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
"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.
"'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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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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