Lost Spirits


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Scene Title Lost Spirits
Synopsis In the aftermath of finding Courtney Baldwin's body, a SESA agent and an intern go to meet with the Private Investigator that had been hired briefly to find her and they find out a few details of the young woman's life before she met with her unfortunate end.
Date November 4, 2019

Williamsburg: Mann Investigations

The office is full of clutter. It isn’t that there’s stacks of paper and evidence of cases everywhere, there’s just things. It’s as if someone decided to put the contents of an entire house into one room. Small little knick-knacks on every shelf, books laying about that can’t fit in those shelves, a mahogany what-not filled with pictures and everything from one of those lucky Japanese waving cats to a toy train. It’s hard to tell how many of the objects are related to each other at all. It’s almost as if they had walked into an old antique flea market instead of the office of a private detective.

The detective who greeted them at the door, David Mann, looked as if he might have been sleeping in his casual suit, dark hair hanging to his shoulders unbrushed as he led them into the office and picked up a stack of books on the two seats and moved them to his desk, one of the only clear places in the room. The only thing on it was an old monitor and a coffee mug that read in big bold letters: I HAD A LIFE BUT MY DETECTIVE JOB ATE IT. And now that stack of books. Everything from children’s books to mystery novels to even a few romances. Only some weren’t in English.

“I’d offer you a coffee,” the man says with a local accent. “But this is my only mug,” he tipped it up and wrinkled his nose at it. “And it’s not much cleaner than the coffee maker.” Which sat unused on a bunch of file cabinets off to the side. “But please, have a seat Agents,” he says as he slouches down into his seat.

“What can I help you with?”

“That’s alright, I always pre-caffeinate,” Agent Liza Messer says in response to the mention of coffee. She scoots her way over to the farther of the two chairs, leaving the more easily accessible one for Emily. She promptly takes out a notebook from her jacket, a barely-held-together black hardcover number that certainly seems to be filled with notes for something.

She flips to a page. “We’re wondering about a missing persons case you worked on. An uncle looking for his niece, Courtney Andrea Baldwin.”

Emily is still in the process of cataloguing every off thing she sees at the time the mention of 'agents', plural, snags her attention. She looks to Liza for assistance, waiting for the polite correction. One doesn't come. The young blonde stands momentarily frozen while Liza makes her way to a seat, mechanically settling in to the remaining chair a moment after.

She straightens her shoulders, tries to present how she thinks an agent ought. Not like Cooper, and definitely not like Voss. Maybe like Choi. Like Liza. Emily looks to her while she speaks, nodding her quiet affirmation to it before turning back to the dete— private investigator. She folds her hands in her lap, no notebook on her person to produce.

Perhaps he would have been better prepared if they would have called ahead— or if a call ahead would have connected. Such is still the life on the Safe Zone, even with the newer phone systems. He didn’t have one set up. Mann tilts his head to the side as he hears the name, as if trying to remember that particular case. When it doesn’t seem to pop to his head, he sits up and moves over to the file cabinet, opening up the top drawer and searching through the Bs before sliding out a file.

The front of the folder has a picture taped to it, a polished pink stone with plastic eyes and something gray attached to it. After a moment he reached out to pluck one of the stray objects off of the what-not and they could see it more easily. It looked like a drum set, making the pet rock with googly eyes seem to be playing it.

“Since you’re SESA I’m going to guess you either found evidence that her test was a false negative, or you found evidence that her disappearance was caused by an SLC-E?” He asked as he moved back to his hair, put his feet up on the corner of the desk and toyed with the small object in one hand as he flipped open the folder. “Do you have a warrant yet?”

“Soon, while information is still particularly pressing, paperwork takes more time than I’d like,” Liza answers the issue of the warrant first. “But we have a pretty strong reason to believe there’s a SLC-E individual involved in this case, that’s why we’ve gotten involved. I’m hoping we’ll be able to do some good.” Her eyes, however, are on the googly eyes. She gestures towards it.


That's a word for it, Liza. Emily glances lifelong at her and then back to the object, it being a sort of last straw for her. There were so many odd knickknacks about the office space, some of them pretty infantilized, and to her she sees the rock as no exception.

Exhibit A: Googly Eyes.

If this is what was going to happen to Teo if he continued training to be a private eye, she was going right home after this and telling him off.

