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It was a cramped part of Brooklyn, though that could be said of most of the city. The street was lousy with grocers, restaurants, and ethnic coffee bars. They were crammed together making the most of the limited space. Silas was tapping his foot, staring at the facades. He eyed one in particular. For the fourth time he checked his non-existent watch. Eventually, he looked up at the Sun.
“It’s ten after seven, Icarus,” Hannah said.
She sat on the curb, head bowed. Her voice cracked when she spoke. From the pile of Mrs. Plonka’s laundry she had chosen a t-shirt, long skirt, and baggy sweater. In her boots, she looked like a hipster on hard times. She sucked on the extra-large coffee she managed to grab on the way. The only saving grace were the sunglasses Silas had found in one of his boxes.
“He should be open by now,” he said.
They both looked up at the awning above the store. “The Lost Gallery,” it said in yellow on black. There was no security gate covering the front window, but it was too dark to see inside. Books were piled high behind the glass, interspersed with the occasional ornament or bronze globe. No puppets. Silas shuddered when he remembered his experience from a day ago. He put it out of his mind.
“What are we doing here?” Hannah asked. “I thought we were seeing a doctor.”
“We are seeing a doctor,” Silas said.
“This is a bookstore,” she said, giving it another glance. “I think.”
“We’re not going to the bookstore, we’re going through the bookstore,” he said. “And it’s an antique shop.”
“What does that mean?”
A light bloomed in the back of the store. Gradually, it grew, as if lanterns were being lit. The door cracked open and bells tinkled. Silas let out a snort of satisfaction. He patted Hannah roughly on the back of the head as he approached the store.
“You’re late,” he said to someone now outside.
A small man with dark skin and gray-speckled hair looked up at him. He was wearing a cardigan, scarf, and foggy glasses. A stack of books was under one arm, a large ring of keys in his hand. Pushing the glasses up his nose, he scowled at the detective.
“A wizard is never late, Mr. Black,” the man said.
“Oh, you’re a wizard, now?”
“We can be whatever we want to be. With a little imagination.”
“Thanks for that, LeVar,” Silas said. “But your sign says you open at seven.”
“It is seven.”
“Ten after,” he said.
The man waved the comment away. Walking over to an empty display table beside the door, he neatly arranged his books. He took a step back and surveyed his storefront, going as far as looking through his fingers, director style. Silas rolled his eyes.
The old man chuckled. “If I want to open my store ten minutes late, that’s my prerogative.” He looked up and down the empty block. “Not like we’ve got a line.”
“We’re here,” Silas said.
“I can see that.” The man’s eyes darted to the woman on the curb. “Is that her?”
Silas tapped Hannah on the head again. She stood up, leaving her coffee on the ground, and turned to face them. Pushing the sunglasses into her hair, she smiled wearily at the old man. He smiled back, and offered a hand.
“Hannah, this is Old Luther,” Silas said. “Luther, this is Hannah Rhinds.”
“Rhodes,” she said.
“Hello my dear,” Luther said. “How does this morning treat you?”
“I’ve been better,” Hannah said. “I’m sorry, what did he call you?”
“My real name’s Jabber Wock. Before that it was Autochthon. Before that I don’t remember. He just likes to call me old.”
“You are old,” Silas said.
“Don’t I know it,” Luther said. He turned back to the door. “If you will, follow me.”
The store was a warm, creaking thing. Shelves occupied most of the space, filled with books the likes of which few libraries had ever seen. A narrow aisle went from the front of the store to the back. The floors were bright, polished wood that made a clunking noise as they walked over them. Chairs hid in corners, beside tables stacked with hardbacks. The place smelled like frankincense and old paper.
Needless to say, Silas loved it.
Mixed in with the books were antiques. They were gathered from around the world. Tin soldiers mingled with English nutcrackers. Globes of the New World stood beside maps of the Far East. On a wall at the back of the store was a lararium, shipped in from God-knows-where. Silas’s eyes darted around, on the lookout for anything new.
