“Carny, what the heck is that thing?”
Carny looked down at the small rectangles, then back at dean with a guiless, innocent look that Dean knew well.
He threw up his hands. “Sorry Carny, no. No speakers in here, what do you want to do, tell someone they’re being watched?”
Carny grinned, and Dean smiled to himself. Give Carny attention, fall for his lead, and he’ll tell you anything and everything.
“More than that, brother. These are microwave emitters. The kind the military uses to safeguard sensitive places like, oh say, an armory.”
Dean straightened in surprise. “Microwave emitters?”
Carny nodded. “That’s right. These little beauts emit microwaves that make the skin feel like it’s burning. Works on magickal critters too. A quick zap and they’re beelining for the hills, eh.” Carny gave an evil-sounding chuckle. “Nothin’s sticking around in here when you trigger ‘em.” Carny frowned. “Well, not unless they got a reflective suit. Special ceramic fiber stuff. Hard to get.”
“Please tell me these things aren’t illegal, Adair.”
Dean gazed pleadingly at Adair, who’d been listening to Carny and Dean’s talk.
“I don’t know that they’re illegal, and I don’t know they’re not,” Adair replied with a vague shrug.
“You’re not filling me with the warm fuzzies, Adair. If those things are illegal, I can lose my license” Dean announced worriedly.
“Brother, you’re telling me you forgot how we operated? We weren’t illegal, just para-legal.”
Dean nodded reluctantly. He remembered that sometimes to catch the bail jumper, they had to resort to a few ‘gray area’ dodges, and that had left him feeling uncomfortable. It got the job done, and he could rationalize it with the guy being in jail rather than out on the streets, but some of the ‘bad guys’ weren’t bad. They’d been desperate, but not bad.
Dean looked at the cousins. “How about instead of here, we use this on their place. If we can, we do their car too.”
The cousins turned to stare at each other, and identical wolfish grins spread across their faces.
“I like that idea, we should have thought of that first.”
“Comes from thinking too much about defense rather than offense, Carny.”
Adair turned to Dean. “Know where these hosers live?”
Dean smiled. “I certainly do.”
* * *
The beat-up looking ivory and red pickup truck pulled into the ‘Peak Arms’ parking lot, then rolled to a stop next to an old, red Ford Marten. Three men dressed in identical work clothes exited the truck, and moved to the bed, where they gathered up a large case, a ladder, and some electrical tools.
“This looks like a real rat hole, bro. These guys don’t believe in living the high life do they?”
“Staying under the radar is better for them. Having it known you’re an active criminal makes things dangerous. After all, we’re here because we’re just thinking they’re involved. Just think of the crowd if they were public.”
“True that.” Carny lifted out a tool belt, and settled it around his waist while Adair hauled out a large toolbox that contained the gear they expected to use in setting the bugs. The three men then walked through to the front door.
Adair sat down on the backless bench on the main floor while Dean and Carny went up the stairs to room 3A. Carny pulled out a leather case from his pocket and kneeled in front of the door. Ten seconds later the lock clicked open. Carny held his hand out in front of Dean.
“Magick, bro. We gotta check for Magick alarms.”
“How are you going to do that, Carney? I’m not a user, and I don’t know anyone who is available on short notice like this.”
“No problem bro, Adair’ll be up in a hot minute with a cure-all for what’s holdin’ us up.”
Carney had just finished speaking when his cellphone beeped at him, if the opening chords of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s old song ‘Takin’ care of business’ could be called a beep. Carney grabbed the phone and muted it before flipping it open.
“Yeah bro, what up? Unlocked and ready for a cursory sweep, soon as we get the door tested for spells or curses.” He listened intently, a frown forming on his lips and brow furrowing.
“You do it! Last time I did a casting like that I had a migraine for three days.” Dean listened and remained quiet. Carney had some small Magick he could do, but it always cost him, and that was the reason he went aircraft maintenance rather than casting corps. He sighed quietly then set about making a quick circle in chalk from the small kit he carried. A quick lopsided circle with four ordinal sigils for eyes, ears, the mind, and the spirit.
The chanting he did very quietly, no telling who might poke their head out if he did it too loudly. Ten seconds after starting a pair of shimmering walls faded into visibility. The outside of the pair had a streaked rigidity to it. The near audible ‘hum’ from it which raised goosebumps on the backs of his hands made it clear to Dean this was the alarm. The hum meant power was being fed into the wall, which meant the caster was plugged in and would feel the spell come down if it was triggered.
The inner wall was even more direct. Fire. Enough fire to likely incinerate the contents of the room and the intruder that tripped the trap. Dean looked over his shoulder at Carny, who was staring at the two walls.
“Why does everything with you always find a way to be ‘worst case’, bro?” He opened his mouth to say something, then shut it abruptly. “This has to be anchored to the door, right? Someone like the super comes up and knocks, she has to avoid tripping it somehow, otherwise it’d have been set off first day in place.”
