The Impossible Wizard: Chapter 7

If you ended up here before reading the earlier chapters, you can return to Chapter 1 here

 

Detective Lin Chang pulled into the parking lot of the Department of Magic. One of the security officers raised her hand to stop him until he flashed his badge. The woman moved aside and waved him toward a mixed group of police and security officers. They were all gathered around a beat-up, rusted-out, once tan pickup. That had to be the assailant’s vehicle.

When Lin had gotten word that Conryu had been attacked by a knife-wielding maniac on national tv he’d jumped to get the case. It didn’t surprise him to learn Conryu had subdued the attacker. He attended the Koda dojo and had seen the young man fight. He might be seventeen, but Lin would have put him up against just about any two men he knew and be confident of Conryu coming out the winner. Lin simply couldn’t let someone get away with attacking a brother warrior, it was a matter of honor.

He clambered out of his green sedan, attempted to straighten his perpetually wrinkled suit, gave up and ambled over to the gathering. “Someone want to tell me what happened?”

One of the red-shirted security officers stepped away from the group. “The assailant drew a weapon in the middle of a Department press conference and attempted to stab the victim, Conryu Koda. He was subdued and taken into custody.”

One of the cops laughed. “Subdued? The medic said that kid fractured the nut’s skull. Be a wonder if he ever wakes up.”

Lin turned his gaze on the cop. “And where is the assailant now?”

“Ambulance took him to Sentinel Central Hospital. Don’t worry, Sarge, we told them to put the guy in a secure room and sent two of the boys along to make sure they did it.”

Lin smiled when the officer used his nickname. He’d served six years in the Alliance military before being discharged with the rank of sergeant. “And the victim?”

“We took his statement and got an address, then sent him home.”

Lin clapped him on the shoulder. “Good man. We get an ID on the attacker?”

The same security man handed Lin a shoulder bag. “This was all he had on him.”

Lin took the bag. “Who are you again?”

“Adam Warren, head of security for the Department.”

The truck had no tailgate so Lin set the bag in the bed. He dug a pair of rubber gloves out of his pocket, slipped them on, and pulled the bag open. Nothing too exciting inside. Photography accessories, film, lenses, and, hello, a business card. He took the card out and held it by the edges.

Smith’s Freelance Photography. There was a picture of a black guy in his mid-thirties, a phone number, and an address. “This the attacker?” Lin asked.

Adam shook his head. “Naw, the perp was a white guy.”

“Well, well, the plot thickens.” Lin dialed the number on his cell, but it went straight to voicemail. He tapped his chin for a moment. “O’Shea!”

One of the officers, a twenty-five-year-old kid with hair so red it almost glowed moved closer. “Sir?”

“Go over to the hospital. I want the assailant fingerprinted as soon as he’s secured.”

“It’s Saturday, sir.”

“So it is. We’ll make a detective out of you yet.”

“I mean the lab’s closed on the weekend, sir.”

Lin ground his teeth then took several calming breaths, trying to remember what Sensei said about clarity of thought. “They don’t turn the computers off, do they? Scan the prints and run them through the database. Maybe this clown has a record.”

“The techs don’t like us messing with their computers, sir.”

“If I have to tell you to get those prints just once more you’re going to be riding a desk for the rest of your exceedingly short career.”

“Yes, sir.” Officer O’Shea hurried away to a squad car without further debate.

Lin shook his head. What was the world coming to? Was it too much to expect a little initiative? Christ, they had an attempted murder and he was supposed to wait until Monday to start his investigation rather than annoy the techs.

“Anything else I can help you with, Detective?” Adam asked.

“Can’t think of anything. What’s your cell number? If I think of more questions I’ll call.” Lin entered the security man’s number into his contact list. “Thanks.”

“My pleasure. I’d appreciate it if you contacted me about any threat to the Department.”

Lin nodded. “Will do.”

He memorized the address on the attacker’s card and returned it to the bag for the crime scene guys to process. The photographer’s shop was across town and Lin needed to check on the man. If the attacker stole his gear there might be a body waiting for him. He really hoped not. He hated dealing with bodies.

* * *

Orin massaged the bridge of his nose. What a fiasco. He couldn’t blame Connie for being furious with him. Who would have imagined one of those cultists showing up at the press conference?

After seeing Conryu and his mother to their car Orin had retreated to the conference room they’d used the night before to think. He stared out the window and watched the floating island drift across the city, one of six that constantly circled the globe and had for as long as anyone could remember.

He’d often wondered what let the massive things stay in the air. It obviously involved magic of some sort, but he’d read several reports by wizards that had made it their life’s work to figure the islands out and after centuries of study they had no more idea how the magic worked than he did. No one could even land on the things. Some sort of impenetrable force field surrounded them.

Orin turned away from the window. He was trying to distract himself rather than face the problem in front of him. It all boiled down to this: How had the cultist learned Conryu would even be at the press conference this morning? Only a handful of people had known ahead of time and before today he had full faith in them, most of them anyway.

The door opened and Adam entered. He looked as worn out as Orin felt. Not that the security chief would find much sympathy after this afternoon.

