The story so far:
January 9, 2008
I spent all last night convincing Grif to go along with the plan. Unfortunately, when I finally convinced him, he still would only agree if his boss gave it the okay. That part would be a little more difficult.
After putting some extra efforts into my appearance this morning (a little magic goes a long way toward looking sharp), I entered the precinct as soon as it opened. I bided my time outside the boss’ office while he dealt with morning meetings and urgent memos. (Even though half of those things are just paranoid phone calls from MLM’s who can’t figure out that just because they can’t explain it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily magic.)
A few times I was tempted to just march in there and demand some time so I could get on with things, but I held back. I needed him to feel favorable toward me for this to work. So I rehearsed my main points.
Technically, I’m not proposing anything illegal.
I’ll personally follow to clean up any mistakes that might happen.
I’ll be right there the whole time so no one gets hurt.
This is going to be our only way to find her before she starts up her illegal… whatever it was she was doing.
That was the biggest strike against me, of course. Her crimes with the markings on Dum, of course, were enough to put her away, but everyone still wanted to know why. What was she doing that was so illegal, she’d risk dropping a marking to cover it up? It had to be something big.
But she’d still be going to jail for the rest of her life just for the markings alone—not to mention throwing that illusion on me during our second meeting—and that was enough for me. For now, at any rate. I’d get the rest of the truth out of her one way or another once she was in custody.
I made a face as I thought over my main points again. The bosses were still picky about finding out what she was up to, so I probably should alter my last point.
This is going to be our only way to find her… to bring her to justice for her crimes.
There. That sounded better.
I was on my feet the instant the boss called my name. He gestured me into his office and shut the door behind me.
“Grif mentioned you had an… unorthodox plan of sorts.”
Hmph. Shoulda known the kid would go running to the boss instead of letting me handle this myself. Dumb grunt.
I explained my plan as carefully as possible, focusing on my newly-adjusted list of main points. He didn’t give much response, just an occasional frown, which wasn’t exactly promising.
“So… you want Grif to do that for you?” he finally asked once I was done.
I hid a smile. Convincing him to let me use Grif would be the easiest part. “If you have someone more experienced you’d like to try it on, I’m fine with that.”
“No, no, Grif is fine,” he replied quickly. “And you’re sure you’d be watching the whole time?”
“And nothing illegal.”
“Of course not.” My civility had nearly cracked at that point; I can only keep it together for so long when someone insists on doubting my ability to keep my word.
He frowned again. “Let me think on this. I’ll get back to you later.”
That snapped it for me. I thumped both hands firmly on his desk, leaning toward him. “Go ahead, take your time. But know that she’s out there, setting up her little ring right here in your city. Just how many citizens do you want bamboozled by her before she’s caught?”
His eyes narrowed. “What ring are you referring to, Michael?”
Shoot. I’d forgotten that was my weak point. And of course he would have to capitalize on it.
I decided to throw it all in the wind. A little passion goes a long way, after all. Even the Maker said that was what he liked about me.
“So maybe we don’t know exactly what she was up to. But you know it’s gotta be big. She wouldn’t risk that elaborate marking trap if it wasn’t.” I looked him straight in the eye. “Now you can sit back and watch her do it again in your town, or you can help me catch her and bring her to justice for what she’s done.”
A moment passed. Then another. Finally, the faintest trace of a smile crossed his lips. “Take Grif. Stay right behind him, and let me know the instant you find anything.”
I was already halfway out the door before he finished his sentence.
Grif didn’t look horribly pleased when I told him that his boss had given my plan the go-ahead, but he’d already agreed to go along with it. It took us over an hour to get him ready, between layering on waves, securing ambiences, and coaching him on how to walk and talk. He was still hesitant, though. I really hate trusting important roles to other people. There’s so much chance of them screwing it all up. But this was a two-person job, and I trusted him more in this role than as the watcher.
So finally we were ready. We got some funny looks as we walked out of the precinct, but ignored them. Grif was already attempting the walk, working to hold himself high with confidence, something that obviously did not come naturally to him. Probably why he’s still just a grunt.
Before we reached the street, I dropped a few quick waves of imperceptibility over myself. For this to work, I had to make sure Willsey didn’t notice me behind Grif.
I knew it was working within the first minute. Before we reached the end of the block, two women jogged over to Grif, calling for his attention. His bumbling response made me wish I had talked the boss into giving me someone more experienced, but he managed to smooth things out with a couple of winks and smiles. The ladies fawned over him for a little while, then he handed off a business card, excused himself, and resumed walking.
Perfect. This was guaranteed to catch her eye. There was nothing a charlatan “spiritual guide” hated more than competition.
As we continued walking, women and men alike flocked to Grif’s side, gushing over him every step of the way. To his credit, it didn’t take him long to adapt to the role. Before we’d traveled a full mile he was grinning, winking, and smooth-talking like a pro. Even his walk was growing more natural.
And I remained behind, watching anyone who paid even a speck of attention him. No one took any notice of me, of course. My heart jumped a little each time a Lilyan fluttered over, but none of them were Willsey.
We continued walking, following the route I’d drawn up last night. It would take us through the business district, then a couple of major residential areas, and one brief swing past the warehouse district, just in case. If Willsey was setting up shop here, this was my best chance at catching her.
Aside from a couple of brief breaks and a longer stop for lunch, Grif and I walked the city for most of the day. While he certainly attracted attention, I still saw no sign of Willsey.
As evening approached, I started wondering if this plan had really been the best idea after all. That’s what I got for trying to come up with something sensible out of the Maker’s vague comments. I should’ve stuck the books and done things the way I always have.
It was just as I was preparing to yank Grif out of his current crowd of admirers and call the idea an official flop when a comment one of his “fans” made caught my ears.
“Well, I’ve just started working for someone, and I think she’d really like to meet you.”
It seemed innocuous enough, but something about it grabbed my attention and held it fiercely. I craned my neck until I spotted the speaker—an Urnet man, standing just to Grif’s left. Tall and skinny. Just like Dum.
“Well, be sure to give her my card,” Grif replied charmingly, pressing one into the man’s hand.
I slid a little closer and took a closer look at the guy. It was as I suspected—a couple of desire waves were pulsing from him, as well. It made perfect sense that she would hire someone to help her out, especially before she was able to get established here. And she’d probably taught him how to recognize magic. He was doing her dirty work for her.
It had actually worked. I was so surprised I almost didn’t respond, but I recovered quickly and backed off. I didn’t know if Willsey had told this guy about me, but I didn’t dare risk spooking him at this point. My instinct was to rush in, grab him, and drag him back to the precinct for interrogation, but that wasn’t how this plan went. It was unorthodox, but it had worked to pick up a lead where my usual methods had failed. I was going to stick with it and see how far this crazy idea would get me.
I waited until Grif moved on, skirted carefully around the crowd, then caught up with him and let him know it was time to get back to the precinct. Willsey would contact him tomorrow, I was sure.
And then the real fun would begin.