Afflictions: Part Twenty Nine

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Vanessa lay sprawled out across the couch, with Anastasia sitting next to her in an armchair. Across the coffee table, Marquise’s papers were scattered, with a few marks made on them. They’d spent the last few hours reading through the excess of research that he had done, as well as some of the highlights from Arte’s own investigation of when Ashley went missing. There was a lot of good information, but it was exhausting to go through.

“I think that’s it…” Anastasia sighed, as she flipped through her notepad. Vanessa could see that she’d written quite a lot. “Let’s go through everything we wrote down.”

“That sounds like a plan.” Vanessa pulled out her own notes, which she now felt were inadequate compared to how much Anastasia was writing down. She felt like they had enough, but they needed to put together a proper set of evidence if this was going to go anywhere.

“So, Stewart was hired by Cinnistar on October 17th, 2019, two weeks after he left an HR position at Vertech.” She followed along the page with a pen as she spoke, occasionally tapping for emphasis. “On November 4th, Cinnistar’s wireless R&D lab accepted a contract from Vertech to develop the ‘G-Wave emitter’.”

“The timing is a little sketchy, but it’s really that he came from HR that sounds sketchy…” Vanessa thought for a moment. “What does the G-Wave thing even do?”

Anastasia thumbed through her notebook for a moment, before shaking her head. “Evidently it doesn’t hurt people, but that’s just about all they have here. They were contracted to build something that emitted radiation at some specific frequency, and it had to not hurt humans.”

“Weird…” Vanessa looked down at her own notes. “Nothing overly weird seemed to happen after that, until they finished the G-Wave thing, on February 8th of 2020. They had the party on the 21st, where Stewart was trying to buddy up with my dad, then the next work-day, the 24th, there was the shooting…”

“That timing is definitely suspicious. The shooting happened right after they finished the project.” Anastasia paused for a moment as she flipped through her notes. “According to this, Cinnistar investigated the shooting themselves, and the police backed off. It looks like they just called it a terrorist attack.”

“The shooting was where Ashley got kidnapped, but there were only a couple of people who actually got shot, right?” Vanessa dug through the papers on the table until she found the printed article she was looking for. “Khoa Lue, and Chia Li. They were the people directly over the G-Wave project.”

“And Stewart was absent on the day of the shooting with food poisoning, and that was verified by the police before they dropped the case.” Anastasia thought for a moment. “Does this seem a little half-assed to you?”

“I think so, yeah.” Vanessa nodded, thinking about everything they’ve gone through. “It’s bordering on obvious that something sketchy was going on here. Maybe they just weren’t worried about being caught?”

“I suppose the only reason this is on our radar at all is because you met Ashley in the camp, and Arte came to Jude while she was looking for Ash…”

“I guess that is true. It really is a coincidence that anyone looked into this at all. Marquise did all the digging, but evidently nothing came of it until he gave it to us, so maybe they’re doing a proper cover-up, and we just happened to be lucky enough to stumble on it.” Vanessa looked back down at Marquise’s pile of evidence. It was definitely a string of unlikely coincidences that they even knew about this, so it was probably covered up about as well as they thought they needed to.

“I think that’s pretty much everything we have.” Anastasia flipped through her notes quickly, before continuing. “It definitely looks bad, but we don’t really have any solid wrongdoings here, it just looks sketchy with the number of connections. I think this might be where it would be helpful to call your dad to verify what we’re thinking.”

Vanessa’s heart sank at the suggestion. She knew she was right, but that didn’t make it more palatable to turn back to her dad for help. “Yeah, you’re right… I don’t think we can get much further on our own.”

“We don’t have to completely rely on his information though. We have a good bit already, so if he lies about anything important, we’ll probably be able to tell.” Anastasia offered a reassuring smile. “We’re still looking into this on our own, it just wouldn’t make sense to not use all of our resources.”

Vanessa nodded, and pulled out her phone. There was no point in putting it off. She pulled up her contacts and called her dad.

The phone rang for a moment, then he picked up. “Hey, Vanessa. I’m glad to hear from you.”

“Dad, I’m calling to ask about something. At the end of 2019, you hired a guy named Stewart Ashworth to be the director of the wireless R&D lab. What all do you remember about him?”

Mr. Smith sighed. “Well the name rings a bell. He was one of the people I hired as part of one of the deals I reached with Vondrasek and Weston. I didn’t exactly like him, but I put him over the project Vondrasek wanted him over, and he completed it. I know he was working on a part of the detector for people with powers, so he figured out a few people who had powers at the company and had them taken to Takeo’s camp.”

“And what about the shooting on February 24th?” She pressed. This was almost enough, if she could get him to connect Stewart to the shooting.

Mr. Smith sighed again. “Well, I don’t exactly know that he organized it or anything, but he did tell me to avoid going to the research branch that day. I believe it was to get a super so they could take them to the camp, but I know there were casualties, so I’m not sure if that was all.”

“Thanks, dad.” She had everything she needed, so she felt no need to keep this conversation going. “Well, I have to go take care of something, so I’m going to go.” She didn’t wait for an answer. Even if he was possibly sick, that didn’t erase everything he had done. Besides, she needed to call the DSR now to see if they could do anything about this.

“Well?” Anastasia asked.

“He confirmed it. Stewart was hired because of Vondrasek, and knew about the shooting in advance.” She nodded. She felt like this should be more of a somber moment than a happy one with what they were investigating, but it still felt good to succeed. “So let’s call the DSR and try to get a warrant.”

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Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

I don’t know how I keep doing this, but I mislabeled another post. Trying to be more careful about details like that. Also, still don’t have any of the stuff I ordered for my studio (thanks fedex).

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