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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 84: Kondor 70
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"Tell me it wasn't you."
Kondor said this as he stood on the museum loading dock, where Krannitz the Stupefying was packing his magic show back into his truck. The magician looked suitably surprised.
"What?" he exclaimed.
"We kept working from what we knew. We knew that the Vorgo was in plain sight at the presentation, that everything was moved back to the exhibit, and that later that night Professor Merrick discovered it was missing. We knew that someone left the show early, and determined that that someone was Ralph Mitchell. We knew that the Vorgo couldn't really be sold, so whoever stole it didn't do it for the money."
Krannitz wasn't saying anything. Obviously he wasn't going to confess to a crime if there wasn't any evidence.
"But it's when I started thinking about what we didn't know that it started to come together. We had made a lot of assumptions. We didn't know when the Vorgo disappeared, but assumed that one of the museum maintenance crew took it back. They, in turn, each thought someone else moved it. It wasn't until Merrick returned to make sure things were right that its absence was noticed, because before that no one was paying attention."
"Very interesting. And what has this to do with me?"
"Misdirection, scientific illusion, sleight of hand–these are the tools of your trade. It was an easy matter, really. First, you had to get us to believe that the Vorgo had been moved back from the stage to the exhibit hall; then you had to get us to believe that it had been removed from the museum. Meanwhile, you casually walked it off stage and kept it right here until you could pack up your things and drive it away, while you pretended to be very concerned about it and kept helping us look in the wrong direction."
"And I did this because?"
"You believe in magic. You don't know any, but you're convinced that it exists. And, as you said, the Vorgo is said to be a very magical object, capable of giving life to the dead. Maybe you want to figure it out, use that magic yourself. Maybe you'll be happy just to know that there's some magic in the world, and you've got it. What you intended to do with it isn't that important. You took it because it's magic."
"So if I have it, where is it?"
"That's easy. You had to make it disappear from the stage, and you wouldn't want it to reappear before you had it away from here."
For the first time since Kondor had arrived, Krannitz looked worried. Kondor continued.
"It's in the hidden compartment in the table. I came out of it; the Vorgo went in. You wouldn't want anyone to see it accidentally, so it's still there now."
Krannitz stood there. A look of uncertainty came over his face.
"I didn't bring the police. I didn't tell Professor Merrick. But I'm not going to let you walk out of here with it. You'll find a place to put it where people will think it was just misplaced, and I'll forget we ever had this conversation."
"Or the world finds out that you planned and executed a robbery of your host, you probably go to jail, and you certainly lose your reputation."
Krannitz seemed to be thinking about this. It was a moment before he replied.
"No, I don't think so. You don't have any real evidence. I would sue you for slander, or libel, or whatever it is, and given your assets probably wouldn't have to work again for the rest of my life. And on top of that, I can probably convince them that you stole the Vorgo and attempted to frame me for it. No, you're not going to stop me. I don't think you would shoot me–you'd end up the criminal in that case."
Now it was Kondor's turn to pause. He didn't want that pause to be too long, so he started talking before he knew what he was going to say.
"Do you think I have to shoot you to stop you?" he said. "Have you any idea who I am, or what I can do? Did it ever occur to you to wonder," he began launching a half-formed idea, "why I look so much like that statue? Note that it isn't just my face. I wear similar clothes, carry the same sort of gear, and in much the same way. That's because I am Jo-suede Candor. I was summoned centuries ago by your ancestors to retrieve the Vorgo from their evil enemies, and I returned in your age to protect it. I have powers you could not imagine, and come from worlds unknown to you. If you would incur the wrath of a creature from another realm," and here he paused. He considered whether to raise his voice and express the anger he was beginning to feel. He chose against this. It would be more effective, he thought, if he kept it cool, cold even, perhaps with a bit of emotional chill. In a flat, almost dead, voice, he finished his thought. "Try walking out of here with that artifact."
The bluff was having the desired effect. Krannitz was off balance. After all, he believed in magic, he wanted to believe in magic. He stole the Vorgo because it was supposed to be magical. The tale Kondor spun had enough truth in it to ring true, and enough fantasy in it to suggest magic. Krannitz would have to consider it as at least possible. Kondor was tempted to try to prove his statement, but that, he realized, would only weaken it. Better to let the idea hang in the air working on the superstitions of his adversary.
It's too bad the blaster isn't working, he thought. A shot from an invisible kinetic pulse would be enough to tip the balance. On the other hand, he was trying to sell himself as a djinni, not an alien, so it was probably better that he not pull technology out of his bag of tricks. So he stood his ground, staring at his opponent, awaiting any flicker of suggestion of the next move. Perhaps he could tip the balance with words, if they were the right words.
"You know, when I captured the Vorgo and fought the armies of undead who came to reclaim it, I escaped them by vanishing into another dimension. If I did have to kill you, I could escape this world just as easily, and take your body with me. No one would ever look for me. They would be searching for you."
The tension remained for another moment, but it was clear that Kondor had won. Krannitz relaxed in resignation, and walked over to the wall phone by the loading dock. He punched in an appropriate series of numbers, and waited. "It's his voice mail," he said. Then after another moment, "Professor. This is Krannitz. You can stop searching. Somehow the Vorgo got mixed in to my gear and hidden in the storage room. I've got it; if you come down, we'll straighten it all out."
"Let me say something," Kondor added.
"I'm sorry," Krannitz answered. "That was the beep. We've been disconnected."
"Not a problem," Kondor said. "We'll wait for him to arrive."
That broke Krannitz' composure; the slight change on his face gave him away. Illusion and misdirection, Kondor remembered, were the tricks of the trade. That wasn't a phone call; it was a clever bit of improvisational acting. Krannitz was still planning to make a break for it. It was time to act, but to act reasonably and effectively.
He walked over to the same wall phone, and called the police.
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 #110: Character Redirects. 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: