The story so far:
January 8, 2009
The boss at the Riventon precinct was a disappointment. A by-the-book type, which suited me just fine. However, he had a rather annoying belief that what happened in my precinct really wasn’t any of his concern. He had no problems with me checking his town for Willsey, of course. He just wasn’t going to lift a finger to help.
But at least he gave me access to their records. I checked for recent additions to the city, like a new ‘spiritual guide’ or recent home purchases. Nothing there. I’d had a feeling she wouldn’t move in, but I’d at least hoped that she’d set up shop. It might be hard to track down a Lilyan that doesn’t want to be caught, but it’s easy to track down a guru. She’d have to make her name known if she wants any business.
Not that I suffer from the delusion that she’d be going by Willsey again, of course. But a new Lilyan in town offering ‘spiritual guidance’ should be easy to find.
“Suppose she might’ve taken a different sort of job?” Grif asked. He was a grungy grunt in the precinct, only there because his boss wanted someone to keep an eye on me while I poked around in their files. Annoying, but I didn’t grudge him that much, at least. I sure wouldn’t want some stranger digging through my records unsupervised.
“Doubt it,” I replied. “She’s a one-trick pony. Manipulation is an art form in her mind. She won’t ditch it that easily.”
Grif shrugged and resumed scanning a list of business licenses approved in the last five days. I’d figured if he had to be there with me, I might as well make use of him. I’d already checked the file, of course, but it didn’t hurt to have another pair of eyes look at it. Mostly I just couldn’t stand him hovering over my shoulder, doing nothing.
Unfortunately, the city didn’t track rentals or hotels, so there was no good way to find out where she was staying, especially without knowing what name she was using. And with no recent home purchases or business licenses, this was nothing but a dead end.
Sighing, I thumped the file of recent car rentals down on the desk in front of me. “This is a waste of time. I guess I’ll just have to go stake out the Maker’s area to watch for her to show up. How long’s he been here?”
Grif shrugged. “He got here this morning, I think.”
I nodded and headed out, leaving the files with Grif. He knew where they belonged better than I did. The boss gave me a brief nod as I passed his office, but didn’t bother asking me where I was going. No matter. If I knew Willsey, the boss’s lack of concern would be changing pretty quickly here.
The Maker was meeting people in some local park. It was a nice place, plenty of grass and a little kid playground in one area. It was hard to tell beyond that with the swarms of people packed into the area. The Maker was there in the mess of it all. I’ve never understood how he handles it. I couldn’t stand having the brainless masses crowding me like that. All those idiots who act like he’s some big celebrity and forget about him as soon as he’s out of town. I’d be giving them a piece of my mind if I was him.
But I’m not, as is plainly evident. I turned my attention from the Maker to the multitude. Lucky for me, Lilyans have a habit of flying just above peoples’ heads for a good view in crowds like this, so if Willsey was there, she’d be easy to spot.
I wandered around the outskirts of the park until I found a spot on a slight hill. It gave me a pretty good view of the crowd. More importantly, I had a clear view of all the little Lilyans fluttering above the masses. I methodically began scanning them, trying to get a good view at every face I could see from this angle. If she’d changed her appearance, it would take a moment to recognize her.
Someone waved their arms, screaming for the Maker’s attention like a rabid fan, disrupting my view. Disgusting. Rolling my eyes, I worked my way around the edge of the park again, getting a new angle on the crowd. I was here for a reason. Willsey had to be stopped, and I wasn’t going to let a few star-struck morons slow me down.
It took me three hours to work my way around the entire park, but finally I was standing back on the hill where I had started. No Willsey.
I took a moment to fume. I’d been sure that she’d be there. And with the Maker right there, it should be a cinch to nab her. Most Lilyans respected the Maker enough to avoid disobedience in his sight, even if they broke the law left and right when he wasn’t around. It had been the perfect plan.
Only now she wasn’t here.
After a couple minutes of stewing, I comforted myself with the fact that the Maker should be staying around for a few days. Just because she wasn’t here now didn’t mean she wouldn’t be here later. I’d just have to settle in and watch.
Unless she’d already seen him before I arrived.
“You look worried.”
