The Wanderer fingered the tape and with a smirk disappeared only to reappear on the other side of the gates on the driveway. "Technically, crossing would mean breaking the plane created by the tape," the Wanderer thought to justify his actions, "Perhaps I will take that up with my lawyer."
Once inside, the Wanderer took off across the grounds toward the West side of the estate.
A quick circuit of the estate showed little in the way of exterior security. There also did not seem to be any sign that the police, or anyone, had actually crossed the line and entered the grounds.
The Wanderer made his way up to the back of the estate, looking for an area of entry or any other signs of well travelled paths.
A tidy, if unremarkable, garden greeted the Wanderer as he rounded the estate. A patio looked out over the garden, half of which was open to the elements and half of which was enclosed with glass.
The Wanderer walked up to the patio and peered inside the glass enclosure looking for any signs of security systems or life.
Everything inside was quiet and dark. The Wanderer saw none of the electronic security devices which have become so standard in upper class homes. A faint twinge of worry shot through him.
"Not even a 'This property protected by Demons' sign'," thought The Wanderer to himself as he blinked from view to materialize inside the closed door to investigate the Damon estate.
The greenhouse patio did not display any occult properties as he arrived; no orchid demons appeared, nor did a foul smell of brimstone reach his nostrils. Instead a faint smell of African violets drifted in the suddenly disturbed air.
"A green thumb and a black heart," observed the Wanderer as he proceeded into the estate itself. "Now, where would a study be in this house?" wondered the intruder as he carefully wandered (HA!) about.
The ground floor consisted mostly of rooms for public use; dining rooms, sitting rooms and the like. There was a study, but it had the look of one left open for show. The Wanderer moved upstairs and scanned a number of rooms before finding the master bedroom, and a promising looking locked door. On either side of the door stood pedestals, on which were perched sinister looking gargoyles.
"Well now, finally something out of Better Crypts and Horrors," mused the Wanderer as he eyed the pedestal guardians. In mock debate The Wanderer reconciled "You don't suppose...NAH! that only happens in movies," before approaching the locked door for a closer examination.
With an air of arrogance and challenge to the seemingly impossible the Wanderer grabbed the door handle as he eyed the pedestals.
As he halfway expected, the eyes of the statues popped open and an unhealthy yellow light gleamed from the sockets. With a creak, the wings half spread, and a scratching sound came from the pedestals as claws left gouges in them.
"That wasn't too bright," said the Wanderer in a moment of self criticism. With a wild swing he unleashed a right hand toward the creature spreading its wings.
The Wanderer's swing missed, and from either side claws raked in at him, leaving a long but shallow cut along his ribs.
The Wanderer grabbed one of the pedestals and swung it towards one of the gargoyles, connecting with a solid thump and shattering the creature into bits of rubble which showered down to the floor. He reversed direction and swung at the remaining monster and it exploded into a mist of dust and rubble. He neatly replaced the pedestal from where he had lifted it.
"Now what?" wondered the Wanderer as he turned his attention back to the door. "Let's try to keep damage to a minimum," he thought while examining the door carefully trying to determine its thickness.
With a sharp, worried breath the Wanderer winced as he disappeared from "outside" the door...to "inside, and let out a sigh of relief as he didn't materialize inside of an object -- a particularly messy form of suicide.
The Wanderer looked around with satisfaction, this was more like it! The room was of medium size, perhaps 20 feet on each side, but seemed smaller because of the deep shelves that covered three walls. The fourth wall was taken up with a large window looking out over the grounds; heavy curtains were half-pulled across the window. Beneath the window, a heavy desk crouched. Incongruously, a sleek black desktop computer perched on it at one end. The rest of the desk was covered with scattered papers. A comfortable chair was placed near a reading table and lamp in one corner, and on that table was large, old, tome, neatly closed and marked. The shelves were filled with books all sorts of oddments; a small stack of 1 oz. silver bars, an ornate knife, the flayed carcass of a frog in a ziplock freezer bag, a pile of unread mail, an incense burner and incense, and other things, some recognizable and some not.
Satisfying his curiosity, the Wanderer crossed the room to the reading table to look at the ancient volume.
The volume had no title visible on the front or the spine.
The Wanderer cautiously approached the desk to look upon the scattered papers. A variety of notes lay on the desk. Some were typical of any rich idler; lunch dates, plans to go riding or play golf and so on. One note was a list of jewelry stores, with a check mark by the ones at the top, as though someone was working through a list.
Next to that note was a pile of further notes; photocopies of newspaper articles, with sections highlighted, note cards referring to book titles and pages, and so on. The references all concerned gems and jewelry, and knowing what the Wanderer knew, it was easy to trace Damon's search for a very specific gem.
