The Fifth Age

by D'Artagnon

Chapter 7

Harmonic, Melodic Tension

So, yeah. My little brother is a future Ægyptian. I mean, I guess he already is an Ægyptian, his powers just haven't emerged as yet. Did you get all that?

Good, neither did I.

Meryl simply told me we'd talk about it. Which was his way of saying, "Gimme a break, I'm making this up as I go." Or at least that's what I think it means. It could just mean, well, nothing. Okay, maybe not nothing. But certainly… Heck if I know.

To break it down, Meryl sent us on our merry way, telling me to jump the back wall at my normal point. He'd be watching from the belfry. I considered a joke about bats but thought wiser of it. From up there, he had a great vantage point and could direct a defense suitable to his years if not his stature.

I gave Ethan his sword, which showed no damage at all from him imbedding it into stone. I could see why as soon as Meryl handed me the blade. Residual magic hung on the single piece of Mage warped white birch. I guess I'm better than I thought, because the blade had an eternally sharp rote laid into it and a "mystic puissance" rune lifted up as a forged relief on both sides, close to the guard. Very tricky to do with woodworking. Also, the handle seemed to be covered in birch bark.

That rune makes the blade supernaturally strong, strengthened by magics already present in steel, usually. Either the tree I chose had some wild magic going on before I got there, or Meryl monkeyed with it after the fact. Something else to investigate later. In Ethan's case, the rune took the form of a squirrel, intricately carved in three quarter profile, three paws on the ground, one held in a fist, imprinted in bas relief. Truly artistic work. Disney would be proud

And he was utterly smitten with it. He kept twirling it around in front of him as he walked ahead of me on the trail home. He spun, he whirled, he parried and thrusted, generally making a real Robin Hood/Zorro pain of himself.

"Okay, look," I told him, as we walked home. "You can't show anyone this sword. Not your friends, not your classmates at the Y, and especially not Mom and Dad."

"Not even Cory and Rene?"

"Especially not those two. They'd tell everyone else. You know how they are."

"Yeah, I know. The twin talking terrors; the motor mouths that ate Essex County," he spoke with the grim manner of a pro wrestling commentator. I could almost hear his eyes rolling.

"Right! So, you can't show anyone."

"That's so not fair! What's the good of having a magically made sword if you can't show it off?"

"Ethan, you pushed that thing into a granite boulder at the Fishing Spot. I saw it before I passed out. Solid rock." I let that one sink in. Damn, I was beginning to sound more like Meryl. I reached for his sword hand and brought up the rune before his face. He stared in rapt attention at the squirrel knight there emblazoned upon his weapon. It was like he saw it for the first time, because he went "whoa" silently. "You see that? I didn't put that there. That is a sign of a magically created object pre-set with something in the material before it was shaped."

"That's so cool!"

"It is kinda cool," I had to admit. "This blade will be eternally sharp and practically indestructible. You'd have to hit it with another magic weapon to pretty much undo the spell on it. Or, like, target it specifically," I said, gesturing off handedly. "The point is, you can't show this to anyone."

"Well… shit!"

"I know, it sucks. Tell you what, I'll think of a solution. Until then, we hide it from everyone."

"But," he started, became flustered and then came at it again. "But what if I need it? Like what if there are more shronks?"

"Okay. Hang on." I stopped walking and he did as well, after a few steps. "If I show you this, you gotta keep it ultra secret, okay?"

"Do I need an adult?" he teased.

"Right, let's go."

"Okay, okay, okayokayokay. What do you got to show me?"

"Where is someplace you have heard about and always wanted to go, but know that Mom would never let you go that far on your owm?"

"Humm," he said, deep in thought.

"Anyplace at all."

"The Tower."

"The tower?"

"On the bridge. The Tower." The Main Street bridge, or stone bridge is a well-known landmark around town. Years ago, the bridge was able to lift the spans to become a draw bridge, but there hasn't been a ship tall enough to need to pass under it in a while. Over the years the tower where the watchman would sit, waiting on a signal to raise the spans had been first automated, and then sealed up. No one used the draw bridge anymore, and it had become a symbol of the old downtown region. The stone tower stood as a throw-back to a forgotten time in Canterbury's industrial past.