Dean nodded. “I think you’re right, Carny. Something has to allow for the spell to avoid being set off by accident. Otherwise the dead bodies would bring all sorts of unhappy mounties down on their heads.”
“So what is it, bro? What safety you think it is?” The burly man continued to stare at the door. “I’m guessing hinges.”
“You got a reason for hinges, Carny?”
“Bro! It’s obvious!” Carny started winding up his enthusiasm and his voice.
Dean hurriedly made shushing motions as Carny’s voice started to rise. Both men looked around quickly to see if they’d drawn any attention. When neither man saw any movement in the doorways, they turned back to the warded door.
“It could be the lock, Carny. You have to unlock the door to get in. A spell on the key would be just as good as sounding out a dispell, better even because no one would hear it.”
Carny’s face fell in disappointment as Dean explained. “Dammit, I was sure it’d be the hinges.”
“It still could be. The hinges could be the trigger if the lock is opened without the key.”
Carny nodded curtly and pulled a coil of silver wire from a pouch on his toolbelt. Dean turned his attention back to the door and returned to chanting quietly. The door faded to a semi-transparency that allowed both Dean and Carny to observe where the two spells were anchored. Both went to the lock and the alarm went to both lock and hinges. Carny’s smile grew back when he saw the second anchor.
“Knew it’d be the hinges.”
Dean shook his head slowly as he kept up the whispered chant. Carny measured by eye the distance from the middle hinge to the lock, then cut a length of wire. The two ends had each a six centimeter section bent ninety degrees, with Carny carefully peeling two thin pieces of duct tape and sticking them on the back of his hand.
He pushed the left prong slowly and carefully into the lock then taped it in place making certain not to cover the cylinder of the lock. He glanced over at Dean, then nodded.
“Okay, ready for the tricky part?”lol
Dean took a few deep breaths and let the transparency spell drop. He started doing a yoga exercise to focus his concentration and got a slap from Carny.
“Get yore ass in gear, bro. We don’t have time to wait for you to be centered up. We got to be in, now like.”
Dean got out his pick kit and went to work on the lock. Five seconds later he was rewarded with a soft ‘clunk’ as the cylinder rotated open. The hum from the door escalated as Dean turned the knob. Carny turned the wire so the extension pointed up and slid it in the crack along the jamb as Dean opened the door a centimeter. He let the wire rotate back to horizontal and the hum dropped away to almost quiet.
“I hate that part.”
“You and me both, bro. Let’s get in now like.”
The two men picked up their duffles and toolkit, then enter and closed the door behind them quietly. In the next few moments Dean quickly scanned the room, and found no wards in the room and no alarms. A quick nod to Carny and the big man opened his kit and began setting up the bugs. One micro-cam up in the corner of the room closest to the door with a microphone, another microphone under the table near the small, dingy-yellow kitchen, and a third on the ceiling above the old hanging light in the small hall that held a bathroom between the two bedrooms.
It took Carny all of five minutes to finish the setup. He looked around the small living room. The main door opened into it from the middle of the north wall, and west was the bathroom through the square archway where the light hung. The kitchen archway was just north of the bedroom and was barely wide enough for one person to enter and cook.
“How long we been here?”
“Four minutes. Get a move on, bro.” Adair’s whisper crackled sharply in the quiet. Carny cursed and hurriedly lowered the volume.
“Give us a heads up, bro, not a heart attack” Carny mumbled as he finished packing, then he and Dean exited through the door. Dean pulled it shut and then pulled Carney’s bypass. The ward shivered, then settled back to quiescence. As the two men got to the front door, a beat up looking old utility vehicle painted with grey primer pulled into the small parking lot, and settled in the empty spot next to Adair’s pickup.
The Carre brothers stepped out of the SUV then spoke quietly in French as they walked together towards Dean and Carny. Dean ducked his head and hefted the bag he was carrying. Carny just shrugged and turned his head towards Dean.
“Hey Joe, how about we got get a burger? I’m hungry.”
Dean stumbled mentally, then caught on. “Sounds good to me, but after the next job, we’re running late already.”
“Hurry it up, bro.”
“Yeah, I’m on it.”
The Carres walked by them, still muttering quietly in French. Dean caught a few swear words that he’d heard in the RCAF. Something’s got them a little riled up. Maybe we can find out. He walked with Carny over to Adair.
“Adair, can you turn on the bugs? They’re upset about something, and maybe we can get useful information if they’re talking about it.”
Adair gave Dean a wolfish smile.
“You got it my man. One fly on the wall coming right up.”
Adair opened his kit and drew out a box with dials and switches. He tapped ‘A’ then ran the dial back and forth until a voice crackled over the speaker.
“It’s funking Quebecois, not even real French” Adair grumbled. “I might be able to figure out what they’re saying if they didn’t speak so funking fast.”
