tagSci-Fi & FantasyConceal Me What I Am Ch. 08

Conceal Me What I Am Ch. 08

byStultus©

*************** CHAPTER EIGHT

I should have been a bit alarmed that we all had quite slept for nearly twelve hours straight, without anyone waking us once the needed information had been gathered, but it was quite accurate that we had all been quite dead on our feet last evening. Now, fairly well recovered from her ordeal, Bel had a bit more life in herself this late Saturday morning, and just to confirm to herself that she hadn't quite burned herself out, she quickly and easily magically lit a few of the candles back upstairs in the restaurant.

"First we eat, then we talk, then we go do!" Sebestyen Dénes stated, and that plan of action wasn't at all disagreeable to anyone. After three long and very rich meals here in a row, my waistline was rapidly now straining against the edges of my suit pants.

The evidence that his organization had gathered was quite thorough and painstakingly meticulous, and best of all it had been gathered by stealth so that there should be no warning of our interest.

"There are in fact seven weapons manufacturing locations underground," the crime boss revealed to us once we were all safely back downstairs in the wine cellar, "but only two locations appear to be of interest to us today. As I mentioned yesterday, another two of the arms plants belong to me and their production is indeed secure, with virtually every weapon able to be accounted for and tracked to its proper destination... to the hands of the farmers and ranchers of the west, or to members of my own organization. This leaves three other manufactories left, one each of which belong to various minor competitors, but none of which at this time I feel are overtly assisting to arm Deseret, although some minor wastage and loss might indirectly reach them by indirect channels. For the moment, these three are not of any particular of importance to us. Instead, I can confirm that there are two separate places whose weapons and ammunition production does not seem to reach the usual domestic uses here, and indeed one of these two facilities is controlled by the Clinton Street Gang. The other slightly larger works, and this is quite of significant personal interest to myself, is controlled by the Harrison Group, an important and dangerous rival organization much at odds with my own. More interesting for your particular concerns is that one of the three Harrison brothers was seen last night by one of my agents in a meeting with several important Clinton Street members. For the suitability of our dual but complimentary purposes, my organization shall conduct large scale raids against both premises, shutting them both down so that we might gather further evidence of where the weapons are being shipped. I recalled your mentioning of Rockford, but this meant nothing to any of my associates and they know of nothing of interest happening in that city."

"When will we start the raid?" Janice enquired in excitement. "And, if I might ask, will my agency be allowed to officially take over the premises of the Clinton Street operation, at the very least? I would assume you have future private plans for the Harrison facility and if we are in agreement, my reports shall not mention that facility."

"Indeed I do. As the two locations in question are both rather separated geographically, the Clinton works down here in the south of the city and the Harrison one much further north, I see no problems allowing the FBI a minor coup, and one that would undoubtedly greatly benefit your career!" Janice certainly had no arguments about that.

"I assume then," Bel enquired slowly, as if still quite lost in thought, "that our group in particular will be involved with the Clinton assault then, with the able assistance of your men, of course. I assume though that the majority of your forces otherwise will need to be concerned with the Harrisons, your more dangerous rival?"

"Indeed quite so." He replied. "You'll receive about a full third of my soldiers for the assault, but the majority of my more trusted and best armed units will attend with me up north. The Clintons are dangerous, yes, but they are mostly thugs, content to rule their streets only with little vision to the future. Indeed, I would not be surprised if the Harrison's are just using them for allied street fodder for their operations. Working together, as we assume they are, if they were well armed and conducting a surprise attack upon my organization, the odds might in fact favor them. Perhaps we only had a matter of weeks more before all of their plans were completed. It is quite well and good that we have discovered their armories first! For just this knowledge of our apparent close call, we are all already quite indebted to you!"

"And me too!" Miranda added. "I'll be coming with you! In fact, I'm not leaving you at all, so where you go, I'm following!" The teen girl was quite giggly at this, but I didn't blame her. In one afternoon she'd seen more magic done than in her entire previous life. Most of it was serious 'Great Wizard' (or 'Sorcerer Supreme', US title) level stuff too, if not yet even greater.

