Eye of the Engraving
A "Kendrick" Story
Start at the beginning of the Kendrick series
The ringing phone did not unnerve her. The 'UNKNOWN' in the caller ID window did. Ten days had gone by and life had returned to normal. Now, he was calling again. She hoped to God that someone else was not about to be murdered. "Hello Reginald."
"I'm not supposed to talk to you. I'm supposed to tell the police you called."
"Please don't do that. They can't help me. I need your help."
"I told you that last time. You are a good person. You can help people. You can help me. The Order has hired some people to break into the museum tonight to steal part of the money exhibit - the one dollar bill engraved printing plates from 1935. You need to tell Susan Moore and help her stop them."
"Steal printing plates? Why? Who is this Order? I want to know. I mean, how do I know you're not the bad guy here?"
"Ask Susan. She'll tell you. You need to hurry. The museum closes in about twenty minutes. You need to find her and tell her before it closes."
"Alright." She sighed. She would do it, as insane as it sounded. Partly because he was right last time. Partly because she was still curious.
"Yeah." She hung up the phone and threw on a comfortable sweatshirt over her long sleeved t-shirt. As she headed to her car, she tried to call Officer Hauberk to let him know but all the circuits were busy. She did not think that happened with cell phones these days. Maybe it meant all the police department phone lines were busy. It was an unpleasant thought.
She drove to the south side of the City Center and parked behind the Kendrick Museum of History & Art. She was warned as she entered the building that the museum was closing. She acknowledged it and asked the woman at the front desk if Susan Moore was available. After a phone call, a short blond haired woman in a nice business suit came out to meet her. Karen got the impression of barely contained energy from the woman. As if once she started working on something, nothing would stop her short of hell or high water.
"Good evening, I'm Susan Moore. How may I help you?" She offered her hand.
Karen shook it. "Karen Wilson. I'm sorry to come when you're closing but, well... Could we speak privately? I have a message from Reginald."
There was an odd flicker of recognition in Susan's eyes. "Of course." She turned to the woman at the desk packing up. "It's alright. I'll take care of this. I'll see you tomorrow." Then, she led Karen through the museum, past all of the various displays of Makah Indian artifacts, a Shakespeare collection and a series of home antiques like salt and pepper shakers, irons and ironing boards and sewing machines. Karen felt a prickle of guilt at the fact that she had never come to the Kendrick Museum just to look around. It was part of the history of her city and she knew very little about it.
They entered a small, cluttered office. Susan offered her a chair. "So, what's up?"
"Well, this is going to sound crazy but the last time this guy Reginald called me and asked me to help someone out, he was right. He called me and told me to tell you that the Order had hired some people to steal some bill printing plates. I'm supposed to tell you and help you."
"I know it sounds crazy."
"Yeah. It does but if you're the same girl who helped Lamiel, it sounds a little less crazy."
"You know her?" Suddenly, the previous flicker of recognition did not seem so odd.
"We travel in some of the same circles you might say. Did he give you any other information? Like which plates?"
"Oh. Yes. The 1935 one dollar plates. Also, he said you'd tell me about the Order and why they want them."
Susan gave her a hard look. "He did, did he?"
"You really don't know who the Order is?"
Karen shook her head.
"Lord love a duck." Susan glanced skyward as if to ask for patience. "Ok. This is going to be a shock to you, I'm sure. You thirsty? I'm gonna get me some coffee and let the guards know about the impending break-in. Then, I'll be back and let you in on a few things."
"A coke is fine."
"Ok. I'll be back."
Karen looked around the office. It was the kind of office you see on documentaries about archeologists and history professors that are cluttered just enough with interesting things of historical significance to give it the feel of a fake professional backdrop designed just for the camera. Apparently, offices like that did exist. She picked up photocopied article about the Makah Indians by Ann M. Renker, Ph.D. called "The Makah Tribe: People of the Sea and the Forest." She knew they were the local indigenous Indian tribe of the Pacific Northwest but beyond that and the fact that they had a Historical Center nearby, she did not know anything about them at all.
It was a fascinating read. It kept her from noticing how long Susan had been gone until she was done with the article. For a moment, the worst case scenario popped into her head: The crooks had already broken in, had assaulted the museum curator and she was unconscious or bleeding somewhere. Before the panic could really set in, the office door opened and Susan came in bearing drinks. She had changed her clothes as well. She was now in a pair of black jeans and a black sweater. "Sorry about the wait. I wanted to get into something a little more practical." She handed Karen the can of soda.
