With a copy of the Brading Standard tucked under one arm and the notepad app on his phone loaded with useful information, Albert Starr returned to the car to find Zara fussing over a cart horse while chatting with the owner. The young woman was staring into the amber eyes of the horse with a broad smile on her face, as the gentleman she had struck up conversation with gestured over towards the church.
“Made a friend, Zara?” Albert called out, diverting her attention away from the workhorse.
“Uncle! This is Jamie, his family owns one of the local farms. And this is Sunny.” She said, gesturing between the pair as she mentioned their names. “She’s an American Cream.”
“Jamie Matthews, sir.” The young man said, offering a hand.
“Albert.” The hero replied, feeling the handshake drop off a little as recognition caused Jamie’s eyes to widen and grip to slacken.
“Honour to meet you, sir.” Jamie said after clearing his throat. A slightly perturbed look crossed his face, and he leaned in to whisper. “Is the town in danger? I can ring the church bell if an evacuation’s needed?”
“We’re just here investigating something, Jamie. There’s no danger to anyone here.” Albert quietly reassured.
“Good. Grand.” Jamie breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, if there’s anything you need?”
Two different answers came from the two different Starrs at the same time. From Albert, ‘Information.’ From Zara, ‘Accommodation.’
Feeling two sets of eyes on her, Zara looked to her uncle to explain. “Work needs to know if they should book us in to the Watertown Hotel?”
“Well, if it’s hospitality and information you’re looking for, why not drop by the farm? The Matthews family have been here for five generations, and if Dad doesn’t know the answer, Grandma might.” Jamie offered, scratching at the back of his head as he spoke.
His niece’s eyes were boring a hopeful look at him. Lifting a finger to ask for a moment, he gestured Zara into the car. “We appreciate the offer, could you give us a moment?”
“Sure, Sir.” Jamie nodded, hopping up onto the cart. “Sunny here needs to drink up ready for the return trip.” Pointing to a water trough outside the Brading General Store, the young man grabbed the reigns and set off in that direction.
“Please can we, Uncle? He seems really nice and he knows about the town and he said I could take Sunny for a ride if-”
“Quiet, Zara.” Albert interrupted her eager spiel. “Don’t forget, we have a mission here. It’s not a vacation.” Setting the newspaper on the back seat, he unlocked his phone with a few taps of the touchscreen. “There’s a few names to look into. Martin Aimes-”
“I met him, briefly.” Zara spoke up. “He’s just a kid, maybe nine or ten? Bright red skin and was getting bullied for it. Jamie ran the bullies off, but the kid headed home. He lives with his grandmother.”
“… I see. Then there’s Clarissa Gable. Came off a horse in a nasty incident a year back, but she’s made a remarkable recovery. Possibly due to an accelerated healing factor. Libertas had that and was much more durable than baseline humans.” Albert read off the screen, glancing to his niece to see if she’d interject.
“Daniel Davis, star quarterback of the local high school in Watertown.” Noticing the expectant look sent her way, he shrugged. “Sometimes athletic achievement is a good precursor to power activation. It may be the hometown hero effect when he was mentioned, but they seem to think he’s turned the team’s fortune around.”
“So, a kid with red skin. Someone who fell off a horse. A high school footballer. What about that artifact you mentioned? Can it pick anything up now?”
Fetching his jacket from the rear seat, Albert slipped a slender case from the inner pocket and opened it. Placing a slender stone arrowhead on his palm, his amber eyes began to glow as he fed energy into it. With a shudder, the stone piece rose up and began to just spin around.
“What’s that mean?”
Albert let the flow of energy taper off, the arrowhead soon falling to his palm to rest. “We’re in the right location, but they’re not actively using their abilities so it can’t get a read.”
The blonde next to him nodded, deep in thought. “So we should make friends with the locals, with a good source of information and someone to make introductions…”
“All right, Zara. We’ll take Mister Matthews up on his offer. Go and let him know.” Albert relented.
“Can I see if I can ride with him on the cart?” She added, beaming expectantly.
Slipping the artifact back into its case, Radiant let out a long sigh. “If I didn’t, you’d complain all the way there. Go on.”
Zara flung herself across the divide to kiss his cheek. “You’re the best, Uncle!” She said with arms wrapping around his neck. “Um, just don’t tell Uncle Emilio I said that.”
Albert shook his head as she left the car and dashed in the direction of the general store. It was bad enough that his daughters could wrap him around their fingers, now Zara was doing it too.