It took three special favors, the entire town council leaning into the idea, and then enough personal pressure from John Davis to finally convince William Everett that he should come and visit the Hub as requested by David Nash.
Geoffrey, previously known as Thresher, transported him to the Upper Level aboard the Hammerhead. The trip had been smooth enough, and Geoffrey was happy to have a chance to fly his ship once more.
At least, that’s what he had told David Nash.
David wasn’t sure about any of it.
William was not what he expected. There was no business tycoon demeanor to William at all. He looked like a family man, a father to a couple children, still somehow managing to hold himself together despite the chaotic family. He smiled warmly, greeted the Arkly siblings, and asked politely for a donut from the nearby shop.
All of this grated at the back of David’s mind. There was no way that William did not know why he was here. He had been paying people to hunt another person. So the question then was why William felt so comfortable being relaxed and casual when he was clearly being investigated.
There was more to William Everett, that much was certain.
David stepped into the interrogation room where William had been seated, and the two locked eyes for a brief moment before William offered a warm smile.
“Well, you pulled a lot of strings, Nash. So, here I am. I’m missing one of my kid’s recitals tonight. She’s not happy about it.”
“Mr. Everett, do you—”
“Call me William.”
David resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “William, do you know why you’re here?”
“I spoke to Michael Jonas on the way up,” he replied. “I assume you tracked his payments back to me and you’re looking for information.”
“That would be correct.”
“Let me ask you, David, have you ever heard of Anton Mertens?”
“I have,” David answered.
“Have you ever heard of Truthseekers Incorporated?”
David paused. “What?”
William chuckled, leaning back in his chair. “David, I hired Michael Jonas as a Private Investigator. His job was to locate Anton Mertens and reach out to him so that the two of us could talk. I have heard amazing rumors about him, and you can’t just ignore amazing rumors on this World Ship.”
“No, wait,” David fumbled. “Michael and his assistant assaulted two of my officers in the Sentret district the night Olivia Sun went missing.”
“First,” William said, holding up a finger. “That’s not how that went down at all, and you know it. Michael told me he discovered Olivia was coming to the Upper Level, and after his interviews with Geoffrey, he felt Olivia might know where to find Anton. He didn’t attempt a kidnapping, or even start a fight. He intercepted Olivia and asked to speak with her privately. You’re the ones that went aggressive, and Michael was forced to defend himself!”
“That’s not entirely honest,” David grumbled.
“Who threw the first punch?” William asked. “Did your officers mention that?”
David frowned. “Wait. What?”
“Did Michael attack your officers? Did he do anything aggressive before he was forced to defend himself?”
“Hang on a second. Don’t make this out like we—”
“David,” William interrupted. “I am going to be entirely honest with you on this one. Geoffrey already filled me in on Michael Jonas’ past when I hired him to investigate Anton’s disappearance. I’m aware there was some bad blood between you two, what with a kidnapping attempt and whatever else you all got up to in the Upper Level. To be frank, I’m detecting some bias at work in this situation. The fact that you’ve had me travel all the way up here to ask me questions I could have answered over a communicator is proof enough of that.”
“I’m trying to get the story straight,” David pressed. “I don’t think that’s bias.”
“Michael Jonas is a private investigator. He runs Truthseekers Incorporated, which I fund with my own money. One of his employees was arrested, wrongfully I might add, after they attempted to speak with Olivia Sun. Now that’s the truth to all of this, and I’ll get you whatever records you want. I’m not the villain of your story, Mr. Nash. I assure you of that. At this point, my recommendation is that you release the poor man you took into custody and we can all be on our way.”
“You said one of his employees?”
“That’s right,” William said. “You arrested more than one?”
As if the question had triggered the moment, a door to the police station swung open, slamming loudly enough that David could hear it from the room he was in with William. They both jumped a bit from the noise, and David stood up to see what had caused the commotion.
Standing in the doorway was Olivia Sun.
Next to her was the leader of the Dragons of Sentret, the man named Karushi Sona, and he was smiling as they walked into the station.