"Still," I pondered out loud, as much to myself and my companions, "it would have been better still if I could have traced either of the two missing gun shop owners. Maybe they were killed, silenced perhaps, or yet they might still be arranging their affairs underground. If I could find either of them... and prove, to just my own satisfaction of course, that they were indeed directly involved with either the Clinton's or the Harrison's, I'd feel a lot happier about igniting this new Chicago gangland war! I've already disturbed things quite enough up here on my visit."

"What about the coin you gave Jesse Hollaway?" Bel asked. "I know you didn't put a tracer upon it, but what about using the Law of Similarity to go searching for it? He'd have prized that coin, and at worst it will be found hidden under his old shop, but perhaps his killer would have taken it? Or, better yet if he's still alive, it will be with him now, almost assuredly."

In magic, the Law of Similarity means that 'alike things' can be used to find or follow other virtually identical things. Miners hunting for precious metals like gold or silver often buy an artificed prospector's fork, with a bit of charmed metal at the tip matching what the seeker is looking for. Bel in particular could follow a criminal or a missing child from just a trace of torn dress or bit of shirt. In this case I had plenty of silver dollars from the same mint roll, stamped in rapid succession from the very same batch of molten ore moments apart. Even better, all had been in my possession for some time, since I'd left Texas. Indeed, the more I thought about it, the more certain that I was that some strong affinity would and should still exist. There couldn't be many bright and sharp, freshly minted uncirculated Texas silver dollars circulating in Chicago. Ok, I'd passed a few out already, for charming the various minor criminals that the FMBR had sent us to annoy, rather than finding any genuine suspects to question, but we could rule each of these bearers out, when detected. It was well worth a try.

"Bel, are you strong enough to do the working? I vaguely remember the basics, but I haven't cast this spell since I was in school, and even then I usually screwed it up."

"I can do it." She readily confirmed. "For local police cases I often use this to track bits of evidence. Sometimes, I've cast the spell several times a day even. I'm a bit tired still, but this will be a lot easier on me mentally than channeling that simulacrum, like we did yesterday. I don't ever want to try anything like that ever again, but a simple Similarity working is a piece of cake to maintain."

"Well, let's not waste time then. Let's coordinate where to meet later this afternoon for the Clinton assault and we'll meet you there. With any luck, we'll also find our gun shop owner is there too!"

***************

I'd like to say that Bel, the expert on tracing and finding items, located our rogue missing gun dealer on the first try, but actually we found nearly everyone else I'd handed a coin to first, including our cabbie from yesterday. The spell was clearly working as intended, but I found eight of my ten other given silver dollars first. The tricky part was once Bel was sure that we were near our real quarry, the location of the coin seemed to be somewhere underground. Miranda didn't know this part of town, as it was well within the self-proclaimed boundaries of the Clinton Street Gang, in fact we seemed to see one of their yellow jacketed youths on nearly every street corner. In fact, it was quite a wonder, as suspiciously as we were now acting, that they didn't particularly seem to notice us driving back and forth, constantly stopping every block or two so Bel, the driver, could check her magical traces and pinpoint the next direction we needed go towards.

Actually, the more I thought about it, the happier I was with the idea that my missing gun dealer was now pretty much right where I wanted him. Probably right there underground, in or near the subterranean weapons factory that we were going to be raiding in just a few hours time! In fact, once we quit our street level searching, and met with our assembling force of armed muscle for our attack in just an hour or so, the traces seemed to be still growing stronger and pointing right in the direction that we were now heading towards.

***************

Our leader for our strike force of benevolent mobsters was a senior officer by the name of Jerome Standish, and he struck quite the figure of a Victorian hero with his handlebar mustache and green garters on both arms of his bright green and white striped shirt as he cradled his well-worn but beloved Thompson machine gun, the infamous Chicago typewritter. He'd skipped the bowler hat, and it was just as well, as there was none too much ceiling space in this part of the tunnel system. In a pack across his back he had attached grenades and numerous extra 200-round circular magazines of ammo for his tommygun. He'd been to war before and he was well prepared.