"Why would you want to go into the Tower?"

"I dunno. Cuz it's off limits and I can't get in there," he said, shrugging his narrow shoulders. "Kids say it's haunted."

"So you want me to hide your enchanted wooden sword inside a haunted tower?

"Well at least if you did, I'd know where to find it."

Couldn't fault his logic. "Okay. I'll stash it in the Tower and make it so that only you or I can retrieve it. You know those woven bracelets that you make at art class?"

He made a face. The summer art program was something he did to pacify Mom. She said it helps to give him structure. He complained that it was run by hippies and new age spiritualists and such. "Yeah?"

"You make one of those tomorrow and bring it to me. I'll do the rest. Better make two, come to think of it."

"Two?" he complained.

"Best quality. I want to see some real skill in making them. It's important that you do your best when making these."

"Alright. But what are they for?"

"They will be the key to returning your sword."

"Returning from where? The tower?" he said, his eyes all sparkly. "How?"

"Take my hand, and don't let go." I stretched out a paw and he took it, expectantly. I reached out with Correspondence and we were suddenly co-located on top of the TD Garden in Boston. I made the ground we stood on level with the roof, on the corner overlooking the I-93 bridge, right as it crosses the river, before it goes down under the city, in the tunnels below. Close enough to the edge to make him take a step back, close enough for him to see it was real.

His poor head was on a swivel. He looked down onto the tracks of North Station, turned his head to see the lights go roaring past at highway speeds, backlit by the two inverted Y booms and the twin sails of the support lines, fanning down to the bridge, carrying cars and trucks wherever they go.

"Holy shit?!"

"Hey, watch your language! What are we, from Manhattan or something?"

"You really can do magic!" he exclaimed, as if my defense against the shronks hadn't proved that to him.

"Right, which is why we are gonna set you up with a proper defense of that sword. I'll make the bracelets into a kind of key, then put the sword into the tower." And I separated locations, taking us back to the winding path along the muddy, murky, Merrimack River. "Okay, so let's hurry home. I'm sure Mom is on the phone to the state police by now." We got back to the trek homeward.


"Yeah, E?"

"I'm glad you have a teacher for this magic stuff. It must be really hard to do."

"It is sometimes easier than it looks, but I do wind up thinking a lot about it."


"Yeah, I'll tell you about it sometime. There's lots of rules and stuff."

"Oh yeah, I guess so." He fell silent as we trudged on. He kept looking at his sword, making slashes through the underbrush. As we came to the cut in the forest that led to street level, he paused and looked down at it, not really ready to let it go, I'm sure. He looked up to me and he handed it back, reluctantly. I used Correspondence to drop it on the bed in my room. A feat which still got a "Coooool!" from Ethan.

We walked up the back steps only to find Mom and Dad waiting up for us at the kitchen table. Mom was livid. "Do you have any idea how late it is? You're almost…"

"Half an hour," Dad and me said at the same time, both with a deadpan flatness to our voices.

"Half an hour late," Mom finished. "It's nearly midnight."

"We took a different route home. I thought I smelled skunks on the trail going up."

"You mean the Arkham Farm trail," Dad quickly pointed out, and I nodded. "Yeah, lots of skunks out that way this time of year. Good idea to avoid it. You went all the way out past the Fishing Spot, huh?"

"And then back down hill that way," I nodded.

"Ah, that explains part of it. Going all that way in the dark. Next time," my father said with sagacious wisdom, "bring a flashlight. It's dark as sin out that way."

"Next time?" my mother nearly exploded with outrage.

"G'night, Mom," Ethan said, darting in for a quick peck on the cheek. "I'm going to bed." And he gave my dad another quick kiss and skipped past to the stairs, trudging up tiredly.

"I'm tired, too. Sorry Mom." I moved to go past only to have my father put his hand on my chest.

"Not so fast, Marc," Dad said, getting me to sit down. "We have some news. And it's why we were so worried."

"What happened?"

"Sergeant Osborn was by," Dad said, handing me a card. "He missed you at Barnie's. And again when you were on the way here. You'll have to call him in the morning."


