“Hey, Tremain, check out what we found on this guy,” An officer said, and threw a rubber bracelet on Tremain’s desk. Tremain sighed. This wasn’t the right way to handle evidence or personal belongings. He stood up saying “man, you can’t just be throwing these things…” And then he stopped, because he’d just read the bracelet.
“TEAM ANGEL” it said, purple letters on a white band, with stylized angel wings on either side of the words. On the other side it said “LV for Liz”
“Oh for…” Tremain began and picked it up. He walked over to the officer, who was grinning.
“Who’s the perp…I mean suspect?” He asked, putting the bracelet into the personal effects bag that was still sitting on the officer’s desk.
“Didn’t realize your girlfriend was famous, did ya, detective?”
Tremain knew better than to answer that. “Which cell? And what did you bring them in for?”
“Cell Five, and public drunkenness. He was trying to start a fight on the Strip and the wannabes at the Luxor took him in and called us. We’ll give him a couple hours to dry out and send him home.”
“Sure. I’m gonna go have a talk with our friend. In Vino Veritas and all that.”
“Awwww, are you jealous, Detective? Afraid this wino is gonna steal your girl?”
It was gonna be another long night. Tremain grabbed a styrofoam cup of coffee and started pouring sugar into it. On an impulse he grabbed a second cup and filled it with orange juice. He walked to cell five, had the officer on duty open it for him, and walked in.
“Hey man, I got coffee or orange juice. What’s your pleasure? And before you ask, this one ain’t ‘Irish’, and this one won’t drive any screws.”
The guy looked up, eyes red and hands trembling slightly. He gestured toward the coffee cup. “Got any sugar or cream in there?”
“It’s black as my soul, but sweeter than my smile,” Tremain answered. The guy extended his hands towards the coffee. Tremain handed it over, and resigned himself to taking a sip of the OJ. He really wanted that coffee, but he could get some later.
“Thanks,” the guy said and took a sip and shuddered. “Holy… yeah. You weren’t kidding. That’s a lotta sugar. Well, thanks again, officer.”
“Nah man, I’m a detective. Detective Tremain. I didn’t catch your name,” Tremain said.
“Tony.” The drunk said and they shook hands. “What’s on your mind, Detective?” Tony asked. He didn’t seem like a typical rowdy drunk. He had a license, his address checked out; he was a local who had just had a bit too much on a Friday night. Early twenties, no ring but that didn’t mean anything on a Friday night on the Strip. Except there wasn’t any pale band where a ring would usually be either.
“Jus thought I’d come tell you that you’re heading home soon, give they guys at the desk a few hours to get though their paperwork. I can probably even make the ticket disappear. We’ve all had a hard night now and again.”
Tony tried to smile and winced. “Thanks Detective. But, what’s in it for you?”
Tremain forced a smile. “I was just curious about that bracelet you had on. We’ve been hearing about this ‘Liz’ for a while, but we didn’t know she had a team.”
Tony nodded. A little. “Team Angel isn’t a gang or anything.”
“I mean yeah, I figured. I’m pretty familiar with the gangs, and ‘Team Angel’ doesn’t seem like it’d demand a whole lotta respect from any of them. I mean, I figured it wasn’t anything like that, but what is it? Some kinda new church?”
“What, you think it’s like a cult or something?” Tony asked.
“Nah, man, nothing like that. Hey, I’m not trying to hassle you or anything. If you don’t wanna talk that’s cool, just enjoy the coffee, and I could probably bring you a couple of aspirin as well. I was just curious is all.”
Tony sat back and sipped the coffee again. “So, what do you know about Liz?” He asked. “And I could use that aspirin.”
Tremain gestured to the guard officer and asked for a couple of headache pills. She went and grabbed them, looking curious. This wasn’t normal, but you don’t question a Detective. She had also helpfully brought a cup of ice water. Nice touch.
Tony gulped the aspirin down and drank all the water as well.
“Liz is just…good. She’s not like, asking for money or nothing, she’s not like, having everyone move into her compound or anything. She’s just…I dunno officer, her videos are all online. She just, like, reminds people of who they really are. Like, she’s an angel, you know? But that means that all of us are something special. She talks about how angels and demons and fauns and trolls and stuff, how they’re all just like, kinds of people, you know? And if we want, we can tap into who we really are, and start to know what makes us all special.”
Tremain sat back. “So, Tony, what are you?”
“Me? Look, I’m just an accountant who had a few too many. Angel Liz talks a good game, yeah, but it’s not like I believe all that stuff. But…” Tony trailed off.
“Hey, safe cell, here Tony. I’m not judging you, man. I ain’t got the robes to be a judge.”
Tony half-smiled at the lame joke and went on, looking down at his lap.
“It’s just…well, look, when I watched her videos, she had one about what it means to be a…A Paladin.”
Tremain just nodded. “What’s a Paladin?”
Tony still wouldn’t meet his gaze. “You know, like, a white knight. Like, from History. Only…only Liz says that Paladins from history aren’t the real story. They weren’t just some order of knights. They were like, kinda divine. She says we all got something in us that can be more.”