Jerome had been well briefed and he seemed to have a tight grasp over his men, about forty in total. Everyone was armed to the eye-teeth and quite looking forward to firing off their weapons as if this was the Fourth of July. I warned our ground force not to be too indiscriminate with their weapons fire as we had a person of interest that we wanted to take alive, if at all possible. Naturally, they would all forget this instruction the moment that things started to get interesting, but perhaps a few of them might remember that taking a few prisoners alive, would indeed make their bosses happy.

To reach the main manufacturing area, we would have to pass through two checkpoints, the first having a heavy reinforced steel door with numerous guards and the other only a minor formality of an open check-station. In-between these two areas was sort of a workers dormitory and living area that we would need to remain relatively quiet while passing through, but there was not much anticipation that we would meet much if any trouble. With our attack planned for the early evening hours of a Saturday night, it was hoped that most of the day workers would be gone, off upstairs spending their week's pay and we'd only find a skeleton crew operating the machinery or guarding the facility.

Well, we were about half right anyway.

At the first secure checkpoint I just walked up alone to the solid steel door and knocked loudly on it. When the guard opened the metal window to look out at me I just smiled at him and looking past him down the corridor past the other guards I quickly set up a thick air shield behind them, then used some excessive earth force to blast the steel door off its hinges, sending it flying down the hallway until it reached the air wall, which stopped it... and most of the noise. A couple of the guards still had most of their various body parts and were quite unconscious from the concussion, with bleeding noses and ears and would now not inconvenience us in the least. The unluckier ones that had been in the way... well, they were rather less fortunate, and let's just leave it at that. The fact that our entry had taken out the guards without setting off the alarm or making much if any noise probably saved us all.

The dormitory areas ought to have been mostly empty, and actually the folks who lived and worked there normally were indeed for the most part gone, off somewhere drinking up their wages. The problem was when we walked through a large almost open area room where the workers usually took their meals, we found instead another group of rather unfriendly folks who were taking the opportunity for a detailed strategy meeting of their own, and took a rather violent exception to our sudden uninvited presence.

The big dance had some of everything and everyone. The top Clinton Street gang leaders all looked spiffy in their official leather jackets and each of them carried at least one sidearm. A couple of the over-achievers either carried two, or had a small machine pistol instead. I thought I recognized two of the legendary Harrison brothers from the descriptions the crime boss had given us by their matching outfits and near identical looks, both being big mean and very crazy looking. Next there was an assortment of local government clowns, none of which I knew or recognized, but from the shock of their expressions, between Bel and Janice they could identify nearly the entire lot of them.

More to my interest was the pair of official looking FBMR wizards in their government robes, the infamous Norman and Desmond that Bel and I had already suspected of being in cahoots with the crimes, so to speak. I didn't see their famed mentalist Ingrid, or her skunk of a boss, but like a bad coin they were sure to turn up at an unfriendly moment. It was actually this loveable pair of wizardly ass-kissers that started off the fireworks first, instantly recognizing both Bel and myself and then without a moment of hesitation and they instantaneously leaped into action.

I could suppose that the other twenty or thirty odd well-armed gunsels leaning against the various walls of the room might have been worth a brief mention, but with the firepower that was now suddenly enveloping the entire room and both hallways, their primary function at this particular stage of the rat-fuck was to provide loud screaming, both before and during their rapid and unexpected deaths. Truthfully, I would have to admit that vast majority of these violent demises were due to friendly fire, specifically the FBMR wizards weren't wasting any time at all in filling the meeting room with flame, clearing house so they could make their own escapes.

Out in the very front, I was quite entirely caught by complete surprise when two, not just one, huge fire-bolts came crashing upon me, with no shields or protections yet up. Bel had a fairly weak shield already going that adequately covered herself and Janice from the splash effect behind me as I suddenly was utterly and completely inundated and apparently consumed with searing magical flame!