"Missing person case," Mom replied. That got me to look up. Meryl, in his cover story of Ralphy Curak, was still considered a missing child. And while it was clear he never intended to go back (much as part of him wanted to), the fact that law enforcement may have figured it out was disturbing. If they had sniffed him out because of my training…

"He's just covering all leads," Dad said.

"Same ole Ozzie," Mom agreed. "So protective." And then she looked at my Dad with a certain, wistful look. I got the feeling that more was going on behind both of their eyes, but I chose not to peek. Sgt. Osborn was well known, and had been a friend of my parents back when they were in high school. Seems everyone of a certain age in Canterbury knew him as Ozzie.

But that's another story. Geeze, I type that a lot.

"It'll wait til morning. You go get some sleep," Dad said. "And don't forget to feed your aunt's cat."

"When are they coming back?"

"Oh, God only knows. They've been in more campgrounds and motels, covered more miles than a truck driver this summer," Mom moaned. "I just hope they are having fun. They're driving from Washington state to Arizona this week."

"Wow. The smell in that car…" I said, heading to the stairs.

"Oh, you know it! G'ight," Mom said, getting up to put her cup of tea in the sink. I walked up stairs turning the card over in my hand. It was a standard business card, with Sgt. Osborn's face, contact info and squad car number. On the back was a short note and the date. It read "Call me." The meaning was quite clear. I sighed and walked up to my bedroom.

I risked a look in at Ethan and he had crashed out face down on his bed, not even bothering to take his clothes or shoes off. His sword lying beside the bed. I made sure to push it under his bed before Mom walked in on him with it.

I moved back through the jack-and-jill to my room and rubbed a weary hand over my face and head. My hair was getting shaggy and long, neither of which I liked. I wonder if Jace liked it that way. As I drew my shirt up over my head, further mangling my hair, I pulled out my cell phone for a look-see.

Now, I'm not addicted to my phone, like some guys, but I do have a large number of notifications. So it wasn't any surprise to see there were a bunch of things that my phone apparently scans for while I'm at work. Hard to believe I'd been out of the house so long, but with the time dilation effect going on at Meryl's place, I guess those hours seemed longer.

So, a quick glance through the list showed five articles on Google, two on Facebook, nothing on X (formerly known as Twitter) because I don't subscribe to that shit, three single articles about weird stuff that strikes my fancy and four test messages and two voice mails. I mean, who the hell leaves a voice message anymore?

But something about the messages struck me as odd. Three of the texts and both of the voice messages had the same number. On a hunch, I pulled up the card with Sgt. Osborn's contact info, and sure enough, they matched. He must really be desperate for information if he hit my phone that many times. Definitely would have to see what that was about. His texts all said the same thing. "Please call at your earliest convenience. Sgt Osborn." I didn't bother with the voicemail. I had the feeling it pretty much said the same thing. Ozzie was as no nonsense as you might expect from a 20+ year veteran cop. I decided I'd contact him before he contacted me in the morning.

The last text bothered me for a minute. I didn't recognize the number, or the area code. I debated just deleting it without looking. Because I get them all the time. I'm 16 now and every election there's like a dozen unknown texters texting me. And updates from convenience stores, and bookstores, and restaurants, and… and… and… just more stuff that I blindly wrote my email addy on in the quest to get free stuff. So I had a bad relationship with numbers I didn't know popping in to do ad texts on my phone.

This one seemed different. Steeling myself for the worst, I opened the text.

"Hey, if you're awake, hmu ("hit me up", for you geezers out there). If not, gimme a call in the morning, mr ice cream man." It was Jace. Even just saying his name made me smile a little. I quickly turned on the radio beside my bed but kept the volume down low. I normally sleep with the radio on, that way I can't hear when my sisters start arguing about something in the morning. A soft poppy guitar song issued from the speakers, something Jon Mayer-ish about how he is "bigger than my body gives me credit for," or something like that. At that moment I pictured Jace's blue eyes, that little gap in his teeth.

I stepped out of my shoes and dropped my pants, and as an afterthought kicked the bathroom door closed. As I lay down, my thoughts drifted to Jace's butt, how it had filled out those tight jeans. My undies became a bit tighter, as you might expect. I re-read the text and thought about calling him right away. But it was really late. The clock on my cell phone said 12:13, but as tired as I felt it seemed much later.

