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Well, crap! Trick thought as he surveyed the situation. It's just never simple, is it.

 

Trick pulled back a little farther into the shadows that were hiding him, and dug out his cell for his fourth conversation of the evening with Dacy. Good thing she never asked for overtime pay, or this evening would be breaking him. She was a good kid; he'd really lucked out that the one and only answer to his ad had not only been competent, but even eager. It was nice to have her backing him up, handling the paperwork and research so he could enjoy the part of detective work that he loved so much. Trick grinned, a disarmingly boyish grin that transformed his face from the stern expression he'd carefully schooled himself to wear. He was closing in on them! Time to get the show on the road. He sent the call.

            "Trick? Thank God, I was getting worried. It's been over two hours since you told me Manitoba had told you where the vase was! I mean, I know you were gonna follow him and stuff, but, jeez, give a girl a call, huh?" Okay, this was the downside of having an assistant. Last thing he had wanted was some skirt needing to know where he was all the time. Still, his conscience couldn't totally brush off his pang of guilt; he was in a dangerous situation, and it had been a while.

            "Yeah, I know, sorry. It took a while to double back around and tail Manny, and then..."

            "Manny? Oh, Manitoba?"

            "Yeah." Trick smiled to himself, recalling the irritation that had flickered on Manitoba's face when he'd called him "Manny". First crack he'd seen in his rather cool act. Smug scumbag. "I was hoping to see who he'd get in contact with, see if I could figure out who got nervous because I was sniffing around, if it was a set up. But, I lost him," Trick said, his voice betraying the annoyance he felt at this.

            "Oh, no! So, you still don't know if he's on the level, or it's a trap?"

            "Getting to that. I decided, rather than waste time on looking for Manny, I had better go check out the warehouse he'd pointed me to. He'd made it clear that this was a temporary holding place for the vase, that the Circle had plans to move it soon. As in, any time now. I'd hate to lose what could be my only chance at getting it back, tailing a rat who may or may not lead me anywhere. So, I went to check it out. It took me a while, nosing around for traps and patrols and such, to get to it, but...Dacy, the vase is here!"

            "Oh!" Dacy put a world of feeling into that one sound. "So, you did it! And he was telling the truth!" She sounded almost giddy with relief.

            "Nope, not done yet. Vase is locked down with magical enchantments and who knows what all, and is probably booby trapped. Jury's still out on whether or not Manitoba meant me harm or good," Trick said cheerfully. "Doesn't matter. I'm not stupid enough to waltz in there all by myself so I can single handedly recover Solomon's vase for him. I know when to call in the calvary. So, if it was a set up, and they expected me to see the vase and throw caution to the winds, I guess I'm a disappointment. The important thing is, the vase is here. Now we gotta get it out of there."

            "What do you need me to do?" There was an edge of fear back in Dacy's voice. Good. She was thinking.

            "First, call M.A.G.I., see if there is anything they got that could help with these traps, and see if maybe they have a hero or two they could throw this way. As soon as possible. Just because the place isn't crawling with Circle goons now, doesn't mean it won't be soon. Second, call Solomon and let him know what's up. He's got some resources that could be handy right now, I'm pretty sure, and I'll need that money for Manitoba."

            "Check. You want me to call the guys at the precinct?"

            "No! First off, they need a warrant to get in here, and believe me, if they could even get it, that would slow things down too much. Second of all... this is not exactly something that can be done with a police squad. They come in here, it could get ugly, fast. I think the situation can be finessed...providing M.A.G.I. can pony up."

            "Consider it done, Boss. You just hang on, I'll get whatever it'll take there to help you," Dacy promised fervently.

            "I'll be here, Doll." Trick ended the phone call and slipped the phone back in his pocket, wishing that he was as confident as he sounded.

 

 

 

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Dacy hung up the phone and sat back. This was the hard part. Waiting. Her fingers drummed nervously on the desk, unnoticed. She really hated waiting, but there was nothing left for her to do. She'd called M.A.G.I., also known as the Modern Arcane Guild of Investigation; she was quite grateful they seemed to keep someone available at all hours, because it was hours past being a reasonable time to be open. They did, indeed have a way to help with the enchantments that surrounded the vase, but apparently, it wasn't something they could let just anyone handle. Dacy's quick offer to run the item from their office over to Trick was met with a polite demurral. They were putting out a request for help with the mission through their contacts with the heroic community; they were sure someone would be along to help shortly, and it would be far safer, they said. Dacy chafed, but could hardly argue. Then, she called Solomon. He was quite pleased to hear the vase had been located, seemed to be understanding of the fact that it was not, in fact, in their possession yet, and quite possibly was mobilizing his forces to help things along. He'd managed to leave her with that impression without actually specifying. Solomon liked to play things close to the vest. You only got to know what he wanted you to know. Dacy had a grudging admiration for this. She was all too likely to tell someone more than they wanted to know; something she had to be careful of, working for a detective. She'd pressed Solomon as far as she dared, and still knew next to nothing. Which, wasn't helping her nerves, not at all.