"C'mon. Let's patrol the museum. I'll tell you what I can as we go."
They walked in silence through the darkened museum halls. To Karen, it was a little creepy. Then again, empty buildings at night usually were. Susan seemed unaffected by their echoing footsteps in the silent corridors. It made sense to Karen. This was her territory. She probably spent many nights here after the museum closed to finish up work.
"What do you want to know first?"
"Who is the Order? What are they?"
Susan gave a half smile. "Their full name is the Order of the Sacred Eye. From what little I know, they seem to be an offshoot of the Masons. Maybe from the Brotherhood of Light as well."
"Masons? My father was a Mason and he wouldn't have anything to do with trying to kill anyone or steal stuff from museums."
"Not the service organization of Masons that we know today. Probably a much older branch. Most likely they were once a secret society within the secret society. They are so far removed from the Masons now that it is probably like comparing chimps to humans. In any case, in Kendrick, they are the bullies of the magic world. Not necessarily evil. Just very selfish and self-serving."
"'Bullies of the magic world.'"
The tone of Karen's voice made Susan stop and look at her. "Oh, give me a break! You don't even know about that? Why the hell did Reginald pick you if you don't know anything at all? Surprise! Magic exists. Demons exist. Angels exist. And Kendrick seems to be a hub for all of the above and more. All of which is interpreted in a different way by each magical society that knows about it. A demon in one group may be considered to be a ghost in another or a totem spirit in another. Let's just pretend that you believe in magic. If you can't do that, pretend that there are lots of groups out there that believe in it and believe they can manipulate it. OK?"
She bristled at Susan's condescension then swallowed her ire because she did not want to derail the conversation. "Sorry. This is just a little weird."
"It's going to get a lot more weird. Do you still want me to continue? Because if you don't, we can stop right here and you can go home."
Karen nodded. "I'm sure. Especially if this Reginald person is going to keep calling me to tell me about impending murders and thefts, asking for help."
"Alright. The Order then. Personally, they remind me of the alpha frat on a college campus. Knowledgeable, arrogant and pushy. Not to mention a bit too much into their secret agent man routine. They really like having all their secrets within secrets stuff. I've heard that they call each other by codenames whenever they are doing something with or for the Order. They are feared inside their fraternal organization by their peers and barely tolerated by other magical groups outside of it.
"The problem is that they actually do have power. What they know, they know well. From what I can tell, most of the magic they do is ritualistic sympathetic magic. Frankly, not really reliable because of the randomness of the sympathetic part. But, it does work. Especially if they have a good sympathetic link to what they want to affect. If it's a person, they use hair or blood or clothing. If it is an organization, they use something that belongs to that organization and symbolizes it. I think that's why they want the plates."
They stopped in front of the large historical display of old coins, engraved plates and bills no longer commonly used as legal tender. Susan pointed out one set of engraved plates and read the card underneath it. "'The Great Seal was first used on the reverse of the one-dollar Federal Reserve note in 1935. The Department of State is the official keeper of the Seal. They believe that the most accurate explanation of a pyramid on the Great Seal is that it symbolizes strength and durability. The unfinished pyramid means that the United States will always grow, improve and build. In addition, the "All-Seeing Eye" located above the pyramid suggests the importance of divine guidance in favor of the American cause.'" She looked at Karen. "Do you see why they want it?"
"Because of the All Seeing Eye? It's connected to them somehow?"
"Exactly. This is typical of them. If they want to do sympathetic magic on their own organization and they believe they are that important to the United States, of course they want a symbol that reflects that. Talk about arrogance. I -"
Her next words were lost in the sounds of glass breaking and something crashing to the ground. "Shit." Susan pulled a small figurine from her pocket. "Ok, kiddo. You're up. This is Karen. It's your job to protect her. If she puts you down or drops you, wake up and do your job." She turned to Karen and held it out to her. "Here. This is Sebastian. Hold him. If something bad happens, put him down or drop him."
She took the small figurine of a cute sleeping gargoyle and looked skeptically at Susan.
"Please. Just pretend you believe. Just for now." She said and looked over her shoulder at the sounds of a scuffle.