Her gaze flits from the rock back to the investigator, a silent inhale parting her lips. She weighs her words, finds them to not be perfect, but can't help from saying them anyway. "Investigator," Emily starts, clipped and disapproving. "This isn't something to take lightly. There's been developments in the case and we wouldn't be here if it weren't serious. Any assistance you can provide here would be critical, warrant or no."

Please is a polite implication she meant to make, but her phrasing damned actually inserting it aloud. At any rate, she conveys it all with sharp eyes right on his.

At the words from the seasoned Agent, Mann grins a little, because he knows about paperwork, but then the other one speaks. Both of them look far younger than one might expect, and someone else might have not taken them seriously even with the badge flashed, but no, he grins at them and nods. “I remember this case now,” he states simply, pulling out the picture of the young lady who had gone missing. It was a pretty picture, possibly a senior year professional photo by the look of it. And she, like the two sitting here, was both young, blonde and hopeful looking.

“Her uncle stopped paying me to look for her after a month. He’d been convinced it was her girlfriend, Eliza Scott, who was responsible. She’d ditched on the Halloween Party, apparently, and Courtney had left upset. But as it turned out, Eliza had had a fentanyl problem and checked herself into the Benchmark that morning for rehab without telling anyone. Solid alibi, that one.”

From the size of the file, it looked as if he had done more interviews even after eliminating the girlfriend. Plucking out another picture, he handed it over. It was a print from a phone picture, of Courtney in a pink costume with frills and a wand. Glinda. The Good witch. “According to Eliza, she was going to go as Elphaba.”

“Good on her,” Liza murmurs at the mention of rehab. “That kind of thing isn’t easy, and I imagine not telling her girlfriend would have been even harder.” She takes the photo and studies it for a long moment, a smile just at the corner of her lips. “Glinda and Elphaba. That would have been real cute.” She hands the picture over to Emily to let her take a look.

“So the uncle gave up after it didn’t appear to be the girlfriend? Kind of sounds like he gave up pretty quickly if he was desperate to find her.” She taps her chin. “So were there any leads you were following when the money ran out? After the girlfriend?”

"Stopped paying," Emily notes as she glances to the file, "but that didn't stop you from looking, did it?" She only looks down briefly at the photo, brow knitting before she sets it back on the desk. "What held your attention about the case?" she wonders aloud, looking back up to Mann. It felt like a fair question to ask.

“Nothing is worse than an unanswered question,” Mann responds simply, looking into Emily’s eyes as he continues to explain. “Eliza’s story struck me, I suppose. She went to rehab because she caught Courtney sneaking a couple of her pills. As far as she knew it had been the only time, but it scared her. She was willing to mess up her life, but didn’t want to mess up the girl she was falling in love with too.” The Wicked Witch hadn’t wanted to take Glinda down with her.

After a moment, he pulled out a few stacks of paper held together and separate from other stacks by paperclips. “As far as I could tell the worst thing Courtney besides sneak a few painkillers had been mediocre grades and indecisiveness on what to get her degree in. All her Professors either had barely any idea who she was or thought she was nice. Her roommate didn’t like her, but all for stupid things like how she used to clip her nails on her bed and throw the clippings on the floor.” Which he seemed to think were trivial.

After a moment, he puts down the pet rock finally and puts his feet down on the floor, looking more serious, “So where’d you find her?”

“Unanswered questions certainly are pretty bad,” Liza agrees. She’s never been fond of them despite living in the midst of many. “I like to think my patience will win out and my questions will be answered. That usually allows me to put those questions aside and focus on what’s at hand.” And what’s at hand is a particularly horrific happenstance to what certainly sounds like someone who didn’t deserve it.

“Who said anything about us finding her? I simply said we had leads in the case. New evidence. Unless you’ve got a hunch you’re working off of… in which case I hope you’ll answer my unasked and unanswered question.”

All this assignment has taught Emily so far is how deeply unsuited she feels she’d be as an Agent. Maybe it’s just this case in particular, but there’s a well of unease that’s swelled within her at the parallels that continue to crop up between this girl and herself. She sees how tragic this is, and has to move on from it immediately to the next distressing topic, and who knows how many more of them there will be. It’s something she has to fight to put aside, her hands clasped tightly one around the other. She can let her heart ache over this later.

When Liza doesn’t exactly offer up that they had found her— that the missing persons case had turned into a homicide investigation— Emily keeps similarly mum on the matter. She simply inclines her head a little to echo the Agent’s sentiment.