“Well?” Orin asked.

“The cops searched his car and bag. Not much there. Turns out his press credentials were fake. The camera he had was a cheap knockoff. I turned the investigation over to the city police.”

Orin nodded. “This was not our finest hour, Adam. If anything had happened to that boy…”

Adam snorted. “That boy didn’t look like he needed our protection. He handled that guy better than I could have. Do you know where he trained?”

“You’re kidding, right? Conryu is Sho Koda’s son. As in Grandmaster Sho Koda, of Koda style kung fu.”

Adam rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, that explains it. I assume you realize we have a leak.”

“Yes. It shouldn’t take us long to figure out who did it. There were only five people who knew Conryu would be there.”

“My money’s on the professor. That old man’s out of his mind.”

“Not a chance. Conryu represents his best hope for getting his precious theory acknowledged. Angus would cut his own throat before he let any harm come to Conryu. He’s the only one I have complete faith had nothing to do with it.”

“What about me?”

The door opened admitting Terra. She looked around. “Where’s Clair?”

“I didn’t call her in,” Orin said.

Terra frowned. “You still don’t trust her. What does the poor woman have to do to convince you of her loyalty?”

“Funny you should ask.” Orin held up his right hand displaying the silver rune-etched ring on his middle finger. He’d grabbed it from the secure room on his way up. “I had nothing to do with the attack on Conryu Koda.”

He pulled the ring off and flipped it to Adam.

“A ring of compulsion?” Terra asked in a horrified tone.

“That’s right. There’s no other way to be sure.” Orin never took his eyes off Adam.

The security chief put the ring on. “I had nothing to do with the attack on Conryu Koda.”

Orin nodded and looked at Terra. “Your turn.”

“I have no obligation to put that thing on. Only suspected criminals are required to testify with one of those.”

“You’re right,” Orin said. “You have no obligation, nor do I have any obligation to work with a wizard I don’t fully trust. I can have your transfer ready on Monday.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“Try me. I’m going to sort this out one way or another. Even if it means a whole new staff.”

Terra held out her hand. “Give it to me.”

Adam passed the ring over and she slipped it on. “I had nothing to do with the attack on Conryu Koda.”

Orin caught the ring when she threw it at him.

“Satisfied, Chief?”

“Yes, thank you. It’s not personal, Terra. I had to be sure. Angus is in his office. I’ll test him and then Clair on Monday.”

“What if neither of them is responsible?” Terra asked.

“Then we have an even bigger problem than I thought.”

* * *

Despite the Saturday traffic Lin made it across town in under half an hour. He parked in front of a rundown, six-story brick apartment building. The fire escape didn’t look like it would hold a toddler, much less a grown man. Lin would have to mention it to code enforcement on Monday.

The ground floor didn’t have a storefront so Mr. Smith must work out of his home. Technically another violation, but not one that could get somebody killed and therefore none of his business.

Lin got out and walked around the rear of his car to the main entrance. A call box with fifteen names beside buzzers hung on the wall near a locked door with a steel-mesh-reinforced window. Lin ran a finger down the list until he reached Smith, Damon. Since there were no other Smiths on the list that had to be his photographer. The buzzer actually worked when Lin pressed it, but no one replied.

Frowning, Lin pressed the buzzer labeled “Superintendent.”

“What?” a metallic voice asked.

“Sentinel City Police, open up.”

A minute of silence passed before a skinny, shirtless white guy sauntered up to the door. “Badge?”

Lin showed him. “Let me in, please.”

“Got a warrant?”

“I don’t want to arrest anyone, I’m just curious if there’s a body in apartment 3B. Supposed to be pretty hot this week. I can just wait until you call me if you prefer.”

The super punched a button and a buzzer sounded followed by the clunk of the lock opening. “Central air’s already busted. Last thing we need is a body stinking up the place. Which apartment did you say?”

“3B, Damon Smith.”

“Oh, the shutterbug.” The super went back to fetch his keys and Lin followed. “Jesus, he’s the only guy living here that ain’t into drugs or worse. You didn’t hear that from me.”

“Of course not, Mr?”

“Marco.”

“Do you know Mr. Smith, Marco?”

“Not well.” The super opened his door, reached in, and came out with a ring of carefully labeled keys. Lin caught the sour smell of spilled beer. “Gonna have to take the stairs, elevator’s busted too.”

“Does anything work in this building?”

Marco grinned. “Just me and a couple hos up on six. Ugly and Uglier I call ’em. Come on.”

Lin followed his guide to a flight of steps so decrepit he feared his foot would crash right through them. The skinny little man didn’t pay them any mind, stomping up without a care in the world. Lin tiptoed along behind him, sweating from more than the heat, a silent prayer on his lips that the body removed from the building wouldn’t be his.

They reached the third floor in one piece and Marco went straight to the door marked with a tarnished bronze B. When the super reached for the door Lin stopped him. It was already two inches ajar.

Marco looked at him and started to speak. Lin held a finger to his lips, pulled his automatic, and motioned him aside. The little man obliged without complaint.

