Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Intangible Assets, Chapter 10

So I left the church with two addresses to check out. The first was what I wanted and the second was a surprise. The fact that Fr. O’Brian wanted someone who knew magic to investigate the place knocked it right off of the list of surprises that I enjoyed getting.

It was getting on two in the afternoon when I pulled up in front of Victor’s apartment. The building was a cut above the rest of the neighborhood. The lobby was not secure, but the doors of the units I passed on the way to Victor’s had enough locks to make up for the lack.

One look at the door and I knew that Victor’s place was still vacant. No one would have been living in the place with the door jam fractured as it was. With a quick scan of the hall and my hand on my gun, I pushed open the door and stepped inside.

I had thought that whoever had tossed Allison’s place had done a thorough job. The wreckage of Victor’s place made her apartment look like amateur night. There were holes punched in the wall and the furniture had been turned inside out. I was already giving up on finding the leverage as I started to pick through the debris.

First thing by the door was a coat rack, empty. There was a small table lying on its side next to the rack. It was one of those little things that was small enough to stay out of the way but big enough for a guy to dump the mail and empty his pockets onto. I went looking on the floor for whatever might have been on it when it went over. There were a couple of bills, some loose change, and receipts.

The dust in the place was about as heavy as it was at Allison’s. That made sense; it would put the ransackings at roughly the same time. As for searching the rest of the place, nothing else approached interesting, much less useful. Nothing except broken woodwork, torn fabrics, and disemboweled furniture. I had to write the whole exercise off as a long shot that didn’t pay off.

And speaking of paying off, I still had my part of the deal with Fr. O’Brian to make good on. I briefly considered just shining him on, but I knew he worked for a boss that kept real good track of things like that.

I could have walked from Victor’s to Dunkirk’s apartment. The second was in the type of place that I knew all to well, seeing as how I was living in one. It was the type that you went to when the first amenity you are looking for was anonymity. The rest, including having a floor that doesn’t fall out from under you, you got and felt lucky to have it.

No elevator, and the stairs to the third floor doubled as the trash chute. As I went up the stairs, I slipped my ring onto my finger. The rune engraved silver and the white stone felt like old friends. My sense of the background magic sharpened, and I knew that what control I could exercise on it was enhanced as well. I had always thought of the ring as being like a knife: it didn’t make me any stronger, but I could use what strength I had that much more effectively.

The door to Dunkirk’s apartment was already open when I approached. The signs of force were clear on the jam, and I bent down to take a look. I quickly realized two things: one, whoever broke the door had used a crowbar, and two, there were the remnants of power from a ward on what was left.

I concentrated my sight on the doorway. The ward was no longer active. It seemed to me that it had expired from neglect rather than breaching.

I stepped inside, and after a quick scan to check for occupants in the room, I turned my attention to the interior of the door. Mr. Dunkirk obviously valued protection over getting his deposit back. The interior of the frame had been carved with runes. I couldn’t say that I was impressed by his method; he seemed to think that more was better; there wasn’t an inch of the frame that wasn’t carved. The symbology was religious, but there are only so many ways to make a ward. The caster has to specify what is to be excluded, and Dunkirk had decided not to entertain anything other than red-blooded humans. I recognized runes for all the major classes of demons, fae, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and dragons. That last struck me as odd, no one had even seen a dragon since the resurgence, but evidently Dunkirk did not believe in taking chances. The wards were created so as to completely block the entry of anything not permitted. I could make out from the doorway that the windows had received the same treatment. When those wards were powered, the place would have been a supernatural bunker.

Dunkirk had most definitely been aware of the supernatural. I reached out to touch the history of the room. Very little living had been done there; it was nothing more than a dormitory for one man. I got the sense of paranoia, fear, and a little madness. Nothing surprising all told, a person would have to be more than a little crazy to make hunting the supernatural his life’s work.

The apartment was a simple studio. There was a bed and an armchair, both divotted in the center and presumably came with the apartment. The cabinets next to a one-burner gas cook top all stood open and empty. A scarred wardrobe also stood open. The floor was littered with greasy bits of food wrap and newspapers. The topmost of the newspapers was dated three months previously, and the food wrappers had been picked clean by the roaches some time ago.

     Over by the wardrobe, I spotted a pattern crushed into the rug. It looked like a pair of rectangles, angled relative to one another and almost touching at one corner. It took me a minute to picture what might have made that impression: a steamer trunk, opened, and standing on end for a long time. Long enough that the rug had a slightly balder patch between the trunk and the edge of the bed. Light brown flecks dusted the rug near the bed. I knelt down and picked one up with the end of my finger. A shaving of wood. More like a part of a shaving that had been stepped on and ground into the rug. I had an idea about the wood, but I still removed a clean handkerchief from my pocket and brushed a few of the flecks into it.

     That done, I bent down to the floor to take a look under the bed. That’s when I saw something that I did not expect to see. It was a thin, silvery ring. I picked it up, its surface was foil crinkled in on itself. And it still smelled faintly of Juicy Fruit.     

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