Hannah was too numb from sleep deprivation to appreciate The Lost Gallery. Her dry eyes registered the old–no doubt valuable–books, but she didn’t show interest. Even the antiques went unnoticed. Later, she would remember thinking how much her dad would have loved the place.
Luther spoke as he led them to the back of the store. Hannah, who took up the rear, couldn’t hear him. Silas nodded as the old man talked about his latest acquisitions: a replica wooden boat from the eighteenth century, a voodoo charm worn by a pirate king, and a canopic jar that completed a collection.
“Just let me put some books away and we can get started,” Luther said as they reached a back counter.
He flipped up the side of the counter and started sorting books. With the agility of a much younger man, he darted across the store, placing volumes onto shelves. Silas leaned against the counter, making a shopping list in his head. Hannah watched the shopkeeper in confusion.
“When are we going to see this doctor of yours?” she asked.
“You’re looking at him,” Silas said, nodding in Luther’s direction.
“Doctor?” Luther said. “Silas, is that what you’re calling me these days?”
“What else would you call yourself?” Silas said. “Don’t say wizard.”
Luther scratched his chin. “I suppose, I am. People in need come to me. I offer advice and healing, when I can. Then yes. If you need a doctor, Miss Rhodes, that’s what I am.”
Hannah nodded uncertainly. “There’s more to being a doctor than that.”
Luther laughed. He went behind the counter and approached a back door. With a hand on the knob, he knocked three times. He listened, pressing his ear to the wood. There was a soft click. The old man nodded and turned the knob. On the other side was a corridor. Gesturing that they should follow, Luther disappeared into it. Silas took a step. Hannah reached out to stop him.
“What was that all about?” she asked.
“He’s a bit theatric,” he said.
“Yeah, you’re lucky you work with such a level-head guy like me.”
They entered the corridor, Hannah close behind Silas. At its end, a short flight of steps led down to a tunnel-like passage. The ceiling was low, Silas’s head almost touching. They saw Luther, far ahead of them. He had a hustle going. For a second, he paused and looked back.
“Pick up the pace, folks, or you’ll be left behind!”
They reached a corner. Silas turned it, reaching out for Hannah’s hand. She readily gave it. They turned another corner, then another. There was a sound like sliding wood planks. Hannah swore she saw the wall ahead of them move. Silas laughed. Finally, they caught up to Luther at a dead end.
“Ah good,” he said, as they arrived. “Get close now.”
Silas stood inches away from Luther. He nodded at Hannah and she pressed in too. Luther rapped on the wall, again three times. A panel slid open. Reaching in, the shopkeeper pulled at something. Another click and the wall, along with the floor they were standing on, spun in a circle. With a thoom they found themselves on the other side. Silas smiled at Hannah.
“Put the candle back, am I right?”
“What?” she said.
The air was damp in the new passage. If asked, Silas would have compared the smell to peat bog. Torches hung at regular intervals along the wall. They walked slowly, their feet scraping across the stone floor. Waiting for them at the end was a formidable iron door. Luther paused, patting down his sweater and pants pockets.
“Now where did I leave it?” he said to himself.
“Don’t tell me you forgot your key?” Silas said.
“Lemme guess, it’s one of those medieval, skeleton keys?” Hannah said.
“Oh, don’t be silly.” Luther pulled a plastic card from a shirt pocket. “It’s all digital, my love.” He waved the card over the door. There was a musical ding and it opened. Luther stepped inside the elevator first, waiting for the others to join him.
“Where does this go?” Hannah asked as she entered.
Luther pointed up. “Observation room. Otherwise known as my study.”
He pulled a lever and the door closed. With a lurch, they began to rise.
“But your bookstore’s only a story tall,” Hannah said. “It can’t have an observation room.”
Silas turned to her. “Like I said, we went through the bookstore.”
Hannah grumbled and rubbed the side of her head. “It’s too early for this.”
After a few minutes the elevator came to a bumpy stop. Luther pulled the lever again and the door slid back. They entered a circular room with a domed ceiling. Windows comprised most of the walls, through which they saw a creamy yellow sky. The middle of the room dipped down and had several seating options, mostly cushions. At the far end was a cherry wood desk.