Damned time dilation!

So I started to compose a quick text back. I started and stopped several times. It had to be quick, informative, yet not to informative. It had to show interest, but like keep it casual so he wouldn't think I was a creep. It had to be subtle, funny, but not forced. One of the times I'd realized I'd typed out to the end of what the text could handle, character wise and started all over again.

I got so frustrated I almost tossed the phone. I turned and buried my face in my pillow, groaning. I wasn't good at flirting by phone. Then I had an idea. I rolled back over, adjusted my junk, you know, for inspiration, and typed the following:

"Hiya. Sorry it took so long. Had to roll with my little brother a bit after cleaning up Barnie's. Got something to take care of early, but I'm mostly free tomorrow. If you want we can hang. Might even have some ice cream."

I read it back and then quickly erased the last sentence but added "If you wanna." And before I could change my mind, I hit send.

"If you wanna?" I said out loud. "That's awful." I unconsciously tapped into Mind Sphere and telekinetically flipped the switch from across the room, turning out the light. "If you wanna," I grumbled again. That sounded so lame. And desperate. And needy.

The phone buzzed twice and then lit up with a text notification alert. I grasped the phone and swiped the screen open.

"Kewl, see ya round ten." I read it through three times, grinning like an idiot. All I could think was _He really likes me!_ Then the phone buzzed again. "Uh, where should we meet?" I hadn't thought of that. I had no wheels, had no idea where he was staying. He'd said something about his grandparents living in the area, but not specifically where.

I quickly formulated a plan. "Do you know the Commons, by the big church spire? It's on the road across the river and the same road as Barnie's is on. Big grassy triangle."

I left the text window open and watched the "is typing" dots for a few seconds. I was tempted to reach through using Correspondence to look at him but thought that might be seen as kinda creepy. Especially if he, like, slept in the nude. My "magic wand" throbbed at that thought. The seconds wore and finally he returned:

"Yeah, I can be there. Seeya then! "

"Yessss!" I said, pulling a punch back. I had a date. With a boy! With a motherfuckin' cute boy! What will I wear? My mind went into hyperactive mode, still staring at the spot on the screen with the smiley face emoji was. I laid back, thinking of the fun times to come, worrying about clothes, generally acting like a little girl. I don't know when I fell asleep with the phone held to my chest as if the whole world was drowning and it was my life preserver.

But what will I wear? At some point, I let the worry and the wonder of the moment overcome me and I fell asleep, not even thinking about Sgt. Ozzie, my little brother's magic toothpick or even about the impending doom of breaking into the MFA in Boston. All I could think about was Jace. And everything seemed right with the universe.

I woke to an insistent pounding on the door. The bathroom door, specifically. I opened my eyes only to be fairly blinded by an errant sunbeam that had slipped through the curtains. Angrily, I flicked them closed with a quick Mind application, returning the room to overly bright twilight.

"Marco!" my brother screamed again, pounding once and letting his fist slide down the door. "Mom says you got to wake up!"

"Alright, alright!" I said, rolling out of bed. I unlocked the door and he nearly fell into my room. "What's so important?" I asked, walking past him to the toilet. I fished it out and drained the lizard, sighing contentedly.

"Mom says you have to get me ready for the bus. Her and Dad already left."

"Where'd they go?" I said, finishing up. Two shakes and I slithered back into my undies. I looked at my reflection in the mirror and saw that my assessment last night was worse than I suspected. With a full night of bed head under my belt, my unkempt hair looked more like a rat's nest. I started trying to tame it. Ethan sat down on my bed and was looking in his phone.

"Mom had to take the Beast in for new tires. Dad had work. Cory is out at work, and Rene's got band practice."

"Aw, what time is it?" I said, glancing back at the alarm clock. I should have just tapped into Time Sphere. I should, but just then I wasn't thinking like a Mage.

"Almost 8 and someone has to stand with me to get on the bus to the Y," he said nearly panicking. He held his sword in his hand, just casually holding the point on the hard wood floor. "Remember, you said you'd find a way to hide this so I can get it anytime I need to."

