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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 78: Kondor 68
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Mr. Radison apologized unnecessarily for keeping him waiting, but Kondor had taken less time than he had anticipated to get his things and told him not to worry. At the hotel he brought his accounts up to date and insisted on paying something more in advance, in case he got called out of town abruptly, he said. He also arranged to have them pick up his order at the surplus store. Then he phoned Professor Merrick from the desk. The tape answered.
"Professor! I'm back at my hotel. I'm waiting for some things I bought to get here, but it shouldn't take long enough for me to get my other things together. Can I meet you somewhere? Call me at the hotel; I'm going to get some lunch, so tell them I might be in the dining room."
That last was rather an afterthought. Kondor hadn't realized he was getting hungry again, and if he had a bit of time free it would be best to eat now and not have to do so again so soon. Hanging up the phone, he told the clerk he was expecting a call and should be found, possibly eating, and walked into the dining room.
There was a lunch buffet which was about to close; he picked at it somewhat uncertainly. After all, he didn't want to be hungry, but he didn't want to be full, either, and it was very tempting to overeat here. On the other hand, paying his bill had reminded him how much everything cost, and although he was now a very wealthy man he had not always been so and still worried about such things.
He was back in his room with no call from the professor, and beginning to wonder what was happening, when the desk called. He had a visitor. "Send him up," he said.
He answered the knock, expecting the professor; but it was Krannitz.
"Oh! I thought you were Merrick."
"Have you heard from him?" the magician asked.
"Well, yes and no. The police found Mitchell and questioned him, but found nothing suspicious. The professor and I are going to try to follow up on that; I'm waiting for him to call me."
Barely had he closed the door when there was another knock. This time it was the bellboy with Kondor's packages. He thanked him and tipped him, and then checked through everything to assure that it was all working.
"Hmmm. Batteries included. That's a nice feature of this world."
"Pardon me?" Krannitz asked.
It was not something he wished to explain. "Nothing. Musing to myself," he said, and skimmed through the manuals quickly, and adjusted the surveillance equipment to fit. He included the sniffer just to see how it worked. "Anyway, I thought we'd follow this guy around a bit. If we've guessed right about him, he should be planning to do something with the Vorgo very soon, probably tonight."
"Need an extra man?"
"You're welcome to come along as far as I'm concerned, but from what I've heard stakeouts are very boring."
"Thanks. I'd like to be there. After all, the Vorgo is one of the mythic objects which are supposed to have real magic; it's the sort of thing I dream of, and I'd hate to have it vanish."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Kondor said. "Even when you know it's all superstitious nonsense, it's very compelling to think about the possibility of real magic. But until I hear from the professor, we're not going anywhere, so you might as well make yourself comfortable."
And as Krannitz found a comfortable place in the sitting room, Kondor realized he should take his own advice. He had his weapons ready, and a few other things he might want. He set the surveillance gear with them, and took a moment to put on the protective vest under the camo.
"Expecting trouble?" his guest asked.
"Oh, no, not really. I saw this and realized it was something for which I could have wished more than once, so I bought it. I'm really just looking for an opportunity to try it, see whether it's terribly uncomfortable or something."
"You must live an interesting life if a bullet proof vest would have been useful more than once, and you're still alive."
He reflected on these words a moment. "Yes, I suppose I do; it's almost like I've lived several lives over the years, and each has been interesting in its own way. But," he thought he should change the subject before he said something he couldn't explain, "your life must be fascinating as well."
"Not especially. I get to travel, but mostly it's to the same places–the casinos in Tremont, the clubs in New Villa, the retirement homes down around Frankton. And of course to everyone else what I do is mystifying and magical, but to me it's all familiar, and hard work to do it. I try to remember what it's like to see a magician and see it all as magical, instead of knowing how everything is done and being able to explain all the mystery out of life."
"I would have thought that one of the advantages. It's tempting to believe in magic, especially when you see something that you can't explain. I remember," and he caught himself, realizing he was about to tell his own story of taking the Vorgo from the tomb. "I remember when you had those assistants of yours sit up, I thought how that must have frightened Jo-suede Candor, because he couldn't understand what was happening. It frightened me when it was just a stage act, and I knew both that there was no real magic and that you were skilled in scientific illusion."
"Do you really think that?"
"That there's no such thing as real magic? I mean, I don't know any, but it's in so many of the old stories, one gets to thinking that it must have been real at least once."
Krannitz was a bit superstitious, apparently. "I've seen many things," Kondor said, "things you might not believe, things I might not have believed had I not seen them." He remembered Sowan the wizard flying, Lauren calling light in darkness, Slade seeming to calm the wind, himself fighting specters whose bodies were almost completely gaseous, held together by some invisible force. Then he continued. "But I have seen nothing that would make me believe there is anything magical or supernatural. I knew that all those things had perfectly natural scientific explanations for them, even if I didn't know what they were at that moment."
Krannitz sighed. "I guess you're right. I've always wished there was something more, something real. I think that part of the reason I became a magician was so that I might know it when I saw it, or someone might tell me about it–as if magicians had some secret that there was real magic in the world and they didn't want anyone else to know it. But this Vorgo is the closest I've ever gotten to something that was supposed to have unexplained powers."
"Just because something is unexplained," Kondor said, "doesn't mean it's magic."
The two sat in silence for several minutes. When the phone rang, it startled Kondor.
"Hello?" he said into the receiver.
"Joe?" It was Merrick. "I'm sorry to take so long. Alumni wanted to know why I wanted this guy’s address, and when I told them they were even more reluctant to give it to me—but I managed to persuade them after I talked to the dean about it."
"Good," he replied. "I've got Krannitz here; where can we meet you?"
"I'll come by the hotel and pick you up," he said. "It's on my way, and there's no sense having two cars sitting across the street from his house."
"That's good thinking. We'll be in the lobby in a few minutes." And with that, he hung up.
"I guess you heard enough," he said to Krannitz. "Merrick's coming to take us to find Mitchell. We're meeting him downstairs." Gathering his gear, he followed the magician into the hall.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #104: Novel Learning. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: