Patton jumped on his motorcycle and raced away from Caldwell’s office, hopping on the Inner Loop and heading west. However, instead of continuing west on I-490 he took the ramp to go east and left the expressway at Goodman Street, where he turned north. As soon as he got into the Park Avenue area he ducked onto the side streets and wandered this way and that until he was convinced nobody was following him. Then he headed back into downtown and Rich’s office, which was only a few blocks south of Caldwell’s.
He never noticed the raven soaring high overhead, watching him.
He parked in the municipal garage in spite of the expense and walked to the Crossroads Building, concentrating on keeping his pace even and his heartrate low, trying to blend in with the other business types walking the streets in the middle of the afternoon. The raven perched on top of the McDonald’s and followed him with his eyes.
“Rich! I’m glad you in! I think I’ve just stepped into something nasty.”
Rich escorted him into his inner office and closed the door. “What’s up?”
“You’ll never guess who I just had a job interview with. Martin Caldwell, the local representative of the Prince of Detroit!”
“Did you get the job?”
“Ha! What he really wanted was to know where that magic ball came from. When I told him he didn’t believe me.”
Rich’s voice took on a guarded tone, but Patton never noticed. “I take it he tried to persuade you to give him a better answer?”
“Yeah. First he tried to sweet talk me into telling him, and when my story didn’t change two of his goons tried to grab me.” Talking with Rich was helping drain the excess adrenalin from his system.
“And yet you’re here.” Rich sat down behind his desk, which encouraged Patton to also sit and calm down even more.
“Yeah. One of them tried to pin me in my chair, but I guess I deflected the force ‘cause next thing I knew I was flying across the room like they’d hit an eject button or something. It was all I could do to turn that momentum into a dash for the door.” The thought of his narrow escape ramped up his excitement some. Why, he actually had magic powers! They couldn’t touch him!
“Speaking of doors, why aren’t they breaking down mine?”
“Probably because I spent the last half hour cutting back and forth across town making sure they weren’t on my tail.” He’d been so focused on evading his captors that he hadn’t given any thought to how he’d actually escaped, but now that was all he could think about. Losing his pursuers was becoming incidental.
“You make this sound like a gangster movie.”
“Probably because that’s what it feels like to me. I’ve never had someone chase me before. Not since high school, anyway.”
“I don’t want to hear about it, even with client confidentiality. Let’s figure out what to do next.”
Rich’s comment brought Patton’s thoughts back to the here-and-now. “That’s why I’m here.”
“I wonder why he’s after that thing anyway?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t really care. It’s gone, and the Prince can go pound sand for all I care.”
“Hmm. You make it sound as if you’re not too worried about what he might do to you.”
“Well, we were in the privacy of his office when they jumped me. If they were to attack me at home they’d attract attention. I think they’re afraid of attention. Heck, when he called me this morning he wouldn’t even say what his company does ‘for security reasons’. They’re so afraid of attention they don’t even want to about themselves on the phone!”
“Hmm. I don’t know.”
Patton’s mind was racing, making connections while thoughts of his actually having useful magic kept bouncing through. “I think there’s somebody watching them, so they’re treading carefully. If they were to attack me at home they’ll probably attract too much attention. For certain if they attack in some public place, so my best bet is to be in some crowded, public place.”
“Well, sure, that’s usually the case. We wizards try to avoid using magic where the Mundanes can see it — it’s too easy to turn them into a mob of peasants wielding pitchforks.”
“Yeah, and my house blowing up has already attracted a lot of attention. If anything else unusual should happen there the authorities will be real suspicious. I think all that heightened awareness will keep the Prince’s band of thugs away, at least for a while.”
“Perhaps, but any sort of protection will wear off pretty quick as things quiet down.”
“Well, maybe we can keep things from quieting down too quickly. How’s that lawsuit coming?”
“It’s ready. I was all set to swing by the court and file it when you came charging in here.”
“Does it accuse Shirk of doing something to blow up my kitchen?”
“No, I didn’t bother because the fire chief had pretty much ruled it out.”
“But the investigation’s still open, isn’t it?”
“Yes, simply because they haven’t a clue what really happened.”
“Well why don’t we throw that into the suit, too. This way when you file you can also tell the media about the suit, and let them ‘discover’ that we believe something Shirk did led to the explosion. It’s the kind of story the media loves, and ought to ratchet up the attention on the property.” Patton’s mind pictured the news coverage, and images of someone doing a live update from his front yard appeared in his imagination. That would be protection!
“You really want to play it that way? You’re opening yourself up for a counter-suit.”
“I think it all depends on how it’s worded in the suit, and how you tell the media about it.”
“Hmm. I guess so. In that case I’m going to have to put off the filing until tomorrow, and put some thought into how I approach the media.”
“But you think you can do it?”
“Oh, sure! I’ve done this sort of thing before!”
“Good! I think I can head home, then. I want to thank you for all your help with this — talking with you has really helped. Thanks!”
Patton shook Rich’s hand and headed out, confident that he wasn’t going to have to worry about the Prince’s men for a while.
As soon as Patton left his office Rich called Margaret. “I think you and your sisters need to know what Patton’s up to.” He quickly gave them a synopsis of the meeting, even though it could get him in trouble as a lawyer. Patton’s friendship was too important for him to stay quiet on this.
He wrapped up with, “So he’s on his way back to the house right now.”
“Do you think he’s in danger?”
“Probably not this minute, but I think they’ll be coming after him sooner than he thinks. He needs protection.”
“What about his lawsuit idea?”
Rich shrugged even though Margaret couldn’t see him. “It’ll probably buy him a day or two, but that’s all. Plus I’m going to need to be very careful how I work the media, and pray that some other disaster doesn’t wash through the local new cycle. It’s going to be tricky, and I’m not going to be good company tonight.”
“I understand. As soon as you’re done with the media come home to me so we can celebrate.” Rich could hear her disappointment.
He smiled. “Of course! With that sort of motivation I’m sure to be done early!”
Margaret hung up the phone and turned to her sisters. “What are we going to do about Scotty?”
“I’m not sure I understand,” asked Elaine, looking up from her dinner preparations. “What do you mean?”
“He’s a really nice guy …”
“And he’s getting better in bed!” quipped Yvonne from across the kitchen table.
“… but he’s awfully needy.” Margaret started stabbing the table top with her pen.
“Well we knew when we started this whole thing that he’d be a total novice at magic.” Elaine was surprised by how concerned Margaret seemed to be.
“I guess, but it never really hit me how completely ignorant he would be.” Margaret paused briefly, then continued. “And now he’s here, he’s ours, and others are gunning for him. I guess I figured we’d have more opportunity to train him before that happened.”
“You know it’s been less than a month. Give him some time!”
“I’d be more than happy to, but the opposition doesn’t seem to want to cooperate.”
The opposition. So that’s what this was about. “Did you really think they would?”
“What more do you want from him?” asked Yvonne. Even she was getting concerned now.
“I guess I want him to be able to stand up for himself,” said Margaret. “To fight for himself. You know that if we have to do the fighting, we’re going to lose.”
“Hey! We are not completely without fighting ability!” protested Elaine. “You know as well as I that we have techniques and resources that the opposition can’t touch.”
“But I fear it won’t be enough. They have power on their side. I was hoping to tap into Patton’s power, but I don’t think that will happen in time to prevent him from being destroyed or worse, converted.”
The thought of Patton switching sides really upset Yvonne. “We couldn’t let that happen to Scotty! No way!”
Elaine said, “I think it’s about time we start calling in favors, gathering allies.”
“You’re right,” said Margaret. “I only hope they get here in time.”