Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Two evenings later we were in an alley outside the McCormick Center, two and a half hours before Redburn's show. I was fumbling at a door. "Have you certainly got the right key?" Perseid whispered.

"The key's fine," I said. "It's just a bit stiff." I had just cut it that morning, according to the specs of the theater from Greyghost's city database. I'd be surprised if there were twenty buildings in town I couldn't get into, given sufficient prep time.

"Are you sure? I could look for an open window, and--"

"It's fine!"

"You guys, quiet," Bob murmured.

The lock finally gave, and we piled in. "This way," I said, pointing off to the left. Bob made sure the door was secure behind us.

"I thought it was this way," Perseid said, pointing right.



"Perseid, which way's north?" I asked her.

She pointed.

"Actually that's southwest. And your corridor is this way," I said, pointing left.

I led them through the cinderblock hallways beneath the McCormick Center. We passed theater staff every now and then, but Bob had provided us with some convincing-looking backstage passes so nobody challenged us. It may have sounded like I was lording it over Perseid, but I had had the advantage of studying the blueprint for a while and plotting things out. Plus I was nervous about the prospect of facing down a dragon sorcerer who had already turned me into a roach.

We turned a corner and were looking at a long corridor that ran the entire width of the theater. "Okay, Bob, this is your stop. Good luck."

Bob nodded, and ducked into an alcove. "I hope you've got this figured out right," he said.

"No guarantees," I said. "But he sure ought to come by this way. I hope you guys will be all right, though."

"Hey," he said, "this is exactly what we do. We'll be fine. Go."

Perseid and I headed down the long hallway. She grinned at me. "This is actually a little fun, isn't it?" she asked.

I grinned back. "Are you crazy?"

"Sorry for trying to kill you all those times when I was a cat."

"Aah. Don't worry about it. I probably deserved it." Pause. "Thanks for hauling me out of that hole back in the place."

"Oh, you would have gotten out eventually. You did way more than I did in this whole thing."

"Nah. Couldn't have done any of it without you."


We were at the other end of the hallway. I handed her a key. "This is for this broom closet here. Keep the door cracked open and wait for Bob's cue."

She nodded. "Where are you going to be?"

I held up another key. "I'm gonna check out Redburn's dressing room and see if there's anything interesting there."

A couple of minutes later, that's just where I was. I let myself in with the key and was scoping the place out when someone crunched me into the wall.

I wrenched myself around. It was some teenage goth chick, and she was holding an icepick to my throat. She had pale skin and dark hair and ankh-shaped earrings, and a couple of tattoos: one, a drop of blood trickling out of her right eye; the other, a spider crawling up her neck. Yuck, man.

"I'll open up your jugular and let your life ebb out. I'll do it. I will," she said.

"I believe you," I told her. I didn't, but she was the boss.

"You in here stealing from Lord James?"

"You mean Redburn?"

"You call him Lord James!"

"Snooping more than stealing," I said. Then, what the hell: "I work for another magician and he wants to know how, uh, Lord James does his act."

She smirked. "His magic comes from his will! There are no secrets here for you to take back."

Probably true. "Okay. So could you let me down now?"

She jabbed a little harder. It sorta hurt. "I don't know. I don't think Lord James would want me to. He might even--" she licked her lips "--reward me for catching you." He might at that.

"Unfortunately, he's too valuable for me to let you spend him so frivolously," a voice said, and hauled her off me.

"Oh my God!" she said, taking Greyghost in. She was transfixed. Come to think of it, Greyghost really is kind of like a vampire. I wondered if he knew.

"Good to see you," I told him, checking my neck for blood. Clean.

"And you. Everything is in order?"

"Should be. Bob and Perseid are cornering Redburn in a corridor downstairs; they seem to think they can handle him. We probably shouldn't let our friend here--" I indicated Icepickulina "--wander around until he's under control."

"Listen," Greyghost said.


"I said listen."

I listened. There was definitely some kind of percussive commotion going on somewhere.

"That'll be Bob. In forty seconds we should walk down and help pick up the pieces. I presume the corridor was chosen to prevent Redburn from changing to his dragon form?"

I timed it, and that's exactly how long it took. Man, he's annoying that way. I wonder how he knew Redburn was the dragon.
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