<--Younger | The First New York Magician | Older-->
I was still sitting in the chair when there was a knock at the door. I quickly shut down the disc player and swept the Desert Eagle into my desk drawer, then called "Come in."
Kharan Sharansky opened the door and stepped into my office. My partner looked haggard. Moving to the chair across my desk, he slumped into it. "Have you found anything?" He raised his head to look at me with the question.
I looked at the walls for a moment, then back at him in resignation. "Yes."
"Do you know where she is?"
"No." I ejected the CD-R from the Onkyo and evicted a CD of The Who from its plastic case nearby, slipping the CD-R into the jewel case. "But I know she's in trouble." I met his gaze with those words.
He shrank in on himself. "Michel-"
He looked at me, pleading. "I have to ask you why I should not go to the police."
I leaned back in my chair and looked at him. Kharan Sharansky had been my business partner for eight years. He was extremely good at his job. He and I had divided up the running of our small firm in a manner which suited both of us, and which left me free to pursue my extracurricular activities. The morning before, he had come to me and said he needed to take some time away.
* * *
"Michel?" Sharansky's head came through my door. "Michel, I need to speak with you."
I said goodbye to the fund manager I was speaking with and hung up my phone. "Come in, Kharan. What's up?"
He entered. I noticed at once that his normally-impeccable clothing looked somewhat rumpled, and there were shadows around his eyes. He didn't sit, but leaned on the wall next to the door and waited until it swung shut. "Michel, I have to take some time."
"Of course. Is something wrong?"
He rubbed his eyes with one hand, more exhaustion than I had ever seen on him visible in the gesture. "Yes. You remember my daughter? Galina?"
"Sure. Is she all right?"
"I don't know. I was supposed to meet her this morning for breakfast. She never showed up. She doesn't answer her phone, and she missed a job interview this morning as well."
"That...doesn't sound good." I leaned back, thinking. "But she's only been gone, what, less than a day?"
"Yes. But that job...she had been waiting for that interview for six months. She received a degree in landscape architecture some time ago, and has been trying to get hired by the New York City Parks Department to work on space design."
"And she just missed the interview?"
"Yes. They called her roommate to see if she was coming, and the roommate thought she was with me since we were supposed to have breakfast."
"Are you going to call the police?"
"I already have. They tell me that they cannot accept a missing persons report for seventy-two hours."
"Makes sense." I snorted. "Especially in this city."
"In any case, I...don't think I'll be much use here until I know what has happened."
I looked at him, and waved him to the chair across from my desk. Kharan had no idea of my other life. He knew me as an eccentric but wealthy man who maintained an eccentric lifestyle with the gains from a successful money management business. We socialized lightly, but one of the reasons that our partnership worked so well was that we really had no reason to interact outside of work other than as colleagues, sometimes unwinding stress together. I thought about it for a few moments. "Kharan, do you trust me?"
He looked up, frowning. "Of course." A wry smile. "I've signed forms saying I do."
"No, I'm serious. Do you trust me?"
"Yes, Michel. I trust you. Why?"
"I can look for your daughter. But it will mean taking time off, and I'll need you here while I do it."
"Look for her where? Do you know a detective?"
"No. There's things about my life I haven't told you, Kharan. Things that have nothing to do with our business."
He sat forward, almost hunching. "Things that make you qualified to look for my daughter?"
He looked at me keenly for a few minutes. I gazed back at him. Finally, he nodded. "There is nothing I can do other than hiring my own detectives until the police agree to accept the report. What do you need me to do?"
"Just be here. Cancel your meetings; tell everyone your daughter is ill, or whatever you like. I'm going to go have a look around. I'll need the keys to your daughter's house, a picture of her, and any other information you've collected to give to the police."
Kharan rose slowly from his chair. "I can have all that to you in an hour. You really think you can help?"
He nodded, and went out.
* * *
Now I looked at him, a father in pain, and I shook my head. "Kharan, there are things about me you don't know."
"Of course there are. We aren't close-"
"No. Things you should know."
"Why now? You-you're not involved in this-?" his voice shook as if it wanted to rise, but didn't.
"No." I stood and gripped his hands with mine. "I'm not, Kharan. I swear to you, I'm not. But I'm going to find your daughter. In order to do that, though, I'll need you to trust me." I stood straight again, opened the desk drawer and took the Desert Eagle out of it. Kharan started visibly at the sight of the gun.
"What is that?"
"This is a gun, Kharan." I ejected the clip from the pistol and checked it, then slid it home again and placed it on my desk next to the cased CD-R. "I usually carry it."
"Why?" He looked at my face, uncomprehending. "Is it part of your insurance terms?" He and I both had kidnap insurance, required as we controlled large amounts of money for clients.
"No." I patted my chest where the bandolier rode over the loose sweater I wore in the office. "Let's just say I sometimes have to talk to...people...I don't entirely trust."
"And you're going to talk to these people about Galina?"
"That's right." I shucked the cardigan and picked up my Burberry off the rack behind my desk. As I shrugged into it, I slid the Desert Eagle into its sling inside the coat. Kharan watched, his face disturbed, as I sat down again. "Kharan, I don't think the police can help you find your daughter."