“Perhaps I was hoping that I can put this file away for the last time,” Mann responded simply, shaking his head. “I looked into Eliza’s supplier, in case he had been intending to get revenge for her handing her whole stash over to the Benchmark, or maybe he had thought she had turned him in. Or that’s what I worked off of, but he didn’t seem to have known anything about her girlfriend. He hadn’t even known she had girlfriends.” Probably one of those guys who had automatic assumptions about ‘girls’.

“I didn’t find much that connected her to Expressives. She had tested and registered, to go to school mostly, but members of her family had fought on the losing side in the War. I hadn’t looked into whether anyone in her circle had even known about that, but I doubt it. I had to dig pretty deep, since her entire family was from Arizona.”

And most of that state was no longer what one would even consider a state now. “I also dug into everyone at the party that I could. There was no invite list, it was publicly posted over campus, and they didn’t even card people, and with all the costumes, it’s impossible to even get a count of how many attended, much less who they were. But I have a partial list.” After a second, that printout gets added to the top. Some people had parenthesis next to their names which obviously says what costumes they were wearing.

One name does stand out for Emily. Ali Underwood (Bo Peep).

“Well, by the time we’ve finished I hope we can put that file away. Hopefully we’ll answer those unanswered questions sometime soon,” Liza says with a small shrug. “I’m an optimist. It’s worked for me before.” She scribbles down a note in her notebook before looking back up, glancing from Emily to the PI.

“That list is as good a place as any to try and place her, even if it’s only a partial list. Someone had to have at least seen if she left alone or really remembers much of her at the party.”

It shouldn’t be surprising to see a familiar name on the list, given the school, but it makes Emily click her tongue off the top of her mouth in a tsk anyway. She leans forward to pull the sheet a little closer to read it better, brow twitching into a furrow. Her hand goes for her pocket, reaching for her phone. “Do you mind?” she asks. She didn’t have a pen and paper, but she still had ways of taking notes.

The young woman glances back up at hearing that Mann found information about her family from as far west as Arizona. For as eccentric as he seemed, he was quickly proving to be resourceful as well as determined.

Mann’s eyes stay focused on Liza’s for a long moment before waving a dismissive gesture in Emily’s direction. “Don’t mind at all. I like to take notes myself.” That sounded like an inside joke but he doesn’t explain it as he looks back toward the older blonde and the Agent who had flashed the badge to begin with. “Her case was interesting. I hope that you can find her.” He really does, too, and not just to put the case away.

After a moment he adds, “There are far too many missing people reported that never get any follow up. It was worse right after the war, but it’s still pretty bad now. I have a lot more unsolved cases than I would like.” Oddly he glances toward the what-not with it’s small knick-knacks rather than the file cabinet.

Liza smiles in a bit of a sad way as she seems to reflect on that, her notebook falling shut. She tucks it away in her jacket before looking at Mann. “We’ll do our best to make things right for her. It’s the least that can be done. I think everyone deserves that kind of chance.” She taps her pencil against her leg for a moment before that, too, gets slid away in her jacket.

“You’ve got some good instincts and you seem to care about what you’re doing. I can’t get my hands on something unless there’s a SLC-E involved but… you hear about something that seems off to you, feel free to give me a ring.” She slides a crisp white business card with navy blue lettering on it from her jacket and she offers it in his direction.

Emily snaps a good look at the party list as well as the photo of Glinda before coming to her feet, glancing one last time over the pile of oddities lying about the office. Her eyes narrow in thought about their actual purpose, given the investigator's focus on them instead of his files…

But then she snaps back to the moment when Liza offers her card. Emily tucks her phone away with a tight nod to Mann. "Thank you for sharing what you had."

With a careful hand, Mann takes the card and rolls it over in his fingers for a moment before setting it on the desk. It will likely get filed away somewhere soon, but for now it will sit on his desk, as one of the cleaner parts of the office. “I’ll give you a call if something comes up that might need to go to SESA. I have had a few cases like that— at least if I call you specifically I may actually hear back.” Sometimes they just took the files and went, but he already handed all of the physical files over.

“If I run into anything else on Miss Baldwin, I’ll let you know. Hopefully, you can let me know if you manage to solve the case first. And if either of you happen to need a private investigator in the future, I hope you’ll remember me. I always have room for more cases.”

Though his shelves don’t have much room for more knick-knacks.

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