I already felt calmer, and more collected.
“It’s quite fine Mr. Darby.” The woman winked. “I’ve always found pyromancy to be quite. Interesting.”
I tipped my hat down to hide a blush. She was attractive, but still a client. I needed to be professional.
“Anyways, what brings you in Ms..” I glanced over at the calendar on my computer monitor. “Wells?”
She flashed a flirtatious smirk and reached into her purse. I heard a few pieces of metal clanking against each other. Anxious thoughts set in.
Please don’t have a gun.
Please don’t have a gun.
Her eyes brightened when she found what she was searching for and in one motion, slammed it down on my desk. I let out a long breath as my anxiety released. It was an ID card, with her own face on it.
“Ms. Wells, what is it I’m looking at here?”
“The reason why I need the best investigator on the South side.”
I hated it when clients tried to be coy.
“Well, I’m flattered I really am.” I stared at the card again for something of significance. “But I have no idea what this means.”
“Now, now.” Ms. Wells put loose fists beneath her chin patronizingly. “And I thought you were the best! Take a look into the eyes of that picture.”
I was irritated at her tone, but still slid the ID card closer and held it close to my face. I began to take it apart detail by detail. Maybe I had missed something.
ID card for Ganno DNA Database INC.
Top Level security clearance
Name- Susan Wells
I paused for a second. Blue?
I lowered the card, holding the portrait on the card up to Ms. Wells. Her eyes were a deep hazel, but on the card they were clearly blue.
“‘Scuse me Ma’am, but do you wear colored contact lenses?”
Ms. Wells exploded in excitement, she clapped her hands at a near supersonic speed.
“I see my faith in you was well placed.” She cocked her head. “As for the contacts, I don’t wear them. What’s troubling is that this is my work ID. I’m afraid someone has stolen my face. For whatever reason.”
I furrowed my brow. I had heard of shapeshifters, but they were extremely rare. It fit the profile, they were tricksters. Always looking for a way to take over someone else’s life. I’d never thought I’d see something like this on a case. Ms. Wells stared down at her watch, and jumped onto her feet. She snatched the ID from my hands.
“Oh my! I seem to be running late!” She brushed off her pants and began walking towards the door.
“That’s funny.” I chuckled. “You came in early, and now you’re leaving before your scheduled appointment. I wonder why that is?”
She froze, and slowly turned her head to face me. She was visibly irked by my implications.
“What are you saying?”
I remained silent and gestured for her to take a seat. She rebelliously took another step towards the door.
I snapped my fingers and shot two streams of fire out of my fingernails. The flames flowed out into the air like a gas. I willed them to circle around Ms. Wells in a show of force.
“What are you doing?! You’re ruining EVERYTHING!!”
Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Ms. Wells nervously stood in silence, paralyzed by fear.
“Come on in.” I called out.
The knob twisted and swung with the heavy oak door. The stranger began to stroll in, but stopped and opened her blue eyes wide when she saw Ms. Wells surrounded by the encircling flames.
“Wha-” The woman began. “Who is this?”
I pointed a finger gun at the woman I had captured.
“This, Ms. Wells is your shapeshifter.”
She gasped. The shapeshifter fidgeted nervously but remained quiet. I continued with my monologue.
“My first clue was when she came in early. The first rule of stealing someone’s identity is to never be at the same place at the same time. She cut it close, but only because she thought that I’d keep you here after she had just accused you of being a shapeshifter. Long enough for her to use your card to sign in to your office at a DNA database, overwrite your file with hers, and report an impostor. You.” I shot a triumphant look at the shapeshifter, but she turned her head away. “By the time you got back to work they’d cart you away and she would have taken control of your life.”
The real Ms. Wells looked shocked. She had a right to be. Her life was almost stolen from her. The flames circling the shapeshifter flickered out.
She noticed this and used the opportunity to reach into her purse.
Please don’t have a-
She lugged a heavy 6-shot revolver out and pulled back the hammer.
She alternated pointing the thing at me and Ms. Wells.
“I usually don’t kill because it complicates things.” She spat on the floor. “But it’s easy for me to disappear.”
She strained a slow blink and her skin, bone structure, and voice changed to that of a man in his mid forties. The replicated skin of Ms. Darby shed off all at once in pieces. They lay on the ground, like a pile of dry leaves. I used the time her eyes were shut to rummage in my jacket pocket. I managed a wink towards Ms. Wells when I found the vial. She was fixed on the replica of her own skin, laying carelessly on the floor. Terrified beyond belief, tears muddled her mascara.
“Any more deductions you’d like to make Mr. Darby?” The shapeshifter asked menacingly.
“Yep! Just one!” I smiled. “The skin you just shed is probably flamable!”
The shapeshifter’s eyes widened when I pulled the cork off the vial I had vented into. I flicked it with my index finger, and it gracefully flew through the air and onto the pile of molted skin at the shapeshifter’s feet.
The flames quickly lipped up the being’s legs, and it instinctively dropped the gun to start beating at the fire. The shapeshifter screamed in several voices at once. It was unnerving.
I looked at Ms. Wells with a concerned expression. She nodded her head in agreement and we both sprinted out of my office, down the staircase, and onto the street. We stood there with our hands on our knees, trying to catch our breath. I spied a fiery figure at my window, its arms flailed around wildly.
Suddenly, the chilling sound of glass shattering sounded from above. I covered Ms. Well’s eyes before the body made impact. Though I spared her the image, I could not shield her from the blood, which splattered splotches of red on her blue jeans. All that could be heard were the flames joyfully crackling over charred flesh, and fire engines off in the distance. I knew it was not the right time, but I anxiously asked Ms. Wells a question.
“Soo this is not the first time I’ve burned down my office.” I winced at the awkwardness of my timing. “Can you stick around a while and give a statement? My insurance premium is super high as it is. I don’t want them thinking this was my fault.”
She dug her face into her hands and sobbed deeply. She started shaking, so I put my arms around her torso to comfort her. She was clearly still in shock.
“Shouldn’t have asked. Sorry. I’ll just have them call you.”