I reached into my coat with my left hand and grasped the newly-recharged cylinder on my bandolier. "I'm going to show you something. It's going to startle you. But I have to show you for you to understand. Okay?"
He nodded, looking at my hand where it lay inside my coat. I waved my right hand until he looked over. "No, look here."
When I saw his eyes were focused on my right hand, I squeezed with my left. There was a now familiar POP noise, and I felt the storm of electrons rush into me. The pocketwatch corralled them and threw them out again, this time into the air above my right palm as energy. The plasma around my right hand burst into a sudden white glare, and Kharan cried out in surprise, jerking backwards in his seat. I closed my hand, slowly, and the glare faded, my hand closing around a bright shining point until it extinguished. I opened my hand to show my bare palm, removing my left hand from my coat.
"What...what the hell was that?" Kharan stood quickly, moving unconsciously to stand behind his chair.
"I don't know. Call it whatever you like. But you needed to know what I mean when I say I have to go talk to people."
His eyes were slightly wild. "You show me magic tricks? Are you just trying to distract me?"
I looked at him, then shrugged, and squeezed the next cylinder in my bandolier. This time, though, I funneled the cast into a kinetic strike and aimed it at a potted plant across my office.
The plant exploded. Shards of pottery whistled through the air, and a spray of potting soil erupted out for several yards around the plant's position. Kharan flinched away from it, then turned slowly back to look at me. I shrugged.
"I did that." I pointed at the plant. "I didn't use this." I pulled the gun out from my coat. "But sometimes, I need to use this. That's why I have it."
Kharan looked at the gun, then at the plant, then back at me. "Where is my daughter?"
I sat again, and waved him to his seat. He sank into it again, holding my eyes. "I don't know exactly where she is, Kharan. But something has her. Something took her out of a bar on Thirty-Fourth street last night." As I spoke I removed the two strobe capacitors from my bandolier, encased in their plastic containers, and slotted them into a charger which lay on the credenza with a digital SLR suggestively aside it. They whined as they began to take in power. I unsnapped two of the four caps that had been sitting in the charger and replaced them in my bandolier.
"What are those?"
"Energy. I need energy to do those things. Where I get it from isn't material, but it helps if I have some on me when I need it."
"What are you going to do now?"
I picked up the CD-R and showed it to him. "I found this in the bar last night. It has a summoning field cast on it."
"A summoning. Look, this stuff, magic, whatever you want to call it, it's only done by thinking beings, right? It's much much more common for people or beings to cast things than it is for things to 'just happen.' I don't know why. I think it's because you need some form of active will to tell the universe what's supposed to happen."
Kharan was looking at me with an expression on his face that was half fear and half confusion. He hadn't run for the door yet, though. I continued. "Anyway, even though most people can't do this stuff, those that do use their brains, is what I'm saying. And this-" I waved the CD-R again- "is sort of a like a packaged cast. It's like a recording. Well, no, it is a recording, obviously. But it's also a casting. There's something on here that when the human brain hears it, it creates the conditions necessary for a summoning cast. Those are really really rare, and I've only seen them a couple of times. They take a huge amount of energy. But when a person listens to this CD-R, they without knowing it cause a portal to open, near them. And something or someone can come through. I think whoever or whatever can come through that portal has your daughter."
"Why do you think that? Where did you get it?"
"I found a bartender who remembered seeing Galina last night. She went into this bar, but nobody remembers her coming out. Also, I have other means of finding people-" I patted my bandolier- "which agree that she was in the bar. But she wasn't there anymore, and she hadn't left. I found this CD-R in the jukebox, and the jukebox was wired into the women's bathroom. When you lock the bathroom, whatever's playing on the jukebox is piped in there. I think she went in, locked the door, and whatever was on this CD-R came out and..." I trailed off, looking at the opposite wall.
Kharan looked at me. "What is it?"
"..and took her." I was thinking furiously. "But that means that someone had to cue the CD-R. On the jukebox. Someone had to know when she went into the john. Damn it, I'm so fucking stupid."
"Because I didn't sweat the bartender, that's why." I stood up. "I think I need to go back there."
"I'm coming with you." Kharan stood up too. "I don't understand a damn thing you just said, except that Galina was in the bar. And if I get enough of the rest of it, the bartender might know where she was taken."
"Kharan, you can't come."
"WHY NOT?" he shouted at me, tears starting.
"Because I'm probably going to have to do shit that's illegal. You don't want to be there, and I don't want you there. But I swear to you I'm going to find her. You understand?"
He looked frightened. "Do you think I care about illegal?"
"I think I know this stuff, and you don't. I think you're worrying, now and that means you're going to be doubly handicapped. I think you need to stay here and make sure you're near a phone where I can reach you."
He sat back down, slowly. "I'll be at my desk."
"Thanks, Kharan. I'll call you as soon as I know anything." I picked up the jewel case and the CD next to it and slammed out of my office.
<--Younger | The First New York Magician | Older-->