Chapter 19: Trapped
Copyright © 2016 by Brian Bixby
I frantically look around for an escape route. All I see is the door we came through earlier. We’re sunk.
Becky points with her rapier behind her. “Go out that way. I’ll hold them off.” And she plucks another rapier out of the air, so that she is now brandishing one in each hand.
Amelia looks uncertain. “You can’t hold off magicians with a sword.”
Becky laughs and waves her swords about. Despite the nerd glasses, she looks hot with those swords in her hands. “Trust me. No one expects to confront a sword these days. Now go!”
Amelia decides and says to me, “Come on, Harry.” She rushes in the direction Becky indicated. And there is a door there, after all. I don’t know how I didn’t see it before. I rush after Amelia through it.
Amelia runs down a hallway, goes through an open doorway into what looks like a pantry, and yanks open a door to the outside. I’m right behind her. She stops, saying to herself, “Which way?” To me, she says, “Follow me, Harry.” And she cuts across the corner of the yard out there, heading into a crop field. Or at least that seemed to be Amelia’s idea until a magical barrier goes up at the edge of the yard.
We both spin around. There are five magicians from the Office advancing on us. I recognize two of them: Sandra Hirsch and Pablo Martinez. Sandra’s an enforcer, which means she’s a pro at this sort of stuff. And she’s no friend of mine.
It’s a tall, gray-haired fellow on their right who speaks first. “I’m hoping this is a mistake, Amelia, and that you’ve not thrown in with this fellow. He’s tied up in a dangerous conspiracy.”
To my surprise, Amelia blows a raspberry. “If Harry’s tied up in a dangerous conspiracy, then he’s an unwitting participant. So, George, why don’t you and your four friends just stop there a moment and explain to me exactly what you mean. Because otherwise we’re going to have a fight, and neither of us wants that.”
George stops and motions for the others to do so. Sandra starts to say, “We don’t have to . . .” but George cuts her off. “Amelia’s a respected colleague, Hirsch. Nothing here that a few moments of delay will change.” He turns back to Amelia. “We’re acting under Olivia’s direct orders, Amelia. You want to talk with her?”
Amelia nods. “Let me get out my phone.” She pulls it out and starts dialing.
Sandra’s been trying to use her phone, too. With a worried look, she says to George, “I can’t raise Team 1.”
Amelia stops dialing and asks, “Who’s Team 1?”
George looks worried. “Our team that went into the house by your front door.” He turns toward his team. “Stand at watch, everyone!” Back to us. “Amelia, you didn’t foolishly arrange a trap for them, did you?”
Amelia starts to shake her head, and then has second thoughts. “There was another magician with us who chose to stay behind to keep your people occupied, George, while we escaped. She was armed with two rapiers.”
Sandra interjects, “With Team 1 out of contact, we need to secure these two now and pull out of here.”
George shakes his head and addresses Amelia. “I’m afraid Sandra’s right, Amelia. Sorry, but we’re out of time. Don’t resist and I’ll tell Olivia you cooperated fully.”
Amelia turns to me. “Looks like we’re stuck, Harry.”
I guess we are. The five magicians hurry forward, some of them getting out handcuffs, others needles to inject us with sedatives to keep us from being able to do magic. Sandra’s looking at me with a big smile. She’s got a needle. She looks like she’s going to enjoy sticking it into me.
At the last moment, Amelia lashes out and takes George completely by surprise. Not just George, me, too! She’s already attacking the woman next to George by the time I realize what’s going on. I aim a foul kick at the guy nearest me, bringing him down. And then there is this tremendous blow on my back, and I stagger. Next thing I know, I’m falling on the ground as my legs are kicked out from under me.
Sandra lands with both knees on my stomach. I can’t catch my breath for the pain. “Hello, Harry,” she says. “Remember me? Baltimore?” She punches me in the face. “Now that wasn’t necessary, but it felt good.” And then I feel a needle going into my flesh. “There, that should hold you.”
I’m already feeling groggy as I look up to see Sandra sitting on me, a needle in one hand, smiling at what she’s done to me. And then her smile goes away.
“That’s a sword point at your neck, missy. A little deeper in, and you’ll be a quadriplegic for life. So just drop that needle and don’t make any sudden moves.” It’s Becky’s voice. I can see her standing behind Sandra.
Sandra drops the needle. The next second, there’s a blast of magical energy. And Sandra topples forward, her forehead crashing into my nose. It almost doesn’t hurt.
“Where am I?” I try to open one eye. I am successful. The other one is proving to be more a problem.
“You okay, Harry?”
