This is the last chapter of the Sir Lanka Files that is publicly available. If you’ve read so far, enjoyed the story, and would like to beta read, please get in touch.
“It’s like searching for a specific needle in a forest whose trees have needles for leaves,” complained DaVic.
KarJa had directed their search efforts through different parts of the city for hours, but they had not turned up anything yet. The addresses that KarJa had led to houses which were unoccupied. They’d talked to neighbours, watched some places for a couple of hours, and even tried to break into a few, but with no luck.
Nobody knew anything about the houses or who owned them. And this really was surprising in Sir Lanka since everybody made it their business to know about their neighbours. Generally, should a neighbour sneeze, everybody knew about it and also what made him sneeze and the backstory. But with regards to the houses, rather surprisingly, nobody seemed to know anything at all.
The houses had all apparently not been occupied for ever, at least not that anybody recalled. Nobody visited them. And there were never lights, noises, or any signs of occupation from them. But, the houses weren’t abandoned or in disrepair either. Nor were there any open doors or windows that they could climb through, nor any other means of ingress.
The more they searched, the more strange it seemed to DaVic. There definitely was something off here.
Sure, one house which had never had any occupants, but was not abandoned was one thing. But a bunch of them like that with no information about the owners at all? That didn’t make a lot of sense. Not in Sir Lanka.
“I told you that there was something fishy going on!” said KarJa, as if divining his thoughts.
“Something strange is certainly going on, but we’ve not seen any sign of aliens,” pointed out DaVic.
“They’re just good at hiding, that’s all! I’m sure the aliens are there!” replied KarJa.
DaVic was wondering if KarJa was ever going to get tired of the search. He’d assumed that the girl would want to look at a few places and then she’d give up the search. As they hit dead end after dead end, he was sure — “No, you hoped,” corrected his inner voice — that she was on the verge of giving up. And yet, here they were at the tenth or eleventh house and she seemed to be just as keen to keep going.
“Maybe we should take a break? Haven’t we looked at enough places for the day?” asked DaVic hopefully.
“Are you kidding? We’re on the verge of a breakthrough! I’m sure of it!” replied KarJa with unbounded enthusiasm.
“But all we’ve seen are locked up houses. There is no sign of aliens or a conspiracy,” pointed out DaVic.
“Just because you can’t find signs of a conspiracy doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist! In fact, it’s probably proof that it does! A conspiracy by nature is secret, right?”
“Umm … by that logic, we probably have conspiracies all around us everyday,” replied DaVic.
“Well, how do we know we don’t?”
“OK, but we can’t keep going on searching endlessly …” replied DaVic plaintively.
“OK. One more, and if we find no clues there, we’ll stop and rethink. Maybe we’re looking at this wrong?”
Everything after “one more” just rushed through DaVic’s mind without making any impression like water through a sluice gate. Maybe he could finally get rid of the kid and get over to BoBo’s?
His fear of being discovered by RaBlu’s men had subsided as the hours progressed. They’d criss-crossed the city and nobody seemed to pay any attention to them. Sure, they’d kept to the alleyways and byways as much as possible as they combed the city, but since there were no incidents at all, DaVic was beginning to relax and wonder if perhaps he’d imagined the events of the previous night. Or, misunderstood what was going on.
His train of thought was brought to an abrupt halt by something KarJa had just said. “Wait, what did you just say?”
“I said you can see the Lostus Needle from here quite clearly.”
It had been the word “needle” that had caught his attention. Hadn’t WisKa said something about needles?
“Didn’t WisKa say something about danger and needles?”
“Did she? I wasn’t really paying attention …”
“Yes, she did. She said something like danger is in the eye of the needle or something …”
“What if she meant the Lostus Needle?”
“Don’t tell me you believe her?” scoffed KarJa.
“Well, not really. But coincidences do happen right?”
“Well, I remember seeing the Lostus Needle from a couple of the other places we visited too.”
KarJa stared at him for a moment, her mouth slightly open. Then she whipped out her POD and tapped on the screen a few times. Then she appeared to scroll through a list — first slowly, then rapidly. She looked up, her eyes wide.
“This is really strange!” she said.
“Well, I checked to see if you could see the Lostus Needle from all the addresses on my list …”
“You can see it from all of them. Every. Single. Place. How likely is that do you think?”
“The Lostus Needle is a pretty tall building. I’m sure you can see it from all over the city…”
“Nuh-uh. I checked. You can’t always see the tower because other buildings get in the way. But all of the places we’ve visited, and the rest on our list, they all have a direct line of sight to the Needle.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know. But it has to mean something, right?” asked KarJa, staring at him, almost hopefully.
“OK. So why don’t we go check out the Needle?”
“What about WisKa’s warning?” countered KarJa.
“I thought you didn’t believe in her prophecies?” asked DaVic.
“I don’t know what to believe, now. I wouldn’t have paid any attention earlier, but now that she’s mentioned needles and we find a connection to the Needle …”
“Coincidence,” said DaVic dismissively. “But we might as well visit the Needle if it has a line of sight to all your houses. Maybe we can see something from above that we couldn’t see from ground level …”
“How are we going to get up there? You know it’s locked up, right?”
“We’ll figure that out once we get there!” said DaVic walking slowly towards the Lostus Needle. They’d been walking a lot today and his feet hurt.