“Make yourselves comfortable,” Luther said as he went to his desk.
Hannah took one step off the elevator. She didn’t move. Silas patted her on the arm and pointed to a couch. She still didn’t move. With a sigh, he took her by the arm and led her to a seat. Her eyes connected with his.
“Where are we?” she asked.
“A bit hard to explain,” he said. “Maybe Luther can enlighten you.” He looked over at the old man, but he was busy rummaging through drawers.
“Maybe not,” Silas said. “Let’s say we traveled a very long way in a short amount of time.”
“More magic?” Hannah said.
“No, just physics.”
Before she could press him for a better explanation, Luther walked over. On a table beside the couch, he rolled out a long piece of blank parchment. Pulling over a stool, he sat across from Hannah. On his head was one of those old-fashion head mirrors.
“What’s that?” Hannah asked.
“You wanted a doctor,” he said.
She smiled. “They don’t wear those anymore.”
“Oh, yeah?” Luther put a hand on the device. “I still like it. So, what seems to be the problem?”
Hannah looked at Silas for help.
“Hannah has become entangled in one of my cases,” he said. “A kidnapping. We found a fetish at the crime scene. She touched it. Now she’s hearing and seeing things, and someone broke into her apartment.”
“Mmm,” Luther said. “Kidnapper’s using a fetish? That’s new. What did it look like?”
Silas described the doll to the antique bookseller.
“Sound like anything you’ve seen before?” he asked Luther.
“I’ve seen a lot of things. Did you bring it?”
“Left it in a box at my apartment,” Silas said.
“Why did you do that?” Luther said. “I could have examined it.”
“I would have never seen it again,” the detective said. “You’d add it to your collection.”
Luther winked at Hannah. “Probably.”
“It’s obvious the kidnapper’s interacting with her in some way,” Silas said. “But you know more about psychic phenomena than I do, so let’s hear it.”
The old man leaned in and looked at Hannah. He adjusted his head mirror so that sunlight bounced onto her face. She squinted.
“Give me your hands.” Luther laid his hands, palms up, on his knees. Hannah reached out. Quickly he took her hands, pressing a thumb into each palm.
“Keep your eyes open,” he said. “Sit up as straight as you can.”
Silas watched as Luther examined Hannah. She looked very uncomfortable. It made him smile. As Luther continued, Silas walked over to the windows. Mist snaked by, blocking his view of the sun. It passed and he was treated to a view of snow-capped mountains. They encircled the observation deck, a ring of stone and ice.
A cry of pain brought him back to the room. Hannah was leaning away from Luther. She was holding one of her hands, scowling.
“What happened?” Silas asked.
“He stabbed my hand,” Hannah said.
“Just checking your reflexes, dear,” Luther said.
Silas walked back to the couch. “It’s okay. Everything Luther does is for a reason.”
“I think I’m bleeding,” Hannah said.
“Lemme see,” Silas said.
Tentatively, she opened her hand. There was no mark or blood.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “I felt something.”
“Of course, you did,” Luther said. “But it wasn’t physical pain.”
He slid back and let out a sigh.
“So, doc, what’s the verdict?” Silas asked.
“There’s a bond,” Luther said.
“A bond?” the detective said. “You mean a telepathic link? I didn’t think it was that bad.”
“Wait,” Hannah said. “Bad? What are you talking about?”
Luther nodded. “There’s a bond, between your mind and the mind of this kidnapper.”
“It explains the voices,” Silas said. “And how he found your apartment. That’s amazing.”
“Uh, no,” she said. “That’s not amazing. That’s terrifying. I don’t understand.”
Luther raised a finger. “Allow me to illustrate.” Turning to the parchment on the table, he spread his hands over it. He did this for several minutes, each time pressing harder on the paper. Finally, he picked it up, shaking it out like an old Polaroid, holding it to the light.
“Come close and you’ll see.”
Silas and Hannah squeezed next to Luther, looking at the parchment. Slowly an image appeared. It was a silhouette of a head and shoulders, presumably Hannah’s. Around it floated dark splotches, like ink stains.
“You see those?” Luther said.