Lin nudged the door open and winced at the rusty screech. He peeked into the main room. A recliner and tv tray sat in front of a flat screen hung on the wall, with a ragged mattress off to one side. No body.

Pistol leading, Lin lunged through the door. A kitchenette was separated from the main room by a waist-high wall. No joy in there either. The only door in the place had to lead to the bathroom. If he planned to store a body that’s where Lin would put it.

Two deep breaths to steady his nerves then he toed the door open. A body slumped in the tiny shower. Black male in his early thirties. Nasty head wound. Naked except for a soiled pair of boxers. His chest rose and fell, slow and steady. Not dead, thank god for small favors.

Lin holstered his pistol, took out his phone, and dialed dispatch. “I need an ambulance at 6678 Greenway. Black male, unconscious with a head wound. Send the crime scene boys over too.”

He listened for a moment. “No, he’s not bleeding, just unconscious.”

Smith groaned.

“Look, I need to go. Just send them here as quick as you can.” Lin hung up and shook his head. The weekend crew was nowhere near as efficient as the regular dispatch team.

Smith groaned again and his eyes fluttered.

“Mr. Smith? Can you hear me? I’m with the police. You’re safe now.”

Smith tried to stand up before slumping back down. “What happened?”

“I was hoping you could tell me. We found your gear and photography equipment at the site of an attempted murder.”

“That son of a bitch hit me with something.”

“Yes. You’re lucky, he had a knife on him as well. He might just as well have gutted you. Did you know the man that did this?”

“Yeah, Mort Call from 2C. I passed him on my way out from time to time. When he knocked I didn’t think much of it. My phone rang and when I turned to answer it, he hit me. Next thing I know I’ve got a cop in my bathroom.”

“Better than a mortician. You say the man that attacked you lived in this building. Did you know him well?”

“No. Like I said, I passed him on my way out sometimes. Seemed like a nice guy, friendly, polite, the kind of person you wouldn’t look at twice if you saw him in the street.”

Lin nodded. “Sounds like our boy. Thanks, Mr. Smith. The ambulance is on its way. Try not to move around too much in case you have more injuries.”

Lin left Smith lying in his bathroom and returned to the waiting super. “You heard?”

“Yeah. I suppose you want to go poke around in 2C now.”

“Not just yet. For this I will need a warrant. Excuse me while I make a call.”

Fortunately, Lin knew the judge on duty this weekend so it wouldn’t be a problem getting him to sign a warrant and email it to Lin’s phone. Fifteen minutes later a bing announced the email’s arrival. Lin pulled it up on the little screen, glanced through it, and turned to the super. “Now I want to look through 2C. Here’s my warrant.”

Marco didn’t even glance at it, he just headed back to the stairwell. Another death-defying trip down the rickety steps and they stood in front of a locked door. “You want me to unlock it or would you prefer to kick it in?”

“If I wanted to kick it in do you think I’d have brought you along? You’re certainly not here because of your charm.”

“Alright, alright, no need to be a dick about it. Just a second.” The super flipped through his key ring, finally settling on the correct one. He opened the door and motioned Lin through with a theatrical flourish. “Have at it. I’m heading back to my office. Unless you want to pester any of the other tenants?”

“If I do, I know where to find you.”

The super marched off muttering about cops and not in a good way. Lin put the man out of his mind, drew his pistol, and slipped into the room. He didn’t expect trouble seeing as how the resident of the unit was in the hospital shackled to a bed, assuming the guys did their jobs right. Still, better safe than sorry.

Unlike Smith’s efficiency, Mort’s apartment had a proper bedroom. It didn’t take a detective to deduce there wasn’t a woman in Mr. Call’s life. Takeout food containers littered the small kitchen; it seemed he had a taste for tacos. The apartment’s sole bookcase was filled from top to bottom with porn: dvds, magazines, comics, you name it. If there was a naked woman on the cover Mort had a sample. Not exactly what you’d expect from a religious zealot. Maybe the True Face of God cult had a lower bar for membership than the official church.

On a cheap desk in the bedroom Lin found an equally cheap laptop. He opened the monitor and the hard drive spun to life. The screensaver appeared and, fingers crossed, Lin tapped the spacebar. The home screen appeared, no password required. It appeared Mr. Call wasn’t terribly security conscious. Good for Lin, bad for Mort.

After an hour of browsing through an obscenely large porn collection, Lin finally found something interesting. Last night Mort had visited a website chatroom where he discussed wizards and what an affront to God they represented. He found nothing overt about the attack, but Mort and his mystery partner did discuss the press conference and how wrong it was for the networks to give so much coverage to such blasphemy. It ended with Mort promising to give them something more important to cover.

As far as Lin could tell Mort had acted on his own with just a little prodding from the other party. The tech guys would trace the forum, but most of the chatrooms where the nuts, kooks, and other weirdoes hung out were set up to be anonymous. At the very least it didn’t appear to be an ongoing conspiracy. He’d have to go over and speak to the Kodas in the morning.

 

I hope you enjoyed reading Chapter 7. To read Chapter 8 click here.

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