Someone is after us. Who knows what for? It might be the cartel we robbed in Baja, or that terrorist group we pranked in Utah, or even Aerochem for stealing the recipe to Sugar. All I know is, I have to check on Stripes.
I drive up to his apartment complex. There’s a similar white sedan to the one I’m driving down the block, so I pull into a driveway, and play it subtle. A large man and a smaller, wiry dwarf walk out of the complex and get into the sedan. As they start their car and pull away, an explosion rocks the block, and all the windows of Stripes apartment shatter outwards as a burst of flame explodes from within.
Good thing Stripes wasn’t in there. If these guys are checking his apartment, then there’s a good chance that they have no idea where to find them. Then again, if they found me in my apartment, they might be able to figure it out before too long.
I send a text to Catt, “Heading to the deadzone. Watch your back, and I’ll see you in a couple days. Pass the word on to the rest of the team.” I suppose I could have sent a text to everyone, but it’s fine, Catt will let them know.
I drive out of the city, heading south. It takes the better part of the morning, but I arrive without any trouble at Professor Bluth’s ranch. It looks quiet, but then again, this far out of the city, everything looks quiet.
I walk into the ranch house to find Stripes suspended in air by magic- “It’s an Illusion!” Professor Bluth interrupts my train of thought and pulls my attention to him. “I see you’ve sent your assistant to try to learn my secrets! I caught him delving into my magical records.”
“That’s not my assistant Professor Bluth. He’s just a guy I know who needed to get out of the city for a while. Besides, look at him, do you think he’d be able to understand your texts?”
“He looks like he just escaped from prison.”“Yeah, he’s always wearing that… But listen, he just needed a place to lie low. I figured you’d be in the middle of term ”
“I needed to get away from the university for some time to work on the charter for the Alliance, and- wait, I don’t have to explain myself to you! And I don’t believe you! You’ve always wanted my secrets of illusions! But it looks like you didn’t even realize that I had hid it in plain sight, right there on the coffee table!”
While he is mistaken about my motives for coming, he is absolutely right about my desire to have that book. I summon some shadows, yank Stripes from the air, and swipe the book while Professor Bluth just stands there looking confused at the shadows.
“I’ve made a huge mistake. I’m pretty sure the Alliance is going to frown on this.”
On the drive back, I make sure Stripes is alright before dropping him off (and double checking that I still have the book of secret illusions while he is getting out of the car). I tell him to connect with the others, and let them know I have to recede to the shadows for awhile, but I will be close in case needed.