 

The phone rang, shattering the last of her nerves. She grabbed the receiver quickly, almost dropping the phone again in her haste.

            "Hello?" She didn't bother identifying herself or the agency. This time of night, no one but those involved in tonight's drama would be calling.

            "Ms. Davis? This is Azuria, over at M.A.G.I.. I did want to tell you, we put out a request for help, and it looks like that has been accepted by a hero, who should be there shortly. However, there was something rather disturbing. One of our clairvoyants has had a sending. Perhaps you are aware that precognition is an unreliable skill, and not terrible specific at times, but I thought you should hear about it anyway." Dacy's heart seemed to be beating awfully loudly. "She sensed that Mr. Dacy was in great danger. In fact, she sensed...death. And treachery."

            Dacy felt faint. Her own voice sounded far away. "How...what can I do?"

            "Please get in contact with Mr. Dacy immediately. This clairvoyant...she isn't able to see far. There isn't much time. If the reading is true."

Far away somewhere, the phone clicked and went dead.

 

Dacy's adrenaline kicked in. With a start, she snapped to attention, her fingers quickly making the connection between her phone and Trick's. Come on, come on! she silently screamed at him, willing him to answer quickly. Four rings. Voice mail. Dacy disconnected quickly in frustration, and redialed. One. Two. Three. Four. Voicemail. Hands shaking, she dialed again, only to get the same result. DO SOMETHING! her mind screamed in frustrated urgency, but her body was already moving.

 

The drive to Independence Port had never seemed so long. Dacy's old car screeched and protested with every quick accelaration and turn. She continued her pattern of redialing Trick's cell phone on her cell phone, but without much hope. She had no idea what else she could do to help, but that was irrelevant. She was coming to warn him. He would be all right. He had to be. She was almost there.

 

There! Finally she passed Justice Wharf Road and entered Liberty Quay. She slowed down, looking for the first road entryway to the right, peering anxiously to see if she could see if she could see some indication that she was in the right place. Bingo! There was a drive...but there was also a gate across it. And no guard to open it for her. Dacy looked past the fence to the warehouse. She couldn't see any others in the immediate vicinity. She wavered indecisively for a moment, but then decided that this must be the right place, and pulled up to the gate. Okay, so much for the hope that the gate was automatic. Dacy hopped out of the car and ran to the gate. Locked! She grabbed the lock and shook it, nearly crying with frustration. To her astonishment, the lock unlatched in her hands. It hadn't really been locked, after all! Quickly, she tore the lock off the gate and rolled the gate out of the way, and scrambled back to her car. She hoped that meant that Trick had been through the gate. She scanned the area for his car. There! Barely noticeable, behind and between some cargo boxes, she thought she'd seen...she backed up. Yes. It looked like his car. She was close.

 

Dacy parked her car in what she hoped was an equally unnoticeable spot, and cautiously made her way towards the warehouse, trying to stay in the shadows and out of sight as much as possible. She had never done anything like this before, and her nerves screamed with apprehension as she crept closer to the doors, looking around for watchers and guards.

 

A sudden large but muffled boom! shook the walls of the warehouse.

 

No! Oh, no, oh no...! Please, please, please... Dacy practically flew to the warehouse door, panic lending speed to her feet. She flung open the door and raced inside. And stopped. She had no idea where he was. But she could hear a commotion farther into the warehouse; somewhere, an alarm was sounding. She headed in, keeping to the shadows, watching for trouble, but moving as swiftly as she could. She hadn't gotten too far yet when she heard noises coming from behind her. It sounded like people, moving fast. She shrank back into the shadows behind a crate and watched as three brightly dressed people ran past her position, towards the commotion ahead. Heroes! The heroes that M.A.G.I. had asked for, were here! Quickly, Dacy ran after them, but they were faster, and pulled ahead out of sight. The commotion ahead suddenly took on a different tone.

 

When Dacy caught up to the heroes, they were busily engaged with an alarming number of Circle ... hmm. What to call them. Some were human, but some were monstrous. Fire filled the air, and terrible noises and shapes tore at Dacy's senses. She stopped, momentarily overwhelmed...and then, her eyes picked out a prone, yellow clad body in the far corner, in the middle of devastation. It felt as though her heart stopped beating. Her world narrowed to that one sight, and, leaving the heroes to keep the Circle occupied, she raced along the edge of the room to his side.