The Wanderer skimmed the entries looking for the night of the CommerceDome altercation. Was there an address book or notation that could give the identity or location of the Black Druid? any indication of who did what jobs, where he recruited Volt and the Druid? even a mark of sorts could piece together the extent of this Black Arts network.
Although the notes were copious, they were also cryptic. There were no dates marked down by the jewelry stores, but a quick sift through some old newspapers showed that all the checked off stores had been robbed, and all the robberies had the same MO.
Damon's address book contained a great many names. Some of them were familiar to the Wanderer as members of Port Alexander's high society crowd. Other names meant nothing to him.
With a flick of the switch, a gloved hand turned on the laptop as eager eyes watched it boot up.
The computer was a virtual duplicate of the desktop; calendar notes and the like existed side by side with notes concerning a hunt for a jewel.
Carefully, the Wanderer checked the desk. Perhaps the castaway gems were somewhere within this office. Or perhaps with each disappointing heist Ricard Damon grew more and more irate and gave the spoils to Volt as payment for service.
Going through the drawers proved mostly fruitless. The bottom right hand drawer, however, was locked.
The Wanderer quickly scanned the room for any statues before looking for something to jimmy the lock. Granted, he could probably easily rip through the desk but there was something to be said for not leaving any obvious signs of entry. The Wanderer had a eureka moment and grabbed the ornate dagger to use for a makeshift lever hoping that the lock was typical of office security.
The drawer resisted for a moment then popped open. Inside rested a bundle of black velvet. The Wanderer opened it and smiled gently; here was the booty from the robberies, some of it at least. On the black cloth glittered a selection of large gems. Having seen the Jewel of All-Devouring, the Wanderer was able to guess that these were the gems that had met the general specifications of the Jewel but which had failed some arcane test. All were of similar size and quality, although they varied in cut, colour and setting.
"Yay!," thought the Wanderer as he refolded the velvet about the gems and secured the bundle within his trenchcoat. Glancing up to the desk and finding pen and paper the Wanderer penned the following:
"Roses are red, Darkspell is blue. I was here and the stolen gems were too! Cheers, the Wanderer"
The Wanderer dropped note into the drawer and closed it tidily, fumbling to see if he could trip the lock. Standing up, the Wanderer entered into Damon's online calendar the event of the evening: "Wanderer dropped by" then turned the laptop off and replaced the dagger where he found it.
Fueled by a 'rub-it-in' spirit and, more importantly, to prevent any more dastardly deeds, the Wanderer satisfied his larcenous heart by grabbing the leather bound tome under his arm and casually walked to the grand window.
With a crackle the Wanderer appeared on the outside landing gently on the lawn. The Wanderer made his way across the grounds and began the drive back home. Shifting the auto into park, the Wanderer jogged off to the boathouse and fired up the engine to the speedboat, Destination: Waterfront.
A vacant spot on the pier was vacant no more as the Wanderer appeared. The man in black walked along the business-lined streets in this older section of town. Up ahead was his destination, the address on the card given him by The Mystic.
The address was that of a private residence; a tiny three story stone building, probably dating to the early 1900s when a building boom took place along the waterfront areas to take advantage of the shipping that was coming in. One one side, and sharing a wall was an apartment building which towered above it. Behind was an alley. On the other side was a building of about the same size, which had a bookstore on the bottom floor and apartments above. There was a detached garage accessible from the alley.
A small yard or lawn, about eight feet deep, was in front of the house, with a an iron rail fence at the sidewalk. The Wanderer passed through the gate and up the steps to the door. A small brass nameplate set into the wall caught his eye. It read
A moment later, the door rattled under the rapping of The Wanderer's gloved knuckles. After a moment, noises could be heard within. Another few moments passed, and then the door opened to reveal a lean and youngish Asian man, dressed in a loose nightgown of Oriental design. He regarded the Wanderer for a moment, then said, "Good evening, sir, may I help you?"
"I do hope so," said the Wanderer as he fished for the card. "A friend recommended this establishment, " producing the card as evidence. "I have something that may interest the proprietor," drumming his fingers across the book under his arm.
"I am Shar-Chi," said the man, examining the card. "Will you come in?" He opened the door, and made room for the Wanderer to enter. The entryway had dark wooden wainscoting, which matched the railings and risers of the narrow staircase which led up. At the end of the hallway a kitchen was visible. Accordion doors led to a sitting room, again furnished in dark wood, but with somewhat more baroque additions; small strange sculptures filled the shelves placed next to books old and new, crossed swords of obvious antiquity hung on one wall above a sideboard with glasses and bottles.