"Yeah, I remember, Ethan." I put on the same pants I had on last night, dug into my dresser for a shirt and tugged it over my head. Next shoes and the essentials, wallet, phone and something to cover my messy hair with. Fortunately, Ethan was wearing my Red Sox cap from yesterday, so I plucked it off his head. "You ready?"

"Lunch," was his quick reply. I reached for the sword but he clutched it to his chest like it was a golden teddy bear.

"Did anyone see that?" I asked, heading towards the door. He was right on my heels, taking the steps in quick steps, swishing the sword about. "Stop that!" I turned and he stopped, guiltily, his point just a few inches from a picture of all of us from a few years ago. He looked positively shaken and I realized I had used a bit of Mind to back that command. He blinked, momentarily stunned. "Put the sword in my room and come down to the kitchen."

"Awww, can't I hold it a little longer, Marc?"

"Just do it. I'll pack you a lunch, okay?"

He blew out at his bangs, but said "Oh, fine," with as much preteen petulance as he could. He trudged back to my bedroom, dragging the sword up the steps.

"I got the the kitchen and totally cheated. Used magic to call ingredients to my hands, commanded mustard to jump from bottle to bread, ham slices to roll into place and cheese to float over everything. Ethan came down amidst all this chaos only to witness the end, as things magically floated into his lunchbox, ending with a pair of snack cakes and an ice pack.

"Wow, Mom never did it like that before."

Two honks told me the bus to the Y had arrived. We hurried outside and he boarded the bus, giving me a very long bro hug before hand.

"Remember what you promised," he said.

"Remember what you can't tell," I countered. He just grinned and I swatted his but up the stairs. I waved to the bus driver and turned to go back inside, feeling a bit out of sorts. As the bus drove off, I stopped to pick up the newspaper and grabbed the trash barrel, to bring it beside the house.

"Ice cream man?" I heard and my head spun around. Standing there, on the other side of the street, was Jace. He stood in front of what I had to assume was his grandfather's house, diagonally across from our house. He stood there in a pair of basketball shorts that were too tight on him and a sweat soaked Michael Jordan shirt that left much of his chest on display. Not that I minded. He dribbled the ball a few times and then stuck it under one arm, off his hip. I'd have given up a lot to be that ball.

"Oh, hiya, Jace. What are you doing here?"

"This is my grandparent's house."

"Oh, so your grandparents are the Seagers."

"Yup, Jace Seager, that's me. Was that your brother?"

"Uh, yeah. Ethan. Mom and Dad's September surprise. He turns 10 right after school starts."

"Cool, cool. I guess we don't have to wait til 10 to hang." He bounced the ball a few times and sank a perfect basket into the hoop at his grandparent's driveway. "You play?"

"I tend to be more of an inside kinda guy. Some people call me a book worm," I said, feeling a bit outclassed. He was smooth, retrieved the ball and bounced it a few times moving around like opponents were out to steal the ball. I don't know if I got the terms right, but he had a sick crossover that wa smooth as butter.

"I know what you mean. I was kinda a book fiend myself until last year. Then it's like all my uncoordination just," and he launched the ball again, dropping it in another perfect arc. Nothing but net. He took a step forward and grabbed the ball, turned in place, and came to rest oh his hip again. "Like magic."

"Wow, that's good." Parts of me were applauding already. Sadly, they were confined at a weird angle. I hid the bulge behind the newspaper roll on my hip.

"Cool bracelet," he said, with a nod. "So, what is there to do in this town, aside from trying the Fuck You're Gorgeous ice cream?"

"Uhh, lots, I guess. How long have you got?"

"All day. My mom and dad took the younger kids to some place called Canobie Lake Park for the day. Some kind of amusement park, I hear."

"Yeah, it's a cool place."

"I pretty much am on my own 'til much later."

"Well, I gotta work later tonight, and I have something I have to do in a few minutes, but it shouldn't be anything."

"Cool. What is it?" he asked, brushing his hand through his shiny dark hair. I wondered what that felt like.

"Would you believe I have to talk to a cop?"

"Oooh, so the ice cream man has a dark side?" he kidded, switching his stance from over his left hip to over his right.