“Yup,” Silas said.
“Those are stains on Hannah’s aura.”
“Aura?” Hannah said.
“Another word for your psychic field,” Luther said.
She looked at Silas. “Can you translate?”
“Everybody’s thoughts generate a field of energy around them,” he said.
“A psychic bond between two or more minds allows their fields to intersect,” Luther said. “It enables the transmission of thoughts from one mind to another, which explains what you’ve been experiencing.”
“And how this guy could find me at my place,” Hannah said.
“Exactly,” Luther said. “Bonds are extraordinarily hard to form. Auras are very difficult to penetrate.”
Hannah looked at Silas. “Think of an aura like a suit of armor over your mind. It’s meant to prevent this kind of thing.”
“Unless you touch a wooden doll,” she said.
“So, what do the spots mean?” Hannah asked.
The old man looked grave. “That’s damage. The bond is hurting your aura, punching holes in it. It’s not severe, for now. But given time, it will get worse.”
“What can you tell me about the link?” Silas asked.
“There’s a definite downstream,” Luther said. “The person on the other end can send images, sensations, sounds.”
“Can he read my thoughts?” Hannah asked.
“He can sense you,” Luther said. “But I don’t know how much he can see or hear. If the link grows stronger, though, there’s no telling what kind of access he’ll have.”
“Any clues to who this perp is?” Silas asked.
“I’m not in the sleuthing business,” Luther said. “That’s your job. But I will tell you, a bond of this strength couldn’t have been made by an ordinary person.”
“That much I worked out on my own,” the detective said.
“My concern is with the long-term effects,” the shopkeeper said. “Few minds can handle prolonged exposure to psychic energy, much less a bond. Hannah’s mind will deteriorate for sure.”
“Then how do I get rid of it?” Hannah asked.
“Unplug the link from the other end,” Luther said. “That’s the only sure way. But in the meantime, I have something that should help.”
Luther walked back to his desk. With a wave of his hand, the wall opened, revealing a myriad of card-sized drawers. Meticulously, he checked them. Silas watched with rapt attention. Quietly, he took a step toward the wall. The old man pointed at him without turning around.
“Not another step, Mr. Black.”
The wall slid back and Luther returned with something cupped in his hands. He sat down on the stool and motioned for Hannah to extend a hand. She did and something silky and cold slipped into her fingers. Holding it up, she discovered a silver chain with a cross.
“A necklace?” she said.
“A talisman,” Luther said. “Not a permanent fix, but as long as you wear it, the bond should be weakened enough to give you some peace.”
“How does it do that?” Hannah asked. She eyed the simple cross dangling from the chain. “Just looks like a necklace.”
“Silver is a pure metal, promotes unity and balance,” he said. “The Symbol of the Cross repels malevolent energy. Finally, it’s been blessed.”
“Blessed? By a priest?”
“Father Mallory,” Luther said. “A good man I once met on the Emerald Isle. Gave this to me, oh, a long time ago.”
“Blessings and prayers emit their own kind of energy,” Silas said.
“Just put it on dear,” Luther said. “You’ll feel better.”
Hannah tapped the little cross and watched it twirl. Sunlight glinted off the metal, like fire encased in solid form. She slipped it easily over her head and tucked it under her t-shirt. Her skin tingled against it.
“I don’t feel any better,” she said.
“You will,” Luther said.
She glanced at Silas. He was staring at the bit of chain visible around her neck.
“Just how effective is this talisman of yours, doc?” he asked Luther.
“Hopefully she won’t have any more visions or sensations. And the kidnapper will have a harder time finding her.”
“It’s just…” He stepped closer to Luther, as if wanting only him to hear. “I was hoping to study the effects of the telepathic link.”
The shopkeeper’s face creased with concern. “What do you mean?”
Silas shrugged. He stuck his hands in his pockets. “You know, see how it works. Maybe I can turn it against the bad guy.”
“I don’t think that’s wise, Silas.” Luther stood up, shaking his head. “You can cause irrevocable damage to her.”
“Yeah, I agree,” Hannah said.