The Lostus Needle was a relic from bygone times. Supposedly, it used to be called the “Lost to Us Tower” by the people in the area since nobody knew the name or the history of the tower. According to oldsters, in the days before the wars, the tower had dominated the skyline in that part of the city.
Over time, the “Lost to Us” part got shortened to Lostus, and once they started rebuilding the city after the arrival of the aliens and the re-introduction of higher technology to the planet, people started talking about razing the Lostus Tower and putting up some modern structures in its place.
But the people from the neighbourhood objected to these plans. They’d gotten used to having the ruins of the tower looking down upon them over the years and felt that it should be preserved as a historical landmark.
At first there had been a lot of back and forth between the progressive younger elements and the older people who wanted to cling on to history. But so much time passed in these debates that the progressive elements grew old themselves and became the ones who wanted the tower preserved as a landmark.
Somewhere along the way, somebody decided to rename the building to Lostus Needle since tower apparently sounded too old fashioned. Over the years, they also reinforced and restored the Needle so that it wasn’t a crumbling wreck that could come down upon your heads at any moment.
These days, people complained fondly about how the Needle ruined the view, but should anybody ever talk about demolishing the Needle, the same people would rise up in righteous anger. But the building was unoccupied. According to some, it was just too historically valuable to allow the building to be used for anything useful. So, it remained just a landmark, or an eye sore, depending on the person.
By this point, they were almost up to the Lostus Needle and DaVic considered suggesting to KarJa that they hurry up since dusk was falling — he wanted to get to BoBo’s, meet the unknown woman from yesterday, and learn what was really going on.
Then, as if his thoughts of her had conjured her up out of thin air, he saw the woman walking out of an alleyway ahead of them! DaVic stopped in his tracks, grabbed KarJa by the hand, and pulled her into an alleyway close by.
Before the startled KarJa could ask him anything, he signalled to her to be quiet. While he could tell that she had a lot of questions, thankfully, she remained quiet.
DaVic peered out from the alleyway at the woman, while KarJa pushed up next to him to see what he was looking at.
The woman appeared to be walking up to the Lostus Needle. What was she up to? DaVic grabbed his POD and started recording her at full zoom. Perhaps it might help in case he wanted to ask JaPok later to check through the Guild records to find out who she was?
As the two of them watched, the woman walked up to the Needle entrance, turned left and kept walking around the building. Fortunately, she was on the same side as they were and they could still see her.
She walked up to a side door, stepped back a few feet and simply stood there. DaVic was beginning to wonder what was going on when a beam of light appeared from above the door, appeared to scan the woman from head to toe, and then disappeared. The door opened silently, the woman walked in, and the door closed behind her.
“What just happened?” asked KarJa in barely a whisper.
“I don’t know …” said DaVic slowly, trying to gather his thoughts.
“Who was that woman? Do you know her? Why did we spy on her?”
“I don’t know,” said DaVic and realized that his answer to all of KarJa’s questions was probably the same — he still had no idea what was going on! But he intended to find out.
“If you don’t know, why were we spying on her?” KarJa was relentless.
“Look, I don’t know who she is, but she’s probably trouble. And it might be time for you to go home now …”
“No way! Not when things are getting interesting!”
“But … your father … think of what he’d say!”
“He won’t say anything if the doesn’t know about it, right?” asked KarJa.
It was difficult to argue with that logic, DaVic conceded. But he couldn’t put the girl in danger whether she was NaPosy’s daughter or not. He tried to reason with KarJa.
“Look. I have no idea what is going on here. But I intend to find out. And once I do, I will let you know. But I’m not dragging you into danger with me …”
“You’re not dragging me anywhere!” replied KarJa vehemently. “I found this conspiracy and I intend to find out what is going on. You can either take me with you, or I can make a commotion till the Cheese comes along … or somebody from the Guild …”
“But that won’t get you inside the Needle, will it?” asked DaVic.
“Can you get us inside the Needle?” asked KarJa in return.
“I think so, yes. At least, I have an idea.”
Karja seemed to consider this for a moment. “OK, how about this? I won’t make a fuss, but you let me come along with you. We’ll go inside the Needle and we’ll look around. But at the first hint of danger, we’ll get out of there.”
DaVic had no counter offer. By now, he knew enough of KarJa to know that if he tried to leave her behind, she would make things as difficult as possible. And he really needed to find out what was going on since at this point, he was running for his life, but had no idea if his life was even in danger!
He decided that it was worth the risk.
“So how are we going to get inside the Needle?”
“I think that beam of light was some sort of scanner. It was identifying the woman by her facial features …”
“Well, duh! But that doesn’t help us. We don’t look like her at all.”
“Oh, but I can,” said DaVic smugly.
“Huh?” asked KarJa staring at him.
Instead of replying, DaVic simply got his POD out, edited the video he’d made of the woman earlier to get a good clip with her, and uploaded it to the PRDF that Salix had given him — Salix had taught him the basics of operating it and it was simple enough. He then pressed the activator. Hoping that it had worked, he said: “Voila!”
By the expression on KarJa’s face, he could tell that the PRDF was working. He smirked complacently. At least one thing was going his way today!
“How? What? You …”
DaVic shushed her. “I’ll tell you all about it later. All you need to know is that this is a trade secret of being a private investigator. Now let’s get ourselves inside the Needle and find out what’s going on!”
Continued … in the book when it’s done 🙂