The story so far:
January 4, 2009
Two new case files were sitting on my desk when I arrived yesterday morning. It’s as if they want to pretend this whole Miss Tatiana may-she-rot-eternally-in-a-rat-infested-tomb-of-darkness Willsey thing never happened.
Well, the boss may give up easily, but I most certainly do not.
The first case file was about some natural disasters that struck one of the nearby suburbs. There are rumors that the disasters were mage-originated rather than natural. I almost laughed when I read that. I hardly even had to read the rest of the file to see that no mage was involved. Yet another downside of magic use being common to the people; anytime someone hits a string of bad luck, they want to find a mage to blame.
The other case was a bit more interesting. A string of robberies, all on one particular street, all carried out the same way, all leaving the cops scratching their heads. Definitely a mage.
I was annoyed, of course, that the boss thinks a little petty thievery is more important than stopping a Lilyan who blatantly uses illegal illusions on law enforcement officers. I made my annoyance clear to him in a half-hour impromptu meeting in his office.
He sang me a pretty little song about how policy dictates that we pursue active cases in our own city before we hunt down people in other cities. About how we didn’t even know if she was doing anything illegal in the first place. About ‘Dang it, Michael, I’m your boss and you’ll work on whichever case I assign!’
But he relented, like always. I just had to remind him that if she was willing to throw an illusion on me to escape, she’d just do the same in the next city, and the next, and the next, and would never be stopped. A defeated look on his face, he waved me out of his office, mumbling, “Do whatever. Just make sure those two cases get cleared up.”
So I spent the next while at my desk, calling the victims of the robberies. Most magehunters prefer to interview people in person, but I find such methods ridiculously time consuming and tedious. I can get all the information I need by talking to someone for sixty seconds on the phone.
While I was making the calls, I sent out messages to my contacts in the magehunter divisions in the surrounding cities, offering a description of may-death-become-her Willsey and requesting any information on her if she did turn up.
I was forwarding the message to a few precincts outside my original radius, listening to the phone ring in my ear, when the other end picked up and I was greeted by a low, deep, rather thick voice. I almost dropped the phone. It was none other than Dum answering the phone at the contact number for the fifth robbery victim! I couldn’t risk him recognizing my voice, so I hung up without speaking, grabbed my coat, and ran for the door.
I arrived to find a small shop, filled with chintzy souvenirs designed to draw in vulgar tourists who like to gawk and throw money at locals. Poor lighting kept said customers from noticing how filthy the place was, and the odor of incense was designed to mask a few underlying ambiences of gullibility and covetousness. All in all, a cheaply run place.
Dum himself was manning the register. He was slouched on the counter, staring blankly at the opposite wall. It took me a minute to realize that he was the one maintaining the ambiences. I hadn’t thought him capable of even that simple a trick, but clearly I was wrong. Equally clear was the fact that he couldn’t keep his focus on the ambiences and carry on a coherent conversation, a thought that amused me greatly.
I picked up a cheap trinket. “How much is this?”
“And this?” I asked, pointing to a badly faked painting on the wall.
“Where’s Tatiana Willsey?”
Dum jerked upright. The ambiences shattered and diffused, the remnants mingling with the incense in a less than pleasant manner. His eyes widened in recognition and he turned to run, but I’d already glued his feet to the floor. I let him struggle for a minute without saying anything. He’d been in the employ of mother-of-all-evil Willsey. He deserved whatever suffering he got.
“I believe I asked you a question,” I said, setting the trinket down on the counter in front of him. “Where is Willsey?”
Dum’s mouth opened and closed a couple of times, his arms still flailing as he tried to get his feet to move.
I smiled. “You aren’t going anywhere until you answer my question, pal. Get talking.”
His mouth opened and closed again. The frightenedlook in his eyes clued me in that he was more than merely startled by my appearance.
I took a step forward, examining him closely. He was bound by a simple stupidity mark, I could see that now. My questions had pushed through the mark, but triggered a new marking, one I was unfamiliar with. This was heavy magic, the kind most people can’t even begin to understand until they’re well along in age. Miss thrice-cursed Willsey had clearly mastered the arts. Unethical, immoral, and most of all, ILLEGAL arts.
“Hold still,” I grunted, irritated. He waved his arms at me, his eyes wide, but I ignored him. If she could put the mark on him, then I could take it off.
I woke up three hours later to find my shoes tied around my head, my coat on my legs, and my pants AWOL. I was walking barefoot along the top of the Cliffside Dam.
I spent my rage evaporating a great deal of the water being emitted from the dam as I restored my clothes to their proper order and conjured up some new pants. It took some doing to convince the dam workers of my identity, as my old pants held my credentials. I had to demean myself by playing parlor tricks for their amusement before they’d let me use the phone to call the office.
When the boss arrived to pick me up, he let me know that Dum had been found right where I left him, still rooted in place and mute. They’d determined that he had a whole network of markings on him, one layered on top of the other. He was also mired in a couple of heavy-duty auras and fields, likely released after I triggered the mark. It had taken ten magehunters to get him contained enough to transport him to the precinct.
My job today is to work at unraveling the whole mess. This is going to be a long day.