 

She skidded to a halt on her knees next to him, her fingers already feeling for a pulse. His tattered clothes told the story of the kinds of forces that had battered him. That and the blood. Dacy couldn't feel a pulse. Frantically, she put her head to his chest. There was too much noise, and she couldn't tell if his heart was beating, or if he was breathing.

            "Trick! Oh, Trick!" Dacy realized she was sobbing. Carefully, she positioned his head so his airway was clear, and put her hand next to his mouth and nose, to see if she could feel any breathing. Yes! She thought she did feel something. More carefully, she rechecked for a pulse at his throat, watching the worst of his wounds at the same time to see if they were still bleeding. They were...but so little. It already looked like he had lost so much blood. She was sure she could detect a faint pulse. She looked around now, trying to pull her thoughts together. She needed to get him help, and now! The heroes had defeated nearly all of the Circle of Thorns mob, and the fighting was dying down; maybe they could help? Suddenly, Dacy remembered her cell phone. Idiot! She'd been too panic stricken to think clearly. She pulled out her phone, hastily dialing the number for emergency services...and froze as a new commotion in the room made her look up.

 

At first, Dacy was afraid that the Circle had sent more mobs in to fight. But she quickly realized these people were nothing like the members of the Circle she had seen, though each one was in a slightly opalescent bubble that made them harder to see. Many of them had weapons in their hands, and they spread out and took positions with an air of authority. Then a metallic glint drew her eyes to a figure she recognized, though he was dressed differently than she'd seen him dressed before. Armored and with his own personal army, Marcus Solomon had arrived.

 

Solomon assessed the situation and made a couple of quick gestures to his team. A few broke off and headed to the heroes, to see if they needed any help. The bulk of them headed towards Dacy and Trick, while several maintained a guard on the perimeter, alert should the Circle attack again.

            "Is he alive?" Solomon asked, as he strode towards them. Dacy nodded, and shifted to make room for what she assumed were medical personnel who bustled in efficiently and began checking Trick over. The rest of the group spread out somewhat into the area behind her. She ignored them, concentrating on Trick.

            "I...think so. I couldn't..." Dacy scrubbed fiercely at the tears she couldn't stop.

            "He's bad, sir. He needs the hospital now," one of the technicians said to Solomon.

            Solomon nodded efficiently. "Prepare him for immediate transport! Do what you can to stabilize him now."

            The technicians became a flurry of activity, inserting I.V. fluids, easing Trick onto a backboard, monitoring his vital statistics, and putting pressure bandages on the worst of his wounds. Dacy watched anxiously, feeling helpless.

            "Sir! This one is dead," another of the team called, from behind Dacy. She turned, and only now saw another form, lying still amidst the wreckage of whatever had exploded. Solomon nodded grimly, his lined face suddenly looking even older. "It looks like this one was closer to the blast, and took the brunt of the explosion," the technician continued. "Do you want him prepared for transport, too?"

            Solomon waved his hand in assent, and asked his team, "Have you secured the vase?"

            "The vase is untouched, sir! It looks like the explosion was a booby trap meant to take out anyone who got too close to it, but the vase was warded and protected from damage. Is warded. Sir, we still can't get to the vase."

            Dacy blinked. "The heroes. They should be able to. Azuria said they would have something to help..."

            Solomon glanced at Dacy, then motioned to his team. She was dimly aware that the heroes were making their way over to the vase, but couldn't seem to focus on anything besides Trick. He looked so pale. Solomon laid his hand on her shoulder gently. "Miss Davis, I will do everything I can to help him," he said kindly. "Let's go! Is he ready to be moved?" he called to the technicians. They nodded, and stood back from Trick, who disappeared in a transport flash. Dacy was impressed. Usually only heroes were teleported to the hospital. Solomon turned back to Dacy. "You'll have to find your own way to the hospital, I'm afraid. Hospital transport is reserved for emergency situations only, and I still have things that need to be done here. Will you be all right? You're not going to go into shock on me, are you? What am I saying. Fredericks!"

            "Sir!"

            "Take Miss Davis here to the hospital. On the double."

            "No. No, I will be okay," Dacy said distantly.

            "Are you sure? I think it would be better if you went with Fredericks, here."

            Fredericks had come up behind her, and was standing there. She could sense him, strong and solid. It was tempting to lean on that strength; Dacy knew she was close to exhaustion. She was afraid, if she borrowed his strength, she wouldn't want to leave it for a long while. She had to keep going until she had seen this through. She smiled a tired but grateful smile for his concern. "I will go on my own. You do what needs to be done. If I can be there for him, I will be fine."

            Marcus looked at her, and a gentle understanding lit his face. "Go."

 

 

 

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TO PART 3 >




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