“Hey, Tony, that sounds pretty cool, man. So you think you got some Paladin in you?”
Tony breathed deeply, still looking at his hands. Then he took a sip of coffee and nodded slightly. “I mean, even if it’s all crap, why not act like it’s true, yeah? What’s the harm in being a good guy?”
“That why you’re in here, Tony?”
Tony nodded again. “There was this guy givin’ a lady a hard time and I thought, yeah, that’s not okay. So I went and told him and things got kinda hectic.”
“They bring in the other guy as well?”
“I dunno man…Detective. I wasn’t thinking all that clearly.”
“Sure, sure. Well, if you ask me, we could use more white knights in this town. But, you know, maybe use your cell phone as your sword, yeah? Maybe just give us a call next time.”
Tony half-smiled at this. “Sure officer…Detective, I mean. And…I’m not crazy or anything, I don’t think I’m magic. I’m just kinda drunk and overreacted is all.”
Tremain stood up. “No worries, guy. A little crazy never hurt anyone. You need a refill on that, before I go?” Tony shook his head. “Nah, I’m good.”
“Okay. Well, I’ll tell the boys to get you out of here as soon as they can. Nice talking to ya.”
“Thanks man…Detective.” Tony said and laid back on the narrow bed.
Back in his office Tremain did a search on Angel Liz. Sure enough, she had a channel with a fair number of followers.
“Liz, Lizzie Liz, what are you doing?” Tremain asked under his breath. And then he looked at the corner of his screen. There was a sticky note there. That wasn’t surprising; his screen always had a wreath of memos and notes stuck to the edges; he’d resisted getting a newer monitor because he liked having a big plastic bezel to put notes around the screen.
But this new sticky note was pale blue and all his were standard yellow. It had one of those shortened web addresses you get, written in a very neat hand, slightly feminine; there was a lower-case “i” in the address and it was dotted with an open circle. Hey typed it into his browser and it pulled up a new, unlisted video. Posted only an hour earlier, meaning someone made this, got into his office, posted that note, and got back out while he was in the building.
The video was titled “Hi Detective!” Tremain swore quietly, under his breath. He pressed the intercom and asked if any other detectives were on duty. Front desk said no and he asked them to send someone in to watch this, it might be evidence or something.
An officer came in. “What’s up, Detective?”
“Just come watch this. The person who made it has a way of making things disappear, and I want a second pair of eyes to back me up.”
The officer looked confused, but came around Tremain’s desk and sat down. Tremain nodded and started the video. He began unconsciously stroking his short white goatee while he watched.
At first it was just dark, then someone turned on a light, facing the camera. The picture quality was poor enough that all he could see was that there was a person sitting in front of the light. They had a wild mass of hair more or less grouped into two ponytails, which glowed slightly from the backlight. One had hints of neon pink, the other was vaguely purple. The person was roundish, but it’s so hard to tell when you’re in shadow like that.
“Heya Detective!” The video said and Tremain found himself trying to analyze that voice. Alto or contralto, definite Southern edge to it, he’d have to get someone to listen to it, see if they could place her accent more precisely. Her voice wasn’t smooth, like a singer’s, or at least, not like a pop star. She could have sung jazz with Billie Holiday, though. Her voice was “husky”, or “dusky”, perhaps. A little rough, but not unpleasant to listen to.
“About those wristbands. I didn’t make ’em, and I don’t get anything when they sell ’em. But I kinda like it, yeah? I mean, what’s wrong with a bunch of people wantin’ to be more angelic?
“They don’t quite get it, but that’s okay, I didn’t get it until just a few months ago. I’m thinking you don’t quite get it yet either. But hey, people are lookin’ for something better than what they got, and that’s a good start.
“Anyway, about Tony boy. I never met the guy, but I think I’d like to. One of my friends told me he got into a bit of trouble because he decided to say enough’s enough. Again, I ain’t ever met him. I figure you’ll take care of him. The other guy was rattled a bit, sure, but he’ll be fine. That girl he was dragging around, she’s got a few things to think about now, though. If some guy she’s never met thinks she’s worth fightin’ for, maybe she don’t need to hang around that sleazy goblin that brought her to the strip.”
There were sounds in the background, and an echo to Liz’s voice. Tremain couldn’t quite place it; it seemed….open? Tremain used to think he’d be an audiophile but he never had the money to do it right. But he would play with settings on his stereo sometimes, and the video sounded like somebody set it to “concert hall”.
Liz continued. “And hey, sorry about this video. It ain’t quite time for us to meet face to face, not even on the Internet. So far all my vids are like this; and you know what? It just seems to make them more popular.
“But the day is coming where you and I will meet, and not long after that all of Las Vegas is gonna know all about ol ‘Angel Liz’.
“There’s something dark going on here, Detective. Darker than Sin City is used to, darker than the usual scummy mob ties and gang stuff. And you and I, we’re gonna break it open and expose it to the light.
“But not yet. Anyway, that’s all for now, Detective. Treat that white knight right, yeah? Talk to ya later. Bye!”