Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.
The next morning I woke up early, and as so often happens I couldn't
get back to sleep. I lay there thinking about the meeting with the
Conclave, and feeling rather exposed. Any or all of them could be
reading my mind right now, or scrying on me, and I wouldn't know it.
Even my new client, Franklin Evans, could be watching me that way.
Not a pleasant train of thought, but what could I do? I got up and
got dressed, and went into the back bedroom. It had been the room of
Dreamwalker's apprentice, David, and we had cleared all the
furnishings from the room when we acquired the house. Mara didn't
want to use it for a bedroom again; too many had lived there briefly
before being murdered by Dreamwalker. Eventually it became the
repository of all the books of magic I found in the house. Two
bookshelves contained most of it, but some books were piled on the
floor or on a small table evicted from the parlor during the
I sat on the floor beside the table with a selection of books, and
looked for an answer to my problem. In the next hour or so I found
many fragments of an answer, but not enough to assemble. Then I
heard Mara moving around in the master bathroom, and realized it must
be about time for work.
As I followed my love downstairs to the kitchen I found myself missing
the Ring of the King almost as much as I had missed the right hand it
had been on. That ring, you might remember from my earlier tales,
indicated whether or not the wearer was being scryed upon by magical
means. I smiled a rueful smile as I realized that I had regenerated
that hand not only once, but twice in my first two weeks in the modern
The morning was cool, overcast and gloomy, which fit my mood. After
checking in at the office I took a practice staff and went outside
to work out. After an hour or so my mood had improved, and I decided
to go in and change.
It was nearly ten o'clock when Franklin rang the bell, and Mara showed
him into the parlor. I invited her to join us, for as I have said
before, her hunches are worth more than most people's facts.
"So, Franklin," I began, "tell me as much as you know about the murder
of your master."
"Mentor," he said. "John always preferred that term to master, which
has too many negative connotations in English."
"I see," I said. "So tell me about his death."
Mara said, "Do you mind if we record this?" Franklin shook his head,
so she turned on the recorder as he began.
"I don't really know what I can tell you. John's office is in the
front of his house, and I found him there. I have a key to the house,
though I haven't lived there for a while. I let myself in last Friday
morning and found him dead in front of his desk."
"In front, not behind?" I asked.
"Yes. His head and body were lying a few feet apart. It was the most
horrible thing I ever saw." He broke down there, covering his face
with his hands and crying silently.
When I judged he had regained his composure I said, "A few feet... can
you be more exact?"
"Three or four, no more than that," he answered without looking up.
"So far as you know, did John have any particular enemies?"
"None. I mean, Ron Harris always wanted to be top dog, and they
argued a lot. I didn't get to attend very many meetings, but John
would tell me about it afterwards. From time to time Ron would visit,
and John would take him in the office and close the doors; sometimes I
would hear them yelling, but he never told me what the yelling was
"When was the last time this happened?" I asked.
"Last Wednesday I think," he replied.
"Besides Ron Harris, did John ever come into conflict with anyone
"I don't know for sure. I know he got irritated with Moses Rook and
Phillip Silva for what he called 'endless rehashing of tiny details'
but I don't think he ever actually argued with either of them. As for
Schuyler Norton, he hardly ever mentioned him."
"I see," I said. "Before last night, had you ever heard of the
"No. In fact, if Ms. Osaka didn't vouch for you I'd think you were
lying. It's just too weird."
"You know you are a suspect in this case," I said. "Tell me about your
relationship with John."
"It was good. He never married, you know, said he never had time. He called me
the 'son he never had' once. I know I told you about the will, and you said
that made me a suspect; but John told me just last week he was going to nominate
me for Magus. Why would I kill him now?" He looked up at me then, expectantly.
"Did he tell anyone else this?" I asked.
"I think he told Doc Silva, but I don't know for sure."
"I see," I said. "I've noticed that the Conclave members all have, ah, 'day
jobs.' What did John do for a living?"
"He was a realtor. He didn't work much anymore, though. Thanks to some good
investments and side income from his magic, John didn't really need to."
"Side income?" I asked.
"Odd jobs, he called them. Evicting spirits from a motel, for instance; that
was the last job he did, before..."
"Ah," I said. I thought for a moment. "I need to see the house."
"The police say no. I don't know why; their forensics experts left
yesterday afternoon, and as far as I know they are done."
"Well, I'm going anyway," I said. "I need more information to
proceed. I'll just have to be careful."
"You'll need a key," he said, fishing in his pocket. "I brought a
I took the proffered key. "Thanks. Does this fit the back door?"
I stuck out my hand and said, "Thank you for coming this morning. I
think I have enough to start investigating; I can wait for your
payment until the will is settled. Please give Mara your address and
phone number so we can contact you; oh, and the address of John
As he did so I picked up the recorder and turned it off. Mara saw him
to the door, and I went into the office with the recorder in hand for
Mark to listen to.
When I told him what we were planning for the afternoon, Mark said,
"Great, a case! You need a ride, or are you flying?"
"A ride I think. I want you to watch the house while I am inside; if
it really is Changeling involvement I don't want them sneaking up on
me." As I stood there thinking about various plans of attack Mara
"He was lying," she said. "He knows something about the Changelings."
"Ah," I said. "Any other lies?"
"I don't think so. It's hard to say; he was hard to read."
"Okay. Say, could you go with me today?"
"To search a house?" she said, surprised. "Why do you want me along?"
"You saved me half a dozen times from traps I missed in this house. I
can't imagine that Harkin's house is without surprises."
"Hey," said Mark, holding out the newspaper for me to look at, "you want to take
a side-trip before lunch? I called Val and told her I'd have to skip lunch
I looked at the page he was pointing to, and was stunned by recognition.
Pictured in the paper was a Waystone.
In the ancient age I was raised in, we used magic to enhance almost everything.
We invented celestial navigation, for instance, but eventually created a simpler
way. Each town or city had its own Waystone, a large block of native stone with
an Affinity enchantment. Small stones of identical material would be placed in
'pigeonholes' in the stone for a day or more to gain Affinity to the stone; then
they would be stuck to the ends of sticks or the edges of disks of wood with
wax. When floated upon a dish of water and activated with a very simple spell
such devices would turn to point at the 'parent' Waystone.
A sea captain would have a box of numerous direction-finders, each with
the name of the target city marked upon the stem or disk with ink.
Navigation was therefore much easier and more reliable.
According to the caption below the picture, this stone had been
dredged up from the Bay a few weeks ago, and was now on display in a
certain museum. By a twist of fate it was the same one I was
displayed in as a statue.
"Yes," I answered at last, "we'll go there. I have to see it."
Next Chapter >>