Murder at Quantico
Chapter 1: Settling In
Some sympathetic clerk at the New England Bureau of Investigation Washington Headquarters had cut orders for both Sarah and me to report to the Quantico Training Academy on the same day, Wednesday. I think I know who it was and made myself a mental note to thank her.
Sarah is Sarah Bullock, whom I rescued when I investigated the disappearance of her step-brother, Sir Oliver Plumb. After the help she gave me in that investigation, Sarah has become my apprentice and something more.
I'm Robert Macleod, a Supervisory Special Investigator of the New England Bureau of Investigation. I've just finished an appointment as the Personal Investigator for the Governor-General of New England, Baron Clinton.
The Academy is located at Quantico, in a corner of the Royal Marine base. However the Academy is some six miles from the railroad station, requiring a ride in a hansom cab. After a pleasant drive through the woods of Virginia, we arrived at the reception building.
We reported in and found that Sarah was booked into a women s' dormitory, while I was booked into staff quarters. We canceled the dormitory booking, and proceeded to the quarters.
There are three streams of Investigators in the Bureau: those trained in magic, those trained in the law and those trained in the ways of the police. My job would be with the first stream. I would be training them in the use of magic as applied to forensics and what was more important; when not to use magic.
For some subjects, all three steams would be taught together. All students are taught firearms proficiency, together with an understanding in each other's basics. The current intake of thirty-four comprised nine in the Thaumaturgical branch, twice that number in the legal branch with the remaining seven originating with the police forces.
The morning after our arrival, the whole intake was gathered to be welcomed by the Head of Training who then introduced the seven members of staff who would undertaking their training The class was then led off to draw among other things, their Investigators' badges, Trainees' cards their hand guns and the clothing required during the course. The issue of ammunition is restricted to the range where the guns were to be fired.
After the issue of their equipment, the students were assigned lockers and told to change into their PE outfits. The PE instructor took them out for a run around the Campus showing them where all the relevant locations were.
This was followed by lunch where the class members were somewhat subdued from the exertions of their run.
By the time my nine students reached the classroom after lunch, they were beginning to bounce back a bit. I had read and absorbed the notes on the students. Most had a thorough basic grounding in thaumaturgy.
To test how well they had absorbed this grounding, I had devised a number of exercises. I had split them up into three groups. The problems were taken from real life. They described the situation that faced an Investigator, giving the students all the information that was available to the Investigator. Some of these problems I had taken from the annals of NEBI, while another came from the memoirs of Lord Darcy.
The students were told to consider the facts and to suggest what happened next. One of the problems was a trick problem. It was soluble only if you didn't use magic. Although the students were to work together on their problem, they were to submit their reports individually.
The next morning, PE was an hour of strenuous exercises, followed by a five mile run. Returning from the run they were told to shower and change and then to report to the range with their hand guns.
I had joined them on the range, partly to see how they shot and partly because I expected there might be a bit of fun to be had! I know there had been when I was a student and I was sure that this happened on most courses.
Their first targets were for them to get warmed up. The target was the figure of a man running towards the student; a drawn face with a black body and a faint 10-ring around the heart area.
Most of the students were obviously aiming at the center of the body with varying degrees of success. The target was reeled in after each student's five shots and replaced.
The best so far was the penultimate student, red-headed lass who had got one in the 10-ring, another three on the body and one miss.
Sarah stepped up to fire. She loaded her gun, then paused for a moment and fired her five shots rapidly. The PE instructor who was also the range master suddenly started to laugh, When he had calmed down and reeled in the target, we could all see the reason for his outburst. Sarah had shot out both the target's eyes, put one shot in his crotch and the remaining two shots near the center of the 10-ring.
There was a moments silence as the class took in the sight before them and then the red-head screeched, "Magic! She must have been using Magic!"
At this, the range master and I both burst into laughter. After we sobered up, he looked at me and grinned.
"There's usually one in every class," he said. He turned to the class and added, "Oh no, she didn't! And do you know why?" He looked around at their faces. The red-head's mouth had dropped open. "I'll tell you why! Magic can never be used on this range. That's because a geas has been laid on it. Most classes have at least one natural marksman in them. Usually there is cry of magic, even when the marksman is in one of the non-magical streams." He looked at Sarah's name tag. "Bullock here is not only a natural, but she's got a wicked sense of humor with it! Now apologize to her."
The red-head walked up to Sarah, holding out her hands, which Sarah took.
"I'm sorry Sarah! I didn't think that anyone could shoot that well."
I must say that even I was pleasantly surprised.
"That's enough fun for one day," the range master told the class. "Now we get down to proper shooting." He turned to the red-head and said "I'm appointing you Assistant Range Master for the rest of the morning. Here are the more conventional targets. Keep their scores on this clipboard. Now young lady," he said to Sarah, "You and I are going to have a real match!"
I left the range, having had my fun. There was much to prepare for the afternoon's session. Watching my students on the range had given me a rather sneaky idea. This time they would all work on the same exercise, but each on their own. The trick this time was that both logic and magic would be required for a solution. However the use in each case was not the obvious application.
This gave me an easy afternoon as I watched them struggle with their problem. I had marked their previous day's reports. Three were very good and the remainder lay in the range of adequate to good. The three were Josh Saunders, the red-headed, Molly McGuire and Sarah. These I marked with a 'see me later' comment.
Eventually they all handed in their current work and collected their previous assignments. The three 'very good' students were all that were left. I told them I wanted to discuss their conclusions with them and invited them out to dinner. I hoped that the other two would be sufficiently relaxed to accept my proposition. I had in mind that I could use them to act as 'agents provocateur' in an upcoming exercise.
I had arranged for a hansom cab to be available to take us into Garrisonville where there were a number of restaurants. The only drawback was that a hansom seats only two, three if you are fairly friendly. Josh and I overcame this by seating the ladies on our laps.
Molly asked Sarah, "What was the outcome of your shooting match, this morning?"
"I won, but only just. We had five sets each of ten shots at our targets, shooting and spotting alternatively. After four rounds we were all square at 400 points each. During my last round our dear instructor tried to put me off by asking if Annie Oakley had taught me. I dropped two points. On his last round I told him that it wasn't Annie, but her mother who had taught both Annie and me. He dropped three points."
"Who taught you so well?" asked Josh.
"My father did. He's a gentleman farmer. He had been an army officer, the adjutant to General Sir Justin Plumb, my mother's first husband.
"Any brothers or sisters?" asked Molly.
"Only Olly, Sir Oliver Plumb, my step-brother. And you two?"
"I'm an only child, but Josh comes from a very large family."
"Yes! Would you believe that I'm the seventh son of a seventh son? It makes for some large family gatherings"
The banter continued throughout our trip to Garrisonville, through our dinner and the return trip to our quarters. We dropped off Molly and Josh at their dormitory buildings and paid off the cabby when he dropped us at our quarters.
The next day, Saturday, there were no classes and I suggested to Sarah that we should collect Molly and Josh and explore the Campus. Sarah agreed and we set off. Our route took us past the church on the Campus. A large wooden cross was fixed to the brick wall above the main doors.
We collected Molly and Josh and walked over to Hogan's Alley, a live training exercise area. I had an idea simmering in the back of my mind for an exercise in this training area. Molly commented on how like small-town Maine it looked.
Sunday, Sarah and I went to church. It was not compulsory, but we were expected to. The remainder of the day we just lazed around.
On Monday, the morning was spent on PE and at the range. I had the afternoon off as the whole class was studying with the legal lecturer. In the next two afternoon sessions we rotated the work groups through the magic exercises that they had not tackled.