Jessie let him get around the corner and then she took off running. Fully enhanced by her combat spell, she could take 12 foot strides and run around 45 mph. Moving like that, it only took her a couple of minutes to retrace her steps to the homeless shelter. A few people saw her running, but they didn’t see her for long.
Reaching the shelter her first instinct was to scale the building, wait on top of it for her target or perhaps anyone else who might be of use, and stalk them to their eventual destination. Which was stupid. Jessie took deep breaths, and calmed herself. Fortunately, she wasn’t so far gone just yet that crazed predatory stalking seemed like her only option. Instead, she knocked on the door to the shelter summoning Ben who was still mopping up in the main room.
He came over looking annoyed, but then relaxed considerably when he saw it was just her. His voice, after he had unlocked the door and greeted her, was still a little confused, “Hello?” Did you leave something here?”
Jessie gave him her best flirty smile. That was always handy for getting small things with fewer questions. Or, at least, it had been when she’d still been a waitress. It was playing differently now that she looked half starved and held itchy dangerous energy under her skin. Not worse, as such, but some people liked it less and some people liked it far better. Sometimes she got unsettling reactions, but she hadn’t quite gotten out of the habit and this time it was fine. “I’m looking for my friend, actually. I don’t suppose you know where she went?”
“Sure, you mean Alison, right? She left a little after you guys. I think she headed that way,” he pointed down the street at a small park.
Jessie thanked him, and then started walking for the park at a normal speed, but didn’t drop her combat spell. She’d seen the little patch of greenery when they’d been driving in but not thought much about it. It seemed more like a zoning error than a real park.
When she reached the tiny green space its only table was occupied. Alison was there talking to someone though Jessie couldn’t really see who. It was a good place for a covert meeting. Anyone who wanted to spy on people speaking at the table would have had to approach in the open. A normal person wouldn’t have been able to get close without being noticed.
A normal person.
Jessie forced down the combat spell, gripped and fought with her magic for a moment, and then jammed it into the camouflage spell. Inside the spell looking out, there was no obvious change. Unlike an invisibility spell, which might have bent light around her, or allowed it to pass through her body (including her eyeballs), light was still hitting her normally. However, as it bounced off her, its frequency was being adjusted to match whatever was behind her.
Of course, “behind” was relative. The spell could handle different adjustments for different view angles to a certain extent, but it was limited. If Jessie’s background got too complex she ended up looking like a blotchy smear to some viewers. Against a single color she blended in quite well.
Jessie waited until both Alison and her contact were looking the other way then she hurried into the park and dropped to the ground in an army crawl so from the table her backdrop would be unbroken grass. Moving like that, she was able to get behind a tree and within earshot of the two without being spotted.
Alison was speaking. Jessie only caught the end of the sentence, but her voice sounded angry, “…very well!”
“That’s even worse! It’s like you don’t understand the first thing I’ve been trying to say. Raising your profile with this freewheeling do-gooder crap is exactly the opposite of what we want. It’s just going to make you a bigger target before we can take direct action against the Archmagi.”
“I understand your position perfectly well. I should sit on my hands and do nothing while you set up the single blow that will take down the Archmagi. Don’t, for heaven’s sake, do anything good with magic. Don’t help people!”
The other speaker gave a frustrated sigh, but didn’t respond directly, “How are Jessie and Kyle integrating?”
“Well, I think. It’s only been a day, but my little unapproved activity here seems to have done some good in winning Kyle over. Not shocking, given that I’m here in the first place because I believe we can win people over.”
“Well at least some good came of it,” The second speaker said sounding not at all cowed, “Continue watching them. Continue trying to flip them.”
Now Alison sounded more amused than annoyed, “Yes my dark liege.” There was some fake sibilance in her voice at that, but she dropped it as she continued, “Are you sure they’re really plants? I’ve been looking into their story and it’s all true. One of the Archmage died. It was ugly and it was all over the news. That’s not the sort of thing they could have faked.”
“Of course I’m sure! You listened to the tape, right?”
“Yes, that just proves Ivan was in on it, but how much do you really figure that means. A night time security guard with a record can’t be making that much money. Maybe he was bribed.”
Now it was the other speaker’s turn to sound amused, “And they staged a giant fight, why?”
“So Ivan wouldn’t lose his job, probably.”
“It was fake, trust me. I have other sources. Keep in mind this is good. If you can get Kyle on our side we get inside information on the Archmagi. If not, we can use him as a patsy.”
“Yeah, yea. Setting up patsies. Just what I was trying to do with my life.”
“He is part of the system. A fledgling archmage.”
“Sure. I’ve got to go. Kyle will be back soon, and Jessie won’t be occupied forever.”
The other speaker said something, but Jessie didn’t really hear. She was already crawling away. This was bad. They were caught. It wasn’t until she got back to the coffee shop, climbed back inside, and reconnected with the Children that she realized how bad it really was.
She had listened to the entire conversation between Alison and her contact from only a few feet away. She’d heard every word clearly, but she couldn’t remember anything about how the contact had spoken; not the register of his voice or if he did or didn’t have an accent. She’d also never once thought about trying to look at him. They hadn’t just been caught. They’d been caught by people using mind control magic!