"Alright. Alright." She wrapped her hand around the statuette and nodded.
"You should be safe here. I'll be back." Susan did not wait for a response. She took off running down the hallway yelling, "Be careful of the damn artifacts!"
Karen watched Susan go wondering if Susan was crazy or if she was crazy. Maybe it was both. However, there had been enough odd calls for help on the emergency system to make some of what she had recently learned about Kendrick seem plausible. She opened her hand enough to look at the sleeping gargoyle figurine. "Alright. Hello Sebastian. I'm Karen. If I need you, I hope you're more than you appear." She watched the gargoyle intently, looking for signs of life or magic.
She never saw what hit her from behind. All she knew was a blinding pain to the back of the head, falling to the floor and watching the gargoyle figurine tumble across the floor before everything faded to black.
"Karen, wake up. Please, wake up. I can't carry you."
She tried to say, "Five more minutes, Mom." She managed a groan. Turning her head brought a fresh wave of pain that dumped enough adrenaline into her system to bring her back to reality.
Susan hovered over her, looking very worried. "We have to go now. Sebastian says he got some of your hair. That's not a good thing."
Karen let herself be hauled to her feet, helping as much as she could as she fought the nausea all movement seemed to bring. "Where?"
"Some place safe. The less I say now the better. Come on."
The two of them hurried to Susan's car. Karen was momentarily surprised to discover the museum curator drove a black hearse. Then, with a shrug, she slid into the passenger seat. "Did they get it?"
Susan started up the car and took off down the street. "The plates? Yes. The insurance forms alone are going to be a nightmare. I thought you said that the Order hired a couple of guys to break into the place."
"That's what Reginald told me."
"Well, it was a couple of guys and a member of the Order. I don't know what he hit you with but it wasn't physical. Plus, they took your hair. Dammit. I shouldn't have left you alone. I shouldn't have left you with just Sebastian. I didn't think it through."
"What happened? I hurt. I'm feeling better but I still hurt."
"Apparently, he came in, knocked you out. You dropped Sebastian who woke up and went into guard mode. But, because he wasn't attacking you, Sebastian just watched him take the plates. He didn't get aggressive until the guy cut off some of your hair. That guy will remember not to underestimate baby gargoyles because of their tiny size in the future."
"Why'd he take my hair?"
"To do magic on you. I don't know what kind. That's why we're here."
They were parking in front of Bacchanalia. "You go here?"
"You know this place?"
"It's a Goth club. I didn't think you... I don't know what I didn't think." Karen smiled sheepishly.
Susan returned the smile. "I'm not a suit-wearing museum curator 24/7. I have a life, you know."
"Yeah. Sorry. I'm still figuring this thinking thing out."
"I'll chalk it up to what the guy did to you. Come on."
They walked through the non-descript gray door with the club's symbol on it into the antechamber. Aaron and another guy were at the desk. "Hey Suze. Look at that, it's Karen-By-The-Way. Fancy seeing you here again."
"Not now, Aaron. We need the Smoke room."
Karen's sense of balance decided it was the perfect time to take a hike while her stomach felt like it was being dragged out of her body through her navel. She stumbled and slammed into the wall.
"Shit!" Aaron hurried to Karen's other side and the two of them lifted her up, half carrying her into the club, down the hall past the dance floor and bar, into a back room and shut the door. It was still early so few people were around. But all of them jumped to attention when Aaron and Susan brought Karen in and laid her on the couch. "Light 'em up!" Aaron called out.
Karen watched from her prone position. Two people lit up incense burners in the corners of the room and the rest of the people here lit cigarettes then spaced themselves around the room. "What are they doing?"
"Hiding you." Susan said. "Are you feeling any better?"
She thought about it for a moment then nodded. "Yeah. I think. Maybe. But, I feel weird. I feel like I'm really hungry... but that hunger is pulling me somewhere."
"Ah. Gotcha. A good description." Susan looked at Aaron.
"I'll get her something to eat and drink." He left the room.
"What's wrong with me?" She moved to sit up and managed it with some dizziness.
Susan shook her head. "I think it's a reaction to the scrying. They're trying to learn what they can before we shut them down. I think that's what they're doing. I hope that's all. You showed up on the scene less than two weeks ago. No one knows who you are."
"I'm nobody. I'm just a 911 operator."