Startled, I glanced up. The Maker stood beside me, looking down at me with a caring smile.
“Nothing I can’t handle,” I replied quickly, returning my attention to the crowd. When had he come up beside me? I’d been so distracted by looking for Willsey that I hadn’t noticed the Maker moving.
The Maker chuckled. “If you say so.” He joined me in looking over the people. “You didn’t find her, did you.”
I gave him a look. “Not yet, I haven’t.”
“Oh, so you have a lead?”
Irritated, I took a slow breath. “She’s going to come visit you.” I shot him a look. “Unless she already came.”
He nodded. “That’s certainly possible.”
“Yes. She was here first thing this morning. Got a handful of autographs and some pictures for her grandmother. Sweet girl.”
I whirled on him. “‘Sweet girl’? I’ll have you know that ‘sweet girl’ is a felon. She tried to kill my entire precinct by leaving deadly markings behind for us to find!”
He laughed out loud this time. “I love that about you, Michael. You have such a passion for justice.”
It took a moment before I could speak in a civil tone. “Well, I’m so glad you’re impressed. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to track down a Lilyan who doesn’t want to be found in a city that doesn’t want to help me!”
“I think you’d be surprised where you might find help.”
I had been turning to go, but I stopped at that. The Maker doesn’t make comments idly, after all. “What, are you offering to help or something?”
“I’m always glad to help my friends.”
I folded my arms, leveling a look at him. “Okay, fine. Tell me where she is.”
He laughed again. “It doesn’t quite work that way, Michael. You know that.”
“You could do it, if you wanted. I know that as well as you do.”
“And deprive you the satisfaction of tracking her down?”
“It would bring her to justice faster.”
He smiled. “I was impressed at how you handled those markings on Clarence. You know, Dum? You’re skills have improved since I last saw you.”
“Well, my skills don’t do much good if all I do is run around behind the criminal, cleaning up after her,” I retorted. “If I caught her now, no one else would get hurt.”
He nodded, suddenly solemn. “I won’t say I’m not disappointed at how she’s choosing to behave.”
“Disappointed,” I snorted. I shook my head. “Listen, if you’re not going to be any help, then I need to get going. I’ve got a criminal to catch, you know.”
“Yes, I do.” A little girl scrambled up his side, plopping down on one of his shoulders. He seemed to be smiling and playing with the child even as he spoke to me again, but I was sure he was looking at me. At least, he seemed to be. “You’d do well to remember that you weren’t always quite this much of a stickler for the rules, Michael. As I recall, you had a bit of a wild streak back in school.”
“I was an idiot back then.”
He shrugged. “Maybe so, but you had a creative side that really shone back then.” He tickled the child, then eased her to the ground. She scampered off to her parents, who seemed to be talking to the Maker. But he was talking to me. Or, at least, he seemed to be. Again. “If only you could figure out a way to harness that creative side so you could use it without being an idiot.”
“Yeah, that’d be nice,” I said. “Like I said, if you aren’t going to help, I better get going.”
He smiled at me. “I’m glad I got to see you here, Michael.”
“Sure.” I turned and strode away. It was deucedly annoying trying to talk to that guy. It always seemed like he was talking to other people at the same time. But that was impossible. Wasn’t it?
Shaking those thoughts off, I got back in my rental car and headed for the precinct. It had been just as big a waste of time as the search through the records had been. Willsey had already come and gone, and the Maker was refusing to help me. Just like everyone else.
And he had to bring up my school days. I’d put those behind me long ago. Days spent pulling pranks, nights spent using magic to attract ladies… It was child, immature, and irresponsible.
Even as I thought about it, though, I couldn’t stop a smile that crept up on my face. David and I had been on the same dorm floor those days, and the two of us had certainly made our share of trouble around the school. In fact, there was that one time we’d managed to sneak a stink aura on our pal, Jay, and gotten him to walk all over the campus with that thing on.
I forced the smile back. It had been immature. And against school rules.
However, my mind kept going back to those escapades. That, and the Maker’s comment about needing to harness some of that early creativity. Before I knew it, an idea began forming in my mind; an idea that had become a full-blown plan by the time I made it back to the precinct.
This had potential to be very, very fun.