Slowly counting to ten, Dan circled to the other entrance of the auditorium and slipped inside. Chancellor Wilshire was greeting the assembled staff seated in folding chairs in front of the students. The Head of Ioses Order’s chair was empty, but Dan would have to cross the large room and skirt the Chancellor and Governess to access his assigned seat. He decided to take in this ridiculous ceremony from his current locale instead.
His mind automatically sorted, indexed, and recorded what he knew so far. The Iodex seal, the one that resided on all confidential evidence folders of every investigation he’d ever been a part of, formed in his mind. So, this investigation wouldn’t have a seal. That didn’t mean he wasn’t interested in taking it on, whatever the hell it was.
Registering Aaron’s predictions on Dan being hired to clean up Venton first, he studied the Chancellor as he took the podium. Chancellor Wilshire was a mountain of a man, solid, able, strong. He’d come to Amelia’s funeral twelve years ago. He’d sent Dan and Fionna a wedding gift after their elopement made it into the papers. He’d written Dan’s recommendation to the Elite Iodex Squadron a year before he’d graduated.
Dan had no idea what the Chancellor was being accused of, but he couldn’t fathom that he’d done anything worthy of trial. Blinking the dust of the past from his eyes, he studied Chancellor Wilshire as he welcomed everyone back for the new school year. Weary tension weighted his broad physical frame. The wrinkles on his face seemed to have deepened dramatically in the last few months. Illness? Maybe. Dan swallowed down a knot of anxiety. It was difficult to watch the men who’d raised him age, difficult to see the pillars of your foundation tire.
Dan, of all people, knew you couldn’t catch time any more than you could capture lightning in a bottle.
Feeling the odd shift in his chest, he drew a deep breath. His secondary predilection eased his shield back. It didn’t happen often. Dan’s shield was stronger than his Visium predilection, but he tapped into it whenever he needed his mind more than his might.
This time, his brain and body had forced the issue. Clearly, he needed to stop lamenting the passing of time and get it together. Something was going on. He needed to be on top of his own game.
Suddenly, a large group of students seated on three sections of bleachers all stood and responded to the Chancellors’s prompting of, “Adminis Order.”
“To Govern.” Their vow was sincere. Ah, to be that young and unjaded.
Dan watched the next group stand as Chancellor Wilshire continued with “Iodex Order.”
Next came, “Auxiliary Order.”
Dan couldn’t help but smile. Fionna and Aida were both Auxiliary Order Receivers. In the past year, he’d come to have a soft spot for the entire order, he realized.
“To Serve,” they vowed readily.
Dan scanned the future doctors, nurses, and caretakers of the Realm. The energy in that section was more visible due to the large storehouses their predilections carried for the purposes of healing others.
“Occamy Order,” was next.
Wilshire was moving too quickly. Valeduto hadn’t taken their seats when the Occamists stood and responded, “To create and provide.”
“And my own personal favorite as it is my order,” Wilshire chuckled. Dan rolled his eyes. The man had been making that same lame-ass joke for every back-to-school assembly and graduation since Dan had entered as a sub-freshman. “Scholera Order.” Wilshire offered the current teaching staff a kind smile instead of the students of Scholera predilect order.
They dutifully sounded off anyway, “To teach.”
“Duco Order,” was announced and the relatively small order stood.
“To plan and calculate.”
An image of Will Haydenshire, the only Duco predilect Dan knew well, and one of his lifelong friends formed in his mind. Memories of their first day of school at Venton started to play in his head without his permission. Shaking himself, he ordered himself to concentrate. What the hell was wrong with him, anyway? He’d never had trouble concentrating when there was a case at hand. The past danced far too closely to his present that day. For a man who wanted no part of his past, damming it back was difficult when standing in his alma mater.
Gritting his teeth, he made a methodic study of the staff seated on the other side of the room. Governess Martin hadn’t taken her cold glare off of Wilshire since the assembly had begun. Nothing like bad blood to produce good leads. Maybe he should simply ask the governess outright what her beef with the chancellor was.
“Visvirees Order,” brought Dan back to the students.
“To will,” the predilect stated succinctly.
“And finally, Visium Order,” Wilshire urged.
“To observe, analyze, and understand.”
Dan gave a nod to his secondary predilection and watched the student body as a whole become bored. They shifted and sighed as Governess Martin took the podium to explain rules everyone but the newest students already knew.
Keeping his eyes trained on the assembled crowd, Dan’s left shoulder gave another twitch and his Shield remained at bay while his Visium predilection continued to occupy his musculature. He could have forced them to switch, but it certainly didn’t seem there was anything to protect himself from. There was something was amiss, however.
Chancellor Wilshire left the assembly in the middle of the governess’ speech. Giving him just a little lead time, Dan followed him out of the auditorium.
Keeping in the shadows, he watched the chancellor pull his phone from his pocket, send either a message or a quick email, and then head to the faculty parking lot. Dan went as far as to step outside to confirm that Wilshire was leaving campus on the first day of term of a new school year.