"I don't understand." Karen could hear the music from the dance floor through the wall and feel it pulsing through the soles of her feet.
"You will, eventually." She started to say more but Aaron returned with a plate of bar snack food. She took it from him and handed it Karen. "Eat. Eat as much as you can as fast as you can." She looked at Aaron. "Sit with her? Make sure she eats. I've got to find out how to break this."
Aaron nodded and replaced Susan on the couch. "Eat up, luv."
"I'm tired." Her hunger had been replaced with an almost overwhelming lethargy.
"Don't make me feed you. I will, you know."
Karen tried to smile at him and picked up the hot potato skin. The first bite was hard to manage but the moment she swallowed, she was ravenous and did not have to be convinced to eat. Somewhere along the way, someone had arrived with a glass of coke. She drank as she ate, focusing only on the act of eating. It anchored her and made her feel more real, more solid and there.
By the time she was done with the plate of food, more than she usually ate at one sitting, Susan was back. "Ok. I got it. I know what we need to do." Aaron moved out of her way as she reclaimed the spot next to Karen.
"I'm feeling much better now. Really. What else needs to happen?"
"That's mostly because we've hidden you from the magic. The connection between you and your hair is still there. They'd have you again as soon as you walked out of here. So, we need to break that connection." She pulled a small gargoyle figure from her pocket. "Remember him?"
"Is that Sebastian?"
"But, he's sitting up. Not sleeping."
"I know. Just pretend you believe in all this, alright? It's still him."
Karen nodded and accepted the statuette, looking at him. "He's got blood on him."
"I know." Susan started messing with Karen's hair.
She pulled away, alarmed. "What are you doing?"
"Looking for the spot he took your hair from."
"I'll find it." She put the gargoyle in her lap and ran her fingers through her hair until she found the short section and swore. "He took a chunk from me! Do you know how long it takes to get my hair this long?"
"Sorry. I don't." Susan clumped the cut hair together. Another bejeweled gothic girl handed over a lit cigarette.
"Whoa. What are you doing?"
Suppressing a sigh, she asked. "Do you trust me?
"No. Actually, I don't. Just tell me what you're doing."
Aaron barked a sharp laugh. "She's learning."
Susan nodded. "Fair enough. I'm going sever the connection by burning the edges of your hair where the stolen hair is from then snip the burned edges off. Think of as cauterizing the wound."
She thought about it and could not deny what she had recently felt. "Ok. You can do it."
"Thanks." Susan began to carefully singe the ends of Karen's hair while Aaron snipped the burned ends off into a small bowl. When they were both done the bowl was put on the table. "Ok. Put this cone into the bowl and light it."
Karen did as she was asked, still holding the gargoyle, rubbing it like a worry stone. The cone lit up with a flash. "That wasn't incense!"
"No. It wasn't." Susan and Aaron grinned at each other.
"Do I want to know what it was?"
"I don't know. Do you?"
She thought about it for a few moments then shook her head. "No. Not yet. Not now. Soon. Now, I just want to get a few hours of rest before my shift starts."
"Ok. I'll take you back to your car. We can talk more at a later date." Karen started to hand the gargoyle back over. But, Susan shook her head. "Keep him. He's yours. He likes you. You were his first duty. He wants to go with you."
For some reason, this made her smile. She slid Sebastian into her pocket and nodded. "Ok."
The assassin bound up Praetor's hand. "It was definitely her. I marked her. I knew her as soon as I saw her again. That's why I took no chances."
"Apparently, you took one." He gestured at Todesengel's face. "A big one."
"How was I supposed to know she had control of a gargoyle? We know nothing of her. Now twice in as many weeks she's interfered with the Order's plans or tried to."
"We do have something."
"I have a ruined face and you have a burned hand."
"My hand will heal. So will your face. Though, it will take longer because of the supernatural claw marks, but it will heal. I'll see if I can find something in the books to make that go faster. But we were still victorious tonight. We retrieved the plates and we know one very important fact."
"She is somehow connected to the Master of the City."
Todesengel paused. "You got that from the scrying?"
The other man nodded. "It makes all this so much more interesting, doesn't it?"
They looked at each other and smiled, thinking the same thought.
Story by Jennifer Brozek, Copyright 2006
Photo by Rory Clark, Copyright 2006, Stopped Motion Photography