***************

Under most normal circumstances, though very little of my life seems to qualify as anything remotely resembling normal, getting blasted by magical flame is bad... very, very bad. From even just one cast by a minor magician, the victim is usually killed outright, and often burned to cinders, often to their proverbial smoking boots. It's officially listed in the self-defense training manuals as a 99% sure kill, assuming you nail the target directly at close range and he or she is helpless without shields, both of which certainly occurred, textbook perfect. In my case, two rather large flame-bolts from highly trained and rather powerful wizards ought to have consumed me in a heartbeat, and probably continued onwards to engulf to their doom another couple of victims right behind me. The thought that I would still be standing there unharmed, but rather annoyed a few moments later as the flames cleared, ought to have been utterly unthinkable. In fact the wizards were already choosing other targets, clearing themselves a clear escape path with their excessive use of magical flame.

Been there, done that, have the t-shirt. As for the effect upon Sean, well, that was laughable that anything mortal could affect him! Already I could hear him giggling next to my ear.

I guess while thinking about the entire situation later on, I realized that my unpleasant encounter with an ancient Fire God had definitely changed me in more ways than one. Don't get me wrong, the flame was hot and it burned a little to the touch, but not much more than a slight sunburn would hurt.

For a plugged Mexican centavo, I would and could have toasted up the entire room to the temperature of roaring crematorium furnace, but I did really want some live prisoners leftover to question. Very, very grudgingly I decided not to educate these two felching ass-clowns about what real magical fire was like. Sensing that something was now terribly wrong with the universe, the two wizards gave me a hesitant look of frank disbelief. Heck, I didn't blame them; I was feeling kind of weird about the situation too.

The bastards repaid my own delay by toasting me again with another even stronger pair of fireballs that would have cooked nicely everyone in our strike force behind me if I hadn't casually parried both blasts up into the ceiling harmlessly. My crew was now shooting at anyone in the room that wasn't already on fire and not taking much if any return fire back.

Some more follow up blasts missed me entirely and did a pretty decent job of cooking everyone else left in their room that wasn't already a smoking corpe. I didn't even bother to shield myself that time. I wanted them both to be afraid enough of me to piss their own robes. They didn't, but they might have made it safely to the far doorway and gone if I hadn't next blasted the two with an airbolt, which flung the both of them hard... rather too hard, against the far stone wall of the room.

I rather didn't like the crooked look of Desmond's neck as his now dead body lay still and unmoving on the floor, but his fuck-buddy Norman was slightly healthier and soon slowly writhing in pain on the floor. He thought about standing up for round two of the bout, but I waggled my index finger at him, warning him not to even think about it. He did consider for a moment gathering some Air Ley for himself, to make a last attempt to fight his way out to safety but when he felt just how much magical energy I was channeling, he submitted to Bel like a whipped dog, who came over to bind him.

The rest of his pals weren't so lucky.

One of the Harrison brothers was a smoking partial torso and the other had incurred about half a dozen bullet wounds, most of which looked to have been mortal shots. He was still breathing for the moment, but he was way beyond interrogation, and I didn't know a thing about necromancy, let alone the art of speaking to the departed spirit of a corpse. The remainder of the assorted gunsels were in various stages of disrepair also bleeding or burning their lives away on the stone floor. A couple of the Clinton boys and a double handful of assorted thugs looked to be salvageable, but the odds of them knowing much was fairly slight. Knowing our crime lord and his loathing of waste, I wouldn't be surprised if most of these wounded soldiers didn't suddenly decide in the next day or two to join the winning team, especially as their top bosses looked to be toast.

Yeah, running amok with fire often gets a lot of other hands burned, and Norman and Desmond had indeed been rather indiscriminate. The prep school boys might have known the correct magical techniques taught in advanced wizardry classes, but nothing prepares you for a sudden unexpected combat. The instinct is to over-react... lord knows that's what I've done more times now than I can count, and there is no other substitute for experience. The wonder twins had been too busy playing kissy-kissy with the boss's ass to spend much time on the front lines doing the real hard work, like Bel and I had done in our careers. This magical laziness just cost nearly four dozen 'normal' people their lives.

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