"Nah, it's not about something I did. He has some questions in a missing persons case. Probably wants to know if I've seen someone hanging out around the shop. Barnie's is pretty famous around here, so maybe someone stopped by and I might recognize them. Anyway, I better call him up before he calls me. Don't want Canterbury's finest to show up and surround the place."

"Yeah, that would be kinda rough."

"But we can hang out after I talk to the cop. It'll give me a chance to get showered."

"I bet you don't stink that badly from slinging ice cream all night." Oh, damn, was he flirting with me again? "But, I'll take that as a sign I should shower as well. You got plans?"

"I'll think of something. We'll take in the sights, get some local grub. That kind of thing. Do you have a bike?"

"I can borrow my grandpa's old beach cruiser."

"Cool. That'll make it easier."

"Awesome. Then after your little police action thing, I'm all yours," he said with a wink. My mouth went dry.

"Awesome. When you're done showering, come on over. The back door's always unlocked."

"Okay. See you in a minute," he said and shot the ball through the hoop one more time with a SWISH through the net. I suddenly wanted to be a basketball fan in the worst way. At least a fan of his.

"Kewl," I said, and turned myself away from the street, pushing the trash barrel ahead of me. My erection was throbbing hard in my pants and I had to get it in a more comfortable position NOW. As I looked back, I saw him jogging towards his grandparents' door, with his shirt pulled off. Oh MI god, did his back look amazing. All sweat and muscles and shiny and tan, oh so very tan. I literally tripped my way into the back door, had to catch myself against the kitchen table.

I showered quickly, making sure to keep my phone within earshot and my dick out of my hands. Not that I didn't want to cheese one out, but I didn't know where this, well, date was going. Didn't want to be, Iduno, weaker for having satisfied my urges before anything could happen.

Not the best of logical thinking, to be sure.

Just as I was drying my rats nest, the phone buzzed. Sure enough, it was Sgt. Osborn. I took a deep breath, dropped the towel and picked up the phone.

"Hello," I said, all politeness and business.

"Hallo, this is Detective Seargent Osborn, Canterbury Police Department. Am I speaking to Marcus Basilier?"

"Uh, yes sir. Sorry I haven't called you back yet. Had to see my little brother off for his summer program."

"Oh, very nice of you. I know your parent's work very hard, so every little bit helps. I was wondering if I might interview you regarding a continuing missing persons cas I've been working on. When might be a good time for that?"

"Uh, well, my parents aren't home right now, but I could come down to the station to make a statement."

"That wont be necessary, as I'm parked in front of your address now. You do live at number 10 South Brook Street, yes?" Oh, kay… so he knew where I lived as well as my phone number. That was a bit of a shock. And then I realized he knew my parents. And they apparently trusted him enough that I didn't need either one home with me for this "interview", so I had to think that this was all on the up-and-up.

"Uh, yeah, I'm just out of the shower. I'll get dressed and come let you in."

"We can meet out in front of your house. It'll be real quick. Just come out to meet me, please."

"Oh yeah, sure. Just get some pants on here." I quickly grabbed my undies, threw on a pair of cut off jean shorts and a white tee shirt. As an afterthought I reached out and brought my Red Sox hat over, since my hair was still a mess. I picked up the phone and he was still there, so I said I was coming out. Down three steps and I was out again. The police cruiser sat across the street, almost in Jace's grandparents' driveway. I looked both ways and crossed, Sgt. Osborn already getting out of the car.

As he stood, it seemed he had to shrug the car off of him, he was just that big. But it wasn't weight, and it wasn't fat, it was just bulk. The cop was well built, broad shoulders and very athletic thighs. There are times I forget how big he is, but the muscles in his arms, in a tight police short sleeve uniform definitely make an impression, as does his full bushy mustache. The salt and pepper hair seemed to fit him perfectly as he put his uniform cap on. Like an older, buffer version of Mario. His whole look said that he was the law, in all the right ways. Strong, reliable, calm, and efficient. His moustache lifted in a polite smile as he shook my hand.

