Part 3: Like A Thief In The Night

Reading Time Approx: 6 minutes

The route to Shepherdstown is very dark at night. I mention it because all those twists and turns I talked about earlier are particularly fun when you can’t see them coming. So my second trip to the town took significantly longer than the first.

Not that I was in that much of a hurry. I mean, I was about to break into an apartment (for the second time that day) and hunt for a book about werewolves in a town where werewolves apparently resided. Who wouldn’t be in a hurry to get started on that.

When I finally got there I parked my car in the same spot as before and walked casually to Naomi’s apartment. Once I was within a block of the apartment I reached into my pocket and squeezed the twenty sided die in my hand, activating my camouflage spell. To my eyes everything seemed exactly the same, but I’ve done this particular type of magic often enough to have faith that it works.

The lock was just as easily persuaded as before and I entered the apartment as quietly as I could. Everything looked the same, except darker, so it didn’t seem like anyone had visited since I left. But I wasn’t going to turn the lights on to confirm that. My camouflage spell was definitely not that strong. Instead I pulled out my flashlight. A little thing but surprisingly powerful. Easily enough for this job anyway.

I suppose that sounds a bit dull, a wizard using a flashlight. But magic isn’t free. It takes an effort just like everything else. And it’s never made much sense to me wasting energy on something where there’s a perfectly good gadget available that will fulfill the same task.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried looking for something in a dark room with only a flashlight but it’s a massive pain in the ass. You get shadows all over the place and your brain is constantly inventing things to see. After a few frustrating moments, I decided that a little discovery spell was in order.

Everything leaves a trail. Think of it like a scent. Most trails aren’t visible. Well, not to humans at least. But they do exist if you know how to bring them out. If there had been any werewolves in the apartment, before or after Naomi’s disappearance then I should be able to find that scent.

After a moment’s investigation I found a container of salt in a kitchen cabinet and sprinkled some over the living room carpet. Then, calming myself into the lightest of trance states, I concentrated on the room’s auras. I know how that sounds, but they exist. When you tune yourself into them you sense a swirling mixture of colors and feelings. Now I tried to hone in on the one aura I was interested in. The one with a wolfish scent to it.

I smiled in satisfaction as soon as I felt it. There was definitely something present. Time to get a few answers! Concentrating harder, I linked the salt particles to the aura in my mind, locking the two concepts together. And then I opened my eyes and looked down at the carpet, only to blink in surprise.

The result was not what I had expected. The spell had worked perfectly. It had done exactly what I wanted. I just hadn’t expected nearly so many results. All across the floor, the salt had gathered into neat piles taking on the shape of footprints. But there had to be dozens of them and of different sizes at that.

Just how many wolves had been in this apartment? What exactly had Naomi stumbled into? With a little work I could probably refine the spell to give me an idea of how recent all the tracks were. Surely they hadn’t all been made at once. But that would take time and I could feel my palms start to itch.

If there was an entire pack of werewolves involved in this then surely they would still be watching the apartment. Had they seen me enter? I was confident about my camouflage spell against human eyes. But what about a wolf’s nose? I needed to get out of here quickly. But I wasn’t going to leave without the book.

Which, it turned out, was quite easy to find. Where else would you keep a book but right on your nightstand for easy bedtime reading. Obviously Naomi hadn’t felt this was something you need to hide. Well not in her own apartment anyway. If I had thought to look there in the first place, the whole trip could have been avoided. Sometimes I’m too clever for my own good. Or too stupid. It’s often hard to tell them apart.

The title told me exactly what to expect even before I opened the book to look inside. On Lycanthropy by Armann Flosason. So she had been studying werewolves. Which might explain their interest in her. But what was her interest in them?

Curiosity got the better of me and I opened the book. I had done little more than flick through the first few pages when something big and solid slammed into me and knocked me flying. My head hit the ground hard and I was out cold in seconds.

I can’t have been unconscious for very long, but it was long enough for all hell to break loose. When I came round I was still in the apartment, lying on the floor. I struggled to my feet, wincing at the almost blinding pain in my head and almost walked straight into a rather overweight police officer.

I froze and held my breath. The camouflage spell was still working. The police hadn’t notice me, yet. Which did raise the question of why it hadn’t worked on my assailant earlier, but there would be time to figure that out later.

Right now I had to maneuver my way out of the apartment before someone tripped over me. I was pretty sure at that point they would notice. Escape was going to be a challenge though because here were two more policemen, both of whom had clearly eaten too many donuts, blocking the door. I guess policing a university town doesn’t usually require a lot of physical exertion.

Discretion being, as my father always liked to tell me, the better part of valor, I edged myself to the corner of the room where at least no one in this swarm of legal activity was likely to bump into me. I was pondering the question of who had called them and how they were connected to the person who had attacked me when I realized that the book was missing.

I may not be a detective, but I can put clues together when someone attaches giant neon signs to them. It was way too big a coincidence to think that my attacker just happened to break in at exactly the same time I had and just happened to be looking for exactly the same book.

No, clearly someone didn’t want me to have that book. Which had me wondering just what was in it? Fortunately even a crack to the skull wasn’t going to shake such an unusual name from my mind. Once I got out of here I would ask Mercedes to find out all there was to know about a gentleman named Armann Flosason. Somehow I doubted there would be too many false leads to chase down.

It seemed the book was the only thing my attacker was after. The rest of the apartment was, as far as I could tell, untouched. Well except where the police were tramping all over things. Feeling increasingly confident about the power of my camouflage spell, I leant back against the wall for some support and watched them stumbling about.

I couldn’t tell what it was they were looking for exactly. Even assuming that they knew there had been a break in, there was no one here now. And it seemed highly unlikely anyone was going to return with all the lights and uniforms everywhere. Mainly I just wanted them to go home so I could get back to my car and take an ibuprofen.

Finally the police came to the same conclusion about the intruders. Which was just as well because I wasn’t feeling too good. As the police started to depart I kept my eyes firmly on the door, waiting for an opportunity to leave before they taped everything off and locked up again.

Which was when I noticed the blonde. The same girl I’d spoken to earlier. She was peering out from her apartment across the hall, hand nervously fidgeting with her hair. Had she called the cops I wondered? She certainly seemed to take a lot of interest in Naomi and this apartment. And she was equally interested in what the police were up to.

It was yet another question with no clear answer on this long and painful night.  My vision blurred a little and I realized I had to get out of here or risk passing out again. It wasn’t as though I was going to get any more answers here anyway.

At the first opportunity I slipped past the chatting police and walked away as fast as a man can without making a huge amount of noise. I didn’t remove the camouflage spell until I was sitting in the drivers seat of my car. My head ached, my body felt drained from the prolonged use of magic and I had at best five hours until my next shift at Supermart 13.

To think I once thought that wizarding would be fun…



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