I’m hoping the blurry black woman I sort of see is Amelia. “What happened to me? Where are we?”
Amelia sits down so that she’s level with my face, at about 90 degrees. “We’re in Becky’s ‘chalet,’ she calls it, which is supposed to be in Vermont. As for you, Sandra Hirsch punched you in the face repeatedly, and then stuck you with a needle full of something that knocked you out. What did you do to her, Harry, that she was so furious with you?”
I still can’t open one eye, and it feels like there’s something foreign on my face. I reach up, but Amelia bats my hand away. “Leave the bandages alone, Harry, and your nose will heal without showing a visible break. Your left eye ought to be good to go in a day or two as the swelling goes down.”
Oh. I manage to struggle up, to find myself sitting on the couch in Becky’s living room, with Amelia sitting on the floor beside me. She gets up and takes a chair. We stare at each other, me swearing under my breath from the pain I’m beginning to feel in my face.
“So what did you do to Sandra, Harry? Before we rendered her unconscious, she was saying what a pity it was she hadn’t killed you.”
I think about how to put it. “Oh, she and I had a little disagreement in Baltimore one time. She invited me into her room, and then got all upset at me. I think she just likes to tease.”
Amelia doesn’t look convinced. And then she shakes her head. “Well, anyhow, how much do you know about this Becky?”
How much do I know about Becky? Good question. That she looks great in a short skirt and boots, yeah. That she’d look better without them, that, too. But what would Amelia want to know? “She knew I’d had this star imprinted on my hand within minutes of it happening. She’s got a car that can somehow jump to different planes of reality. Apart from that and what she told you, nada.” I look around. “Where is she?”
“She says she’s off trying to see whether she can get to Deecee Young and get her to help us by telling us about that brooch.” Amelia stands up and starts pacing the floors. She doesn’t look happy.
I owe Amelia, again. So I try. “Thanks for deciding to side with me against the enforcers, Amelia.”
She’s still pacing as she replies. “I’d like to say you’re welcome, Harry, but I don’t even know for sure why I did it.” She paces some more. “And now I definitely have ended my career with the Office, without any possibility of return. I don’t know what to do about it. And for what?” She stops and looks at me. “For you. Because I feel guilty about Ben Keller. Because it might just be possible to save Sanderson from whatever has happened to her.” She plunks herself back down in a chair. “I don’t know. I guess I feel I owe Sanderson for saving our lives in the motel. As for the rest . . . bah!” She looks straight at me. “When this Becky returns, I am going to have a good long talk with her. Because I’ve just given up whatever was left of my career to work with her to rescue an agent who was on my team. And she better be planning on that being her number one priority from now on.”
It’s morning. I didn’t sleep well. My face looks like I went seven rounds in the ring and lost by a knockout, even apart from the bandages on my nose. At least I can open my left eye just a bit.
We’ve almost polished off a breakfast Amelia made when it feel like my left hand is on fire. I look at the palm, and the seven-pointed star is glowing in my hand.
“What’s up, Harry?” Amelia asks.
I debate whether to tell her to run for it, or show her my hand, when there’s this feeling of magic building up in the living room. Amelia notices it, too. We both rise out of our chairs and proceed to where the kitchen and living room meet, trying to figure out what’s going on.
There’s magic in the living room: a seven-pointed star formed in magical flames on the floor. It gives off no heat, but we have to shield our eyes from the light, and the wind in the living room is knocking pictures off the wall. My own hand is now painfully ablaze, and I can’t control it. The big star on the living room floor pulls at it. I try to resist the tugging, only to see a prism of light form between the two stars.
Abruptly there’s a loud crack, and Deecee Young appears in the living room, running at such a speed that she almost knocks over Amelia when she runs into her. Deecee’s in a sexy nightgown.
There’s a second loud crack, and Becky emerges out of the living room, her suit torn by cuts in several places, swearing to herself under her breath. She’s carrying only one rapier. She sees us and smiles. “Got her,” she calls out over all the noise from the living room. “Lost one of my rapiers to one very tough lady who didn’t want me to take Deecee away.”
Becky pauses, and then looks perplexed. She turns to the living room, stares at it, and yells to us, “There’s something wrong. The magic should have shut down by now.”
A new roar comes from the living room. Suddenly the wind turns about, and begins sucking us into the living room. I just catch a glimpse of Amelia holding onto Deecee and the refrigerator and Becky trying to pull off some sort of magic, before I lose my footing and go hurling into the living room. I can feel myself being pulled through some sort of magical gateway. I don’t think this is going to end well.
End of chapter nineteen