“Good morning, officers,” Karushi announced. “I believe we have found the young woman you were looking for earlier in our area of Danketsu.”
“Hey guys,” Olivia said, her voice tired.
“Olivia!? Where have you been? We’ve been searching all over for you.”
“When we were confronted the other night, Annie told me to run, so I ran. I just kept weaving in and out of streets and alleyways until I was completely certain I was lost. Eventually I was taken in by a nice old lady who owned a food cart. She heard my story and sent me to the Dragons for help.”
“After hearing her story,” Karushi chimed in, “I decided it would be best to escort her directly to you.”
“I bet,” David grumbled.
“It’s unfortunate I don’t have what she came looking for,” Karushi added.
“What exactly is that?” David inquired, looking at her.
“Anton Mertens,” she answered, finally being honest. “I wanted answers.”
“A lot of people seem to be looking for him these days,” David said.
“Well, you’ve got one less now,” she replied, trying to sound remorseful. “Unfortunately, Anton is gone… for good.”
From the corner of her eye, she saw William Everett poke his head out from the interrogation room. He looked interested, though it was tough to tell if he was convinced of her claim. He still looked almost completely at ease, like a dad listening in on his children chatting in the hallway. She definitely had his ear, so she decided to mix in some truth.
“It turns out,” she explained. “Anton is ancient. He lived hundreds of lifetimes, always planning to stop once the World Ship was safe. I guess we finally got there, because he stopped the system that was bringing him back over and over, and then he was gone. All that knowledge… lost forever.”
“Anton is… gone?” David asked, sounding sad.
“Kaput,” Karushi replied. “It was what he wanted… at least… I assume.”
William had heard enough. He emerged from the interrogation room, his face displaying sorrow, but only in the kind of way someone might if they found out their greatest rival had finally been defeated. “Anton Mertens is truly gone? Well, that is unfortunate. The amount of stories he must have had to tell. Not to mention the key to immortality! What a waste.”
“William?” Olivia asked, acting like she only now noticed him. “What are you doing in the Upper Level?”
William smirked. “I was in the middle of being accused of kidnapping you, actually. David had me tied up in all sorts of sinister plots. I am glad to see that I am not the criminal I was suspected to be.”
“Well,” Olivia said as she put her arms at her side. “I hope that now it has all been remedied. I am here, and thanks to Karushi, I am doing quite well. William is a pillar of the community in the Lower Level. He’s helped us all out multiple times, and I can’t imagine he’d have wasted time trying to kidnap me if he could have just called me up instead.”
“Exactly what I said,” William chimed in.
David looked at the group assembled here. He knew there was more going on, but he was completely lost. HIs heart was heavy at the news that Anton was gone, but he’d known the old man rather well, and he wondered if perhaps he was pulling the wool over all of their eyes one more time.
“Alright,” he finally said. “It sounds like things have… sorted themselves out. All charges surrounding the supposed kidnapping will be dropped, and everyone can go free. I’m sorry to have wasted your time, Mr. Everett, but it was good to meet you in person.”
“I agree,” William said, smiling. “I got a trip to the Upper Level out of it, and that’s good enough for me. I’ll have the folks in Winter Village arrange another recital so that I can see my little girl dance.”
He turned to Olivia. “WIll you be going to the Lower Level too? I imagine we can ride together if you want.”
“I’m not quite ready to go yet,” she replied. “Part of the reason I came here was to watch the solstice festivities. I haven’t gotten to partake in anything or witness a single parade yet.”
“Very well,” he said. “Mr. Nash, let’s wrap this up, shall we?”
David rolled his eyes. “Yes, come along, let’s proces your employee and get him out of here.”
As William started to head down the hallway to the entrance of the station, Olivia pulled on David’s arm, and he felt her draw close to him, close enough to whisper in his ear. “Watch him. Carefully.”
Then, she was gone, stepping down the hallway with Karushi and out of sight. He wanted to follow her, to ask her what she meant, but William was already heading down the stairs to the main administration office and he knew he needed to follow.
He grumbled to himself, then took off after Everett.