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Chapter 8 -- The Scene Of The Crime
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

John Harkin's house was not hard to find, perched near the top of a hill. Mark parked streetside, facing down the adjacent hill with the house straight ahead, at eyelevel. The day was warmer but still overcast; visibility for our lookout would be quite good.

Some time back Mark had purchased a box of surgical gloves so we wouldn't leave fingerprints; naturally we had brought them along. I handed a pair to Mara and put a pair on myself. "Ready, my love?" I asked.

"As ready as I'm going to be," she answered. I released a spell of Invisibility over the two of us. "Hey," she said, "I can't see you! Aren't you going to give me Mystic Vision?"

"No," I answered, "I don't want to interfere with your perceptions. I can still see you, though, and I'll guide you. Mark, please lower the top so we don't have to open the doors."

"No problem," he said. As the top of the convertible came down, I took Mara by the hand, and we climbed out. There were few people on the sidewalks, which was a mercy; dodging people is a lot of work when you're invisible. We walked quickly to the house; the back yard was fenced off, but someone had left the side gate unlatched. I opened it for Mara, then followed her through, trying to move it as if the slight breeze were responsible.

"Nice," she said quietly to me as I took her hand again, "making it look like the wind was moving the gate."

"Ah," I answered, "I didn't think it was very convincing."

"Why do you do that?" she asked as we climbed the back steps.

"Do what?"

"'Ah.' Instead of 'oh' or 'huh' or whatever, you say 'ah.'"

"Old habit, my love," I said. "I grew up speaking a very different language." I fished in my pocket for the key Franklin had given me. "Mark says my accent is almost gone, but I guess some things are hard to change."

As I went to insert the key in the lock, I dropped it. It became visible as it hit the boards with what seemed to be an earsplitting noise. "Damn," I said, looking around as if I thought someone might be watching.

"Well, you curse in English anyway," she said with faint laughter in her voice. I picked up the key, which remained visible, and she said, "Why doesn't it disappear when you pick it up?"

"The Invisibility spell clings to you like a skin," I said, "and when you drop something it falls out of the spell. Pick it up again, and it stays visible because the spell doesn't expand to contain it. Watch this." I put the key in the palm of my hand, and closed it, and the key disappeared. When I reopened my hand it was still invisible.

"What did you do?" she asked, and I remembered she couldn't see me.

"Closed my hand over it. When I enclosed the key completely the spell re-covered it. Putting it in my pocket would have worked too."

This time I got the key in the lock, and opened the door. I ducked under the yellow police tape, then guided Mara under so she wouldn't accidentally get her hair in it.

I shut the door and relocked it, putting the key in my pocket, then looked around the house. It was fancy but not opulent. Mara and I quickly moved through the house looking for the office in the front which Franklin had described.

Of course John Harkin's corpse was no longer on the floor, but the white lines marking the separate positions of the body and head told us where he had fallen. A large, irregular stain of mostly-dried blood connected the two locations. I focused my Mystic Vision on the area for several moments but saw nothing mystical about it.

I looked for a moment longer, fixing the scene in my mind, then said, "Why don't you take the desk, and I'll look at the bookshelves?"

"Sure," she answered, then "Ow! I kicked the desk! It's hard to move around a small office when you can't see your feet!"

I smiled, though she could not see it. "You should have seen me the first time I used this spell. I had thought it would make me invincible as well as invisible, but I promptly tripped and fell in the dirt."

I was looking down the rows of books. By their titles I knew that they were about history, and archaeology, and anthropology; the only books about magic were two rows in one shelf. I opened several before I realized they were about mythical and tribal magic, also known as nonsense. A "hall of shame," it appeared to me.

"I wonder where he kept his good stuff," I mused.

"If he had an appointment calendar, it's missing," said Mara. "These desk drawers aren't empty but I'm sure there are things missing."

"Probably the police have them. I may have to break into a police station..."

"You won't need me for that," she said, and I shook my head.

Oops. "No, I suppose I won't," I said, remembering she couldn't see me. "What's that?"

"What, this magnifying glass?" asked Mara, handing the circular glass to me. "I found it in the top drawer with the pens."

"It isn't a magnifying glass. Look here," I said, holding it over a printed page on the desk, "it doesn't enlarge the text at all." I focused the full analytical mode of the Mystic Vision on it, as Mara resumed searching.