"Good to meet you. I'll get straight to the point, Marc. I talked to your manager and your co-workers about this already. We have had a report of a missing person that was last spotted at Barnie's Burger Barn. Your place of employment." The way he spoke, I had the feeling that the On-Body camera was rolling for evidentiary purposes.

"Uh, okay. Do you have a picture?"

"Yes, I do. The missing person is a white male, about 16 years of age," and he produced a photo. "He's got dark hair, blue eyes, a slight separation in his front teeth. Do you remember seeing this person"

My heart sank. Sgt. Osborn held up a picture of Jace. "His name is Christopher James , a runaway. We have reason to believe he's in danger."

"Danger? What kind of danger?" I felt more and more hurt, bordering on anger.

"He was last seen in the presence of a person of interest in a kidnapping. I'm investigating on behalf of the FBI as part of an interstate task force on abductions."

"Oh, wow. That's great. I mean, that you are helping on such a tough case. Not that there's kids in danger and stuff," I stammered. "Can I see that picture again, please?"

"Here, take your time." He handed me the picture. It was a school photo, at least a year old, expanded and printed on regular paper.. Jace's, or Christopher's, rather, hair was cut differently. His smile seemed very much different, too. Less confidence. Less swagger. But still the same eyes, that same elfin face shape.

"I dunno. We see a lot of people out at Barnie's. Especially with it being ice cream season, ya know." I was sweating. This was crazy, but why would a cop lie? Come to think of it, why would Jace, or Christopher, lie? Something was really screwy here, in an already complicated situation. "Who's that other guy? The kidnapper?"

"He is just someone we would like to talk to. Here' is his picture, in case you've seen him, too." And he handed me another picture, also printed on regular paper. Only this one was obviously a mug shot, from the Tulsa, Oklahoma police department. I read the name off the placard held up below his face as Card, Alan Louis. He looked rich. Just my first impression. Well Dressed. And like he was well groomed, his beard and mustache immaculately trimmed. He had hard, dark eyes, and dark hair to match, with white streaks at the temples. Deep sockets on his eyes, highlighting how sharp and aristocratic his features were. He actually smilled, faintly, for his mug shot, showing a flash of teeth. Probably perfect teeth at that, but the smile only revealed so much.

"Wow. I'd know if I'd seen this guy."

"He does have a distinctive look," the cop agreed. I started to hand the pictures back but Sgt Osborn held up a hand. "Keep them. Post them someplace at work where your co-workers can see it. Maybe it'll jar some memories."

"Yeah, I'll do that. So, kidnapping, huh?" I held up the picture of Jace/Christopher. "You think this Card guy kidnapped him?"

"We just have a few questions for him," Sgt. Osborn smiled. It was a very forced smile. "You still have my number in your phone?"" I nodded. "Good. If you see them, either of them, or your memory comes up with anything we can use, give me a call, day or night."

"Okay. I will. Uhm, should I be worried about my little brother, you know, if there's this kidnapper guy…"

"Alleged kidnapper," the seargant put in.

"Alleged," I agree, flipping my hand. "Should we be careful around him, too?"

"Hopefully it wont come to any personal involvement. And naturally any tips you can provide us would be very helpful. Christopher may or may not be in danger. Mr Card, well…" he sighed, "may have a lot to answer for." The way he said that spoke volumes to me. I don't know if Sgt. Osborn had any kids, but that was one papa bear I didn't want to cross.

"Yessir. I will." He slid his car back on like an over coat. He put it in gear, then put it back in park, looking to me as he put his mirrored aviators on.

"I can't stress how important it is that we find Christopher. If you see him, please contact me."

"I will, Seargant."

"Tell your parents I said hi. We'll be in touch." He put the car back into gear, rolled down the street. I looked at the pictures in my hand, then across the street to where Jace had gone inside. I instantly regretted telling him that the back door was always unlocked.

Now what the heck am I supposed to do. My brother is a nascent godling with a magic sword, my master is an ancient trapped in a pre teen body, and now my crush was lying about his own name and was somehow wrapped up with a kidnapper. And, oh yea, I just lied to a cop who knowns my parents. And there were all manner of supernatural monsters seeking to crack me open and feast on my guts. And we still had to go get Meryl's stone from the museum.

What a fucking mess.

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