He focused on the conversation, which was angry and rapid fire. No way I can follow it, I hope Adair can get something. The brothers argued vehemently for another few minutes, then a loud bang echoed over the comm and the brothers went silent.
“Door. They’re coming out. Get in now! We gotta be gone or they’ll know we’re after them.”
Dean jumped in the pickup bed and lay flat while Carny hurriedly entered the cab. Adair backed the truck up out of the lot onto Tilton Street, then backed up behind a fence that bordered the edge of the lot. He killed the engine as Carny hopped back out of the pickup and went to the corner and took a quick peek back towards the apartments. Adair opened the small rear window, then turned to watch Carney.
“I got a name, Dandelion. Sounds like a restaurant to me. Probably downtown.”
“Could be a building, Adair. We got a few with named ones around. Up in Dayning especially.”
Carny interrupted them as he put a meaty hand on the door, and yanked it open.
“Let’s follow them. Upset as they sounded, what you want to bet it’s about the missing girls?”
Adair didn’t hesitate. He shifted the transmission to ‘Drive’ and rolled recklessly around the corner back into the parking lot just as the brothers vehicle exited onto Grover.
Adair paused a moment to let a few vehicles past, then pulled in to traffic, three cars back of the Carre brothers.
“See ‘em up there, Carny? I’m gonna watch us and you watch them.”
“I got ‘em, piece o’ crap flat black junker, right?”
“That’s the one, bro.”
“Good, junker sticks out like a cat in a dog pound. Gonna be easy.”
Dean lay in the back and listened to the brothers. Both of them, but Adair especially, were long-time pros at this kind of surveillance. Here’s hoping they’re stupid and lead us to the girls.
* * * * * * *
Dean lay back and closed his eyes. I can sleep now, I know I’ll feel the truck slow down when we get to wherever we’re going. It seemed like mere moments that he shut his eyes, and the truck started slowing down. He didn’t sit up right, that might draw attention. He angled his head back to look up at the open window on the back of the cab. He smelled salt and dead fish. Horns and seagulls mixed together as the truck slowed further.
“Halifax dock, whatta ya bet ‘Dandelion’ is a ship name, bro?”
“No bet since we’re at the West Dock, bro. That’s cheatin’.”
“They spot us, Adair?”
There was a soft crash of metal, then a rattling sound of chain. Motors provided a pulsing background to the sounds of the docks.
“No, but this ain’t over yet. Traffic’s thinner here and if they pull off, we’ll have to follow them, there’s not another turn for about three klicks…ah hell, there they go…wanna hope they’re real stupid Carny, otherwise this gets confrontational and none of us is a combat caster.”
“Bullets do for them just as well.”
“I sure as hell don’t want to find out that you’re wrong, Carny” Dean added.
“What bro said” Adair replied. “He could step out of that car fully juiced and then what do we do?”
Carny mumbled something under his breath, then leaned back, bumping the glass with his head.
“Get ready bro. This surveil’s hosed.”
Dean’s stomach clenched in a knot. He recognized the change in Carny’s voice. Instead of a hint of amusement, he’d gone flat. A sure sign that he was ready to go. He’d seen Carny get flat a few times in the RCAF, and once when he’d worked with Adair. Both times were when their plans got hosed and it became a potential firefight.
“Carny…” Dean didn’t finish what he was going to say as the pickup suddenly accelerated and lurched hard left. The tires broke free of the crumbly asphalt and squealed as they left patches on hard surface. Adair was swearing loudly as Carny cut loose with an angry roar and popped the passenger door open.
“He’s juiced! Keep the truck going! I’m getting out here!”
Carny pushed out of the cab and didn’t try to land on his feet. He hit feet first, and dropped like a paratrooper, tucking arms and legs in and rolled with the impact. He did two hard flips and landed in some soft sand. Dean lost track of him as his attention was grabbed by a blast of heat that singed his hair. He yelled in surprise and pain, dropping flat in the truck bed as Adair reversed the skid and dodged another blast of heat.
Throwing fire. Combat basic. Everyone’s scared of being burned alive.
“This be your stop, Dean-o! Last shot got the radiator! I’m gonna feed him the grill! Jump for it!”
Adair screamed and straightened the truck out. Dean leapt right, and tried to imitate Carny, landing feet down then letting momentum carry him onto his hip, arms against his body and roll. Fighting the momentum is how to break bones during a drop. He hit a loose patch and fell backwards as he overcompensated.
The pavement tore his clothes and gouged his skin as he tumbled. After a few seconds he rolled off the pavement onto soft sand. That was awful. Hunh, nothing broken. I got off lucky. Back sure hurts, probably road rash.
Dean glanced up just in time to see the pickup take a fire burst in front of the passenger side door, which burst and melted the front tire. The pickup slewed then rolled once, twice, thrice before coming to a twisted metal heap just off the road. It smoked momentarily then the vaporized gasoline exploded.
Oh gods, Adair!