"Amazing," I said at length. "It appears to be a sort of an illusion detector!" I put it in my pocket, and it disappeared.

"Are you taking that?" Mara asked, just a bit sharply.

"I'll give it to Franklin when I finish the case. I want to study it in depth."

We continued searching the office. There were two filing cabinets, one containing real estate letters and documents, the other filled with a variety of statements and other general business records. I surveyed the contents quickly, but as I wasn't looking for anything in particular I quickly gave up.

We found nothing in the office to tell us about the murderer, so we went on to survey the rest of the house. We found the master bedroom upstairs, and searched it rather thoroughly. Under the bed I found a stack of pornographic magazines featuring gay men.

"Now we know why he didn't marry," said Mara.

"True," I answered, "but it doesn't tell us any more about his killer. A Changeling has little or no use for a human male no matter what his sexual orientation, so a lover's quarrel seems unlikely."

"Oh, yeah," she said. "But what if the killer wasn't a Changeling?"

I didn't answer, for another thought had come to me. "Mara, did you see stairs to the basement?"

"No," she answered. "We looked in all the closets downstairs, didn't we?"

"I thought we did." I put the magazines back under the bed and took her by the hand. "Let's go look again."

We went all over the ground floor, looking through every door, but found nothing. I used the illusion-detecting glass in every room also, still to no avail. "Does this house even have a basement?" asked Mara when we thought we had looked everywhere..

"What do you think?" I asked her back.

She looked off into space, and after a moment she said, "Yes, I'm sure it does."

"Then let's look at this from a different angle. I've noticed that many houses are like ours... the stairs to the basement are directly under the stairs to the second floor." I led Mara into the front hall, and we looked the stairs over carefully. They proceeded up on the left side of the hall, and on the right the hallway ended at a door.

After a moment I said, "Nothing here, it seems. If there is a secret door I can't find it."

Mara walked to the door at the end of the hallway, right beside the end of the stairs, and I followed. The room on the other side was the kitchen. She turned around to the left and opened the pantry closet. "It must be here," she said, "'cause this is where the door to the basement would be in a house like ours."

"The back of the closet looks quite solid," I said. "Even if it did open, all the items on the shelves would have to be removed to enter."

"Give me that glass thing please," said Mara. I put the illusion-detector in her open hand, and she laid it down inside the closet a moment to make it appear. She picked it up again and I saw that she was inspecting the inside of the door. "Look at this!" she said triumphantly.

I took the glass from her. Inscribed at eye-level on the inside of the closet door was a pentacle... a five-pointed star within a circle. This one was displayed point-upright, and covered with an illusion to hide it.

"Fascinating," I said. "I wonder what it does..." I racked my brain to remember the things I had read about pentacles. Cabalist mages believed it conferred protection from demons, or could be used to contain them; I was unsure which way it went.

"I remember a passage in a book from the library," I said. "It was written that, for the pentacle to be effective, it must be drawn as a single line, without lifting the pencil or chalk. I'm going to try tracing it with my finger."

"Good luck," said Mara as I began tracing the star with my left index finger. I started with the lower left leg of the star, for no particular reason. When I finished the star I continued on into the circle; when that was finished I lifted my finger and waited.


"We'll have to think this over some more," I said. Putting the illusion-glass in my shirt pocket, I stepped back and closed the closet door. As soon as the latch clicked that entire section of wall moved toward me!

I jumped backward in surprise, knocking Mara down and falling over her backward. As I fell I saw the advancing section of wall suddenly stop. My rear end hit the linoleum floor hard, but at least my weight didn't fall on Mara.

We were both visible now... I would have to cast my second Invisibility spell in order for us to leave. "Are you alright, Mara?"

"Yes, love, I'm fine. Are you hurt?"

"Just bruised. My pride is my most sore part."

"I won't tell if you don't," she said with a pixie's smile.

"At least it will be easier for us to move around now," I said. We got up to look over the results of my experiment.

The entire closet had advanced into the kitchen about four feet; as it was only about a foot deep, this left a full three foot span for us to step through, down the now-revealed staircase into the basement. The stairs were illuminated, not by electricity, but by two enchanted crystals hung from the sloping ceiling.

"Well, we found it," I said. "John obviously didn't want it to be easy."

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The Adventures of Solo Jones Last Updated 07/18/2005