The way Garcia saw it, the greatest invention in criminal justice in the 20 years since he died was the cheap cel phone. They’d already burned through twelve of their forty-eight hour window grasping at straws and coaxing answers out of Adam. Now that they had a lead, they could cash in some favors, get a plan worked out and find answers all before the sun finished setting. In his day there was a 50/50 chance of doing all that before noon the next day.
There was some kind of black space between the time he died and when he somehow came back, and in that dozen years the whole damn world changed because someone built a better phone. It made people these days slower than they used to be when put on the spot, but with even a fifteen minute lead time you could do almost anything.
The first thing they had to do was find out more about the mark. They called in a favor to get a Red Market wizard to make a housecall. They’d worked with Wendel Klimpt before, pulling his feet out of the fire when someone framed him for Talent counterfeiting. The fact that Klimpt was a good enough wizard that people could believe he’d figured out a way to make forgeries of coins made out of pure magic and pieces of people’s souls made him a very good ally to have.
Klimpt was there in twenty minutes, it took him two to figure out the mark. Having been pulled out on his day off, Klimpt looked more like someone’s willowy old grandfather than a powerful magician. Instead of his fine suits, overcoats and sigils he showed up in track pants and a USC sweatshirt that frayed a little on the cuffs and seams.
“It is a stave,” he said, the German accent cutting hard edges into each word. “Not for listening or seeing. Only finding.”
Garcia nodded, “A tracking bug.”
“Stave,” corrected Huck.
“Correct, Herr Garcia. Asgardian.”
“As in ‘using a bug— uh, stave made in Asgard’ or ‘used by an Asgardian?’”
“Both. The user is familiar with the spell but would hardly be called an adept, much less a wizard.”
“So you don’t think the caster’s some big time threat.”
“I could easily undo this spell right now, if you like.”
Garcia looked at Huck and got a very small head shake as a reply. “Give us a minute, Klimpt, we need to figure something out. . .”
Barely five hours later, they had a plan in motion. They way the pair saw it, someone had decided to keep watch over this kid and odds were good that they were connected to Asbjornsen Thurs. To even know Adam existed or might have seen what happened, the person who casted the stave must have been at the house or close by when Adam’s parents were taken. So Garcia and Huck decided to force a meeting.
Klimpt had told them that the spell would pop if it was broken by someone or if the target died. In his professional opinion, the caster wasn’t good enough to tell which it was, so popping the spell would probably pique his or her interest. They needed somewhere the caster felt comfortable going to when it happened. Moving Adam to a precinct or state facility would probably just spook the caster. The tracking stave also made it impossible to put Adam in a safe house without it being compromised. So Garcia and Huck pulled some strings to have Adam released into their custody and sent home. Once home they would wait until nightfall and kill the stave using a charm Klimpt made for them. The caster would then come out of the woodwork to see what happened and they’d be ready. That was the theory anyway.
They broke the stave and took Adam to his room. He was not on board with this part of the plan.
“Why do I have to go to bed? What if another monster shows up?”
“We shall be here the whole night. You have nothing to fear, child.” Since the performance at the hospital, Huck was now the pair’s official child wrangler.
“Besides, Adam” said Garcia, “It’s bedtime. All kids have to be asleep now.”
“How come she doesn’t?” Adam pointed to the doorway behind them.
Garcia and Huck turned around and saw nothing. A moment of concentration later they could just barely see a cloud of shadow nestled in the doorway.
“On it,” Garcia whispered.
Huck stepped over to Adam’s side, making sure to completely fill the child’s field of view. “Mr. Sam is taking her to her room right now. Adam. . . what else do you see?”
As Huck ran interference, Garcia dropped his connection to the material world and slipped back to the spirit world. The light and color changed as though he were on an intricate set in some great, endless and dark theater. The shadow in front of him resolved into a young girl with pointed ears and steel blue skin. She gasped as she saw Garcia’s true form manifest before her. “Please don’t move," Garcia said, "I just want to talk.”
The girl had experience with the spirit world and its weird topography, but it was Sam’s home whether he liked it or not. She still thought of the place in the context of the material world and it made her make mistakes dodging things that weren’t really there or looking for doors that didn’t exist on this side. He eventually had her cut off in a room of the house. She shifted wildly looking for somewhere else to run.
Whether cornering a preteen suburbanite with a spraypaint can or some kind of magical elf with a tracking stave Sam found that the same cop script worked pretty well: “Stop. You’re not in trouble. Look at me. You’re not in trouble. But you need to talk to me.”
She replied in the language of the old skalds. Garcia used that lame play too when he was her age. Worked great until he got caught by someone who actually spoke Spanish.
“You really want to play this game?” his Asgardian accent was terrible, but the words caused the elf’s eyes to widen. She slumped against the wall as though trying to melt into it.
“I’m Agent Garcia,” Sam pulled a large coin from his pocket to show her the symbol on it. “Asylum. Not the cops, not the Bureau.”
The elf girl registered it and nodded. “Ahlnah,” she said.
“Okay. Ahlnah. I’m here to help, Ahlnah. But I need to know what’s going on. Why are you here? Did Gytha Grimsdottir send you?”
She shook her head, “I’m supposed to make sure he didn’t come back for the boy.”
“Supposed to? By who?”
“Neighbors. . .”
“Do your neighbors know where 'he' is?”
She avoided Garcia's eyes but didn't answer.
“Do they know where the missing humans are? Where their remains are?”
Ahlnah shook her head suddenly. “We didn’t let him kill them! I didn’t. . . he was so hungry but I couldn’t let him eat the little little boy’s parents.”
“Ahlnah, you need to take me and my partner to your neighbors right now.”
She bit her lip, thought for a moment and then vanished. Sam sighed and focused his will. Being a creature of the spirit world he could come back here in the blink of an eye, but it took a few precious seconds to go back to the material world. Being flesh and blood, Ahlnah would have at least a five second head start on him when he got back over.
“Ahlnah!” yelled Garcia when he finally shifted back, “Don’t do this! You need to let us help you!”
He tried the rooms of the house first but came up empty. He found the front door wide open and walked out into the front yard. There stood Huck grasping Ahlnah with a single hand powered by a dragon’s strength.
“Seizing small, terrified prey is what I do.”
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