“I don’t wanna crack her head open,” Silas said. “Just learn as much as I can. You know as well as I do how hard it is to study the paranormal. It’s not like any other science.”
“It’s not science at all,” the old man said.
“Regardless, I may never have a chance to observe this sort of thing again,” Silas said. “Just think what I can do with the knowledge.”
“Magical forces are not to be trifled with, son,” Luther said. He tapped the image of Hannah’s blotchy aura. “Stick with what you know. You’ll catch this kidnapper. You’re a good detective.”
“Could always be better.”
Luther escorted them from the observation deck back to his store. They left as the first customer of the day walked in. Outside, the street had grown busy with foot traffic. Silas stepped clear of pedestrians as he bundled up his coat.
“So damn stuffy in that place,” he said, wrangling his scarf. “Luther refuses to pump in fresh air, claims it might damage the books. He’s probably right.”
Hannah pulled her sweater tight, to cover her chest and neck. She looked back at the store.
“So, where were we, really?” she asked Silas. “You said it had something to do with physics.”
“Do you know what warping is?” he asked.
“No,” she said.
“Let’s say we traveled to another dimension.” He started down the street.
Hannah caught his arm. “You can’t just drop a bomb like that and not explain it.”
“I don’t fully get it myself,” he said. “Luther keeps it a trade secret. One day I’ll have him explain it to the both of us.”
“But it’s not magic?” she said.
“Sounds like magic to me.”
“Not everything about this job can be written off as magic,” Silas said. “Strictly speaking, ‘magic’ is the bad stuff. The stuff that hurts people. I refuse to use it.”
“Really?” Hannah said. “Why not?”
“You know all that hell you’re going through?” Silas said. “Magic.”
“How about the necklace?” Hannah asked. “Is that magic?”
Silas sighed. “Not everything can be easily labeled, Rhodes.”
“Sorry, I’m trying to sort this out,” she said. “Do you think it’ll work?”
“Luther wouldn’t have given it to you if it didn’t,” he said.
“I guess this sort of messes up your plan to use me like a guinea pig, huh?” she said.
“Don’t you worry about that.” There was that smirk again. “For now, we spend time doing good old fashion detective work.”
“Where do we start?” Hannah asked.
“The fetish, of course,” Silas said. “That’s our best clue.”
“That’s our only clue.”
“Maybe find out the connection between the kidnapper and burial tokens,” Hannah said.
“That’s good,” Silas said. “But we may not find that out until we discover his identity. There’s another question, though, you’re not asking.”
“Come on Spock, use logic,” he said.
“Oh, my God.” Silas rubbed his brow. “Think. Our kidnapper used the fetish to mark his victims. We know this because we found it at the last victim’s house. So…”
Hannah shrugged. “I’m still waking up, dude. I need more coffee.”
“How did a girl like Emily Lisbon get her hands on the fetish in the first place?” he said.
“Could have been left on her doorstep,” Hannah said.
“And she stuck it in her purse?” Silas said. “I think she bought it.”
“She did collect a lot of kitschy crap,” she said.
“And where,” he said, “in the City of Angels–“
“–can you buy weird stuff?” he said.
“Anywhere,” Hannah said.
“Weird stuff like a magical fetish?”
It took a minute, but the realization dawned on Hannah’s face. “You mean–“
She was interrupted by the squawk of a police siren. A squad car pulled a wild U-turn and blocked their path at the crosswalk. Two more pulled up behind it. Silas and Hannah watched in curiosity as four uniformed cops got out and surrounded them. Doors slammed on an unmarked sedan as a familiar face broke through the circle.
“McClelland?” Silas said as the police detective approached. “What’s going on? Got an APB on some donuts?”
McClelland didn’t crack a smile. “I’m real sorry about this, kid.”
“What are you talking about.”
From behind McClelland appeared a woman in a dark suit and sunglasses. She was shorter than the other cop, severely thin, and taut as a bowstring. Her coat was open, revealing an NYPD badge around her neck.
“Silas Black?” she said.
“That’s what they call me,” he said.
“I’m Detective Amy Lang. You’re under arrest.”
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