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Chapter 11 -- Another Murder
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

The sky was blue, full of fluffy clouds, a nice change from earlier in the day. The trip was short and the address wasn't hard to find; I was almost sorry to arrive.

Moses was leaning back against the wall of the apartment building. Though he barely looked I knew he could see me. He opened the door, then stopped and looked around as if he heard something, and I slipped inside. As I passed he whispered, "Please remain invisible," so I did.

He followed me in. There was a sort of reception counter there, with a pretty young woman as an attendant. There were two interior doors on our side of the counter, and one on her side. "Mister Rook," she said, "back so soon?"

"Yes, my dear. Has Doctor Silva returned yet?"

"No, sir. Are you sure he wasn't there?"

"Well, perhaps I should try again," he said, proceeding toward the right-hand interior door. I followed him. "Would you buzz me in please?"

"Yes, sir," she said, and I heard a buzzing sound from the door. Moses pulled it open, then turned toward the young woman.

"Thank you, my dear," he said, giving me time to pass through the door. On the other side was an opulent hallway lined with artistic prints. Nearby were elevator doors. Moses came through and proceeded to push the up button, and we waited in silence for what seemed like a long time.

Shortly we were going down a hallway on the twenty-first floor; Moses still had not spoken, and I didn't break the silence either. I did notice that the doors were spaced rather far apart, and the hallway was decorated with polished wood accents.

Moses approached a door, saying a word I didn't recognize as he grasped the doorknob; he opened the door and motioned for me to enter before him. As he closed the door behind himself he said, "You may appear now, Solomoriah, for there is no one here to see you but me."

I dismissed the invisibility, and looked around the apartment. My first thought was, what a mess! Every surface was laden with books, magazines, and papers, and the overflow was piled on the floor.

My second thought was, what a huge place! It was the biggest apartment I had ever seen. The main room combined a living room and wet bar, with a sunken space in the center. A beautiful chandelier illuminated the space, and doors led off in both directions. Large windows permitted a wonderful view of the city and the sky... and for me, with my Mystic Vision active, a good view also of the downtown Ley line. It looked almost close enough to touch.

"I assume this is Phillip Silva's apartment," I said.

"Condominium. Yes, it's his place. Come this way please." He led me toward one of the interior doors, the one which would be on the left after entering via the main door. I saw that it was slightly ajar. He gestured for me to precede him through the door; I stopped, taking time to put on another pair of surgical gloves.

The scene on the other side of the door was not a pretty one. Phillip Silva's body lay in one place on the floor, beside a desk; his head was more than a yard away. An irregular pool of blood connected them, and I could see it was still quite wet.

Sprawled across the dead mage's legs was another man, and though he still had his head I could see that he was also dead. In his right hand was a curved sword with the distinctive finger-loop; and when I looked closer I saw that he had the family resemblance to Joseph Green which all the swordsmen had.

Carefully I rolled the swordsman over, noting that his mustard-and-grey striped polo shirt was burned through just below his ribcage. The scent of burned flesh assailed my nostrils, but I have smelled worse in my life; a necromancer, even an apprentice, must have a very strong stomach.

"So," I began, standing up, "this Changeling swordsman came to kill Phillip Silva, but just as he was administering the deathblow the Magus blasted him with a fire spell."

"I appears so," said Moses. "I thought you should see this before I call the police. I didn't think to tell you to come invisibly, but I'm pleased you did."

"How did you find out about this?"

"Several years ago my friend's wife died in an auto accident. I made a point of inviting him to my house for a game of chess on the Tuesday following the funeral, hoping that the fellowship would help him through his dark time. Since then, he has joined me at my house every Tuesday evening. He eats with my wife and me, then we watch a video, or talk about magic, or even sometimes we play chess." Moses stopped speaking then, and I could see that the death of his friend was affecting him.

"Come," I said, "let's move into the living room, away from this grisly scene." He nodded, and we did so.

