Kyle was standing in a yard in the small residential neighborhood he’d found after climbing the wall behind his office. His ex-office he supposed. He wouldn’t be doing any business in the wrecked building any time soon. He was looking down at his phone and the message he’d just sent with a scowl on his face. He had, in theory, agreed to meet Thomas the Illusionist at the mall food court in two days. He’d agreed to do that because he got the impression Jessie was up to something and he thought he knew what that something was.
He thought she had told him that she wanted to use tekhnikos phonein to communicate using Morse code. He thought she was proposing they both cast York’s Sheep Finder and then wait for the power requirements to change using that for communication.
He also thought she was nuts. Kyle blew out a breath and watched it condense into fog against the backdrop of stars in the cold of the night air above his head. Was there really any way she remembered the spell? He remembered talking about it in the Treehouse but she’d made it sound like she’d barely even understood what was going on at the time. Of course, they hadn’t known each other at the time and neither one of them had been really eager to talk so maybe she’d skimped on the details. Maybe she’d looked it up after she started working for him. He could see that; wanting to brush up on the only magic she’d ever known once she was involved in the industry. That made a certain sort of sense.
It didn’t matter. She could either do the spell or she couldn’t. The worst he’d suffer was knowledge of a sheep.
Kyle looked around at his surroundings for the first time since climbing down from the sound blocking wall. He was, he realized, in someone’s yard. The moon wasn’t up, or perhaps it was a new moon, and there weren’t any real street lights that he could see, so he was viewing his surroundings by starlight. There was the big black bulk of the wall at his back, another big bulk of a house with no lights on in front of him, some deep patches of shadow for trees, and a privacy fence all around. He couldn’t tell anything about the yard given that it was mostly revealed in patches where nothing was visible intercut with patches where he could see just a little. He assumed the owners of the house wouldn’t be happy to have him around. It had been lucky that he hadn’t attracted the attention of some dog the moment he climbed into the yard.
He put his hand on the wall behind him then used it, and the yard’s fence, as a guide to get to the front of the yard. Either something had torn up the yard or the grass had been allowed to grow in thick patches and clumps. He kept falling into holes and hollows in the turf and several times had to lean against the fence to keep from stumbling. It seemed to take a long time to cross the little yard.
Fortunately, it turned out he was on the side of the front fence with the gate. Better yet, it wasn’t locked and nothing squeaked when he opened it. He let himself out then fled across the slightly better lit front yard to the sidewalk. A moment after he’d gained that strip of pavement a security light came on. He froze for a moment, like a thief, but no cry followed the sudden illumination. It must simply have been motion activated.
He set off down the street paralleling the big wall that wrapped the back part of the neighborhood. He figured that would be the quickest way out. He could have pulled up a map, of course, or even just used his phone to summon a cab, but the neighborhood seemed safe enough from crazed bounty hunters and mythological monsters so instead he walked and used the time to follow Jessie’s plan.
First, he meditated. That was tricky. He had to push a lot of things from his mind to get in the right space to touch magic. He managed it though. Slowly the ache in his muscles from fighting faded from his mind. Then the cold around him slipped out of his awareness. Last his breathing slowed, he stopped walking, and his eyes closed. He saw before him the vast river of power and he took a big handful into himself.
When he opened his eyes the sidewalk in front of him had the vague amber glow which would have told him he was well charged if he hadn’t already been able to feel it as a buzzing in his body.
Next he looked up the Sheep finder spell using his phone. That took more time than he would have guessed. That was a good thing as it would mean fewer people would be using it. Eventually he located a pdf copy of the high school textbook both he and Jessie had used in their magic classes. He mumbled the Latin a few times without making the gestures, then he made the gestures a few times without mumbling the Latin. Both proved fairly simple, so he put them together. There was a rush of power leaving him and he knew where the nearest sheep was.
Luckily, the power required by the spell had been pretty low. He was fairly certain he could hold it for as long as he needed to. Next he looked up the Morse alphabet.
* * *
Kyle had enough time to walk out of the neighborhood, summon a cab, ride to a hotel, pay the cab, and shower before anything changed about the spell. When it finally did, it came as a huge relief. He was really starting to hate the sheep lurking in the back of his mind. Just when he was about to recall the cab to go punch that wooly critter in the face, it faded from his mind as the power requirements of the spell intensified.
The spell flickered in and out, but not in a pattern of longs and shorts like Morse code. Instead, there were little groupings he took to be numbers. If he’d had to remember them all he would have missed some. Fortunately, the hotel had supplied a pen and notepad. He grabbed them and wrote numbers until the spell quit flickering.
It took him a while to translate the message. First he tried ASCII, which didn’t work. Then he searched the web for any codes related to business school. There weren’t any, unless the title of the book “The Business Code” was being more literal than he’d thought. Finally he just tried matching the numbers up to the letters of the alphabet and that worked.
e m a i l p a s s c a r r o t n u m b e r 1 n u m b e r 2 c o m e h e r e m e e t i n g
Jessie quit working the spell after that, though Kyle waited another quarter hour for more. Eventually, he pulled up the email he thought Jessie used and tried to access her account using carrot12 as a password. It worked. He practically did handstands.
It was easy to spot the email he wanted. There was a message from someone named “Servant” titled “Details on Thomas’s Operations”. If that wasn’t what he needed it was a pretty impressive coincidence. The email contained a single attachment; a file of information about Thomas and his medical activities.
There were people he’d treated. Places money had been sent, and best of all, the location of the clinic along with a little information on how it was guarded, what alarms were used, and when the guards were rotated. A lot of it was fairly speculative, but Dwennon had clearly researched it for a long time. Obviously he’d never trusted Thomas. Kyle wished he’d been that savvy.
Presumably “come here meeting” meant Jessie was at Thomas’s clinic and she wanted him to come to it when he’d arranged to meet Thomas. Kyle decided he might as well make the attempt. Neither of them would be safe until Thomas had been brought to justice. Then he tried to sleep. He was tired enough he even succeeded- a bit.