"He didn't show up tonight," continued Moses, "and after a while I became worried. I went called his office at the University, for he had from time to time forgotten to quit working, but he wasn't there. A graduate student in his program answered, telling me that Phillip had left on time tonight. Immediately I came here, and found this."

"What time was that?"

"Six fifteen," he answered. "I called you right away."

"Tell me about him," I asked. "I know he was a Magus, so he must have been accomplished at magic. Did he have a specialty?"

"Oh, indeed he did. My friend is among the top three or four in the world at the magics of the mind. He was, anyway. He created the spell we of the Conclave used for protection against the Dreamwalker."

Those words were like an electric shock to my body. "There's a defense against the Dream Contact spell?"

"Better, Solomoriah. Phillip created a spell which would protect the mind of the sleeper if cast in advance, but further could be cast as a counterspell after the contact was initiated. He had discovered the fact that spells could be cast while in the dream state, under the influence of the Dreamwalker."

"I learned that too, but I didn't have a specific counterspell. I had to bluff."

"I see," he said, pausing a moment. "He never learned how the Dreamwalker's spell worked, though."

I resisted the urge to tell him that I knew the spell. "Do you have any idea why the Changelings might want to kill your friend?"

"None, I'm afraid, unless they somehow discovered that you told us about them and decided to silence us. Solomoriah, I am no warrior, just an old professor with a peculiar talent. I'm not so ashamed that I can't tell you I'm frightened of these swordsmen."

"You have every right to be," I said. "I need to search that office, but I'll be as quick as I can. Please wait here."

His day's mail was piled on the desk... bills and junk mail, and a thin official envelope from the City of San Francisco. This last I opened, using his letter opener, and found a check for just under a thousand dollars. The stub said only, "SVC. REND." What services did he render, I wondered idly.

His appointment calendar was absent, but I assumed it would be in his University office. In the large bottom drawer of the desk I found handwritten journals, with some odd diagrams, which I decided must be spell books. They were entirely in Latin, like the journal from John Harkin's house. I left them there, of course.

My Mystic Vision detected only the powerful and familiar magics of the murder weapon. The blade was clean of blood, but since I knew those swords actively repel blood I was unsurprised. Almost as an afterthought I got out Harkin's illusion-detecting glass and scanned the room, but found nothing interesting.

I turned my attention to the bodies, searching all their pockets. I learned that the swordsman's name was Roberto S. Alvarez. I made note of his address, and impressed his face on my mind. His dark hair had been carefully styled, and he had a thin mustache... a sort of a "latin lover" look, not at all the short hair and clean-shaved faces of the other swordsmen.

I frowned, realizing that I had only his facial features as evidence that he was a Changeling. I needed better proof; so, though the act was distasteful to me I lifted him up again and undid his pants, then slid them down far enough to verify his unusual sexual organs. Being both satisfied and disgusted, I redressed him as quickly as I could.

I put everything back as best I could and returned to the living room, where Moses was staring out the window. "I'll be leaving now. You should call the police right away; the receptionist will likely tell them how long you've been up here."

"I'll deal with her; I have a spell that can help. Then I'll call the police." He followed me to the door. "Thank you for coming, Solomoriah. I know that Franklin Evans has hired you to solve John's murder; I thought you should see this first."

"Thank you," I said. Pulling off and pocketing the gloves, I spoke a word, releasing my Invisibility spell. "Would you mind getting the door?"

As he reached for the door he said, "There are many things about you that puzzle me, Solomoriah. I'm not sure I completely trust you. I must tell you, Phillip Silva complimented you. He listened to your thoughts as you told your story, and he was impressed by your mental discipline. He told me that he wished he had an apprentice as gifted as you."

My face flushed, and I was glad to be invisible. I didn't know what to say, so I said "Thank you again for your help with this case. May I call you if I need more information?"

"Yes, please do," he answered, holding out a business card. I took it from him, and put it in my shirt pocket, where it disappeared.

"I'll be in touch," I said, and went through the door. I followed him down the elevator and outside, then took flight for home.

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