Shar-Chi offered his guest his choice of leather chairs, "May I take your, ah, coat?" he asked.
"That is quite alright, I am fine," said the Wanderer as he graciously sat down. "I apologize for the late hour and my appearance, I can assure you that I am not trying to be Mystic in any way. I am the Wanderer, and have acquired an artifact that is best kept by someone who can properly attend to it."
"Of course," said Shar-chi. "The Master is occupied at the moment, and cannot be disturbed. I shall inform him of your presence at the earliest possible moment. You are, I believe, The Wanderer? Please help yourself to a drink," he indicated the bar. "Or would you prefer tea or coffee? A light snack, perhaps?"
"Yes, that would be delightful. Do you have any Oolong or Darjeeling tea? It isn't the taste, but just the way they sound that satisfies," replied the Wanderer as he stood to survey the trappings of this curious room.
"Yes, I have both. Perhaps you'd care to try Lapsang Souchong?" asked Shar-Chi with a smile, as he rolled the syllables sonorously. "It may be some hours, so please make yourself comfortable, and do not hesitate to ring if you need anything." Shar-Chi showed The Wanderer a bell-pull and quietly departed to make the tea.
The room contained an eclectic and eccentric collection of items. The Wanderer browsed the books and found a complete set of the "Sharpe's Rifles" series, while a bit further on was a moderately advanced book on airfoil design and stack of "The Journal of Aerospace Engineering." In a glassed covered bookshelf he saw what seemed to be a very early edition of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and a number of books with titles in languages he did not recognize. The statues in the room had only their relatively small size in common, differing in style, age, subject matter, materials and origin. An African fertility idol rested near a small bronze horse, while a blown glass hummingbird hovered above what appeared to be a voodoo doll. Other objects, some with completely inscrutable purposes, cluttered the shelves.
"The tea, sir," came the voice of Shar-Chi. "I have brought lemon, milk and sugar, as well as a few biscuits and a bit of cheese." He placed the tray on the table and began to withdraw.
Choosing a book at random, the Wanderer settled down in the leather chair and began to read about World War I aviators.
* * * *
Several hours later, deep in a chapter about Rene Fonck, the door opened and The Mystic entered. He was not wearing the fighting garb The Wanderer had last seen him in, but was instead wearing slacks, a collarless shirt and kimono-style housecoat. "I apologize for keeping you waiting, Wanderer, I was in the middle of something which couldn't be disturbed." He reached out to touch the teapot, "Cold. Shar-Chi!" he called. "This looks most inviting, though," he took a slice of cheese and a biscuit. "Ah, Shar-Chi, could I trouble you for some fresh tea?" he asked when Shar-Chi arrived. Shar-Chi bowed and departed again.
"I am pleased to see you, I hope nothing is amiss?" The Mystic settled into a chair.
"Nothing is amiss, however something is a-missing," quipped the man while pulling out the leather volume which had been been tucked away beside him in the chair. "I am not sure what it is, but judging from where I got it and who it belongs to I felt it safer under your watchful eye."
"Do tell," said the Mystic extending a hand.
"This," handing over the book," used to reside beside the easy chair of a charming gent we both know -- Mr. Darkspell. I am not sure what it contains but it looked sinister enough to tell me that it probably wasn't bedtime stories."
The Mystic took the book carefully, and then opened the cover. "The language is Atlantean, and the title is History of the Kings of Alan-Tor. Darkspell was obviously doing his homework. This may prove useful as I attempt to render the Jewel less of a threat. Thank you."
"Don't mention it, some people fish -- my hobby is preventing total domination by the forces of evil," said the Wanderer while rising. "Now, I hate to run but I have some leftovers to deliver. It was good to see you again,"
"A moment," said the Mystic. "Did you take this from Darkspell's home? I find it hard to believe he left his dwelling unprotected."
"Well, if you count scary looking stone statues on pedestals that come to life with sharp claws as protection, yes I ran into them" added the Wanderer with appropriate gestures of wings and claws.
"Ah, yes. Clearly he did not reckon on defending against one of your gifts. But I keep you from your duties. Thank you for the book." The Mystic rose to see the Wanderer out.
Escorted out by The Mystic, The Wanderer offered his assistance and issued a caution. "Darkspell will not take kindly to the thwarting of his plans, be careful my friend."
"And you, too, should take care. I hope that your friends at IPAC will be able to restrain Darkspell, but he has friends too."
On the porch, The Wanderer bowed his head in a sign of respect and disappeared into the night.
Keeping a watchful eye for trouble, the Wanderer popped around the dock area until he saw what he was looking for. There on the corner under a dimmed streetlight was a payphone, the Wanderer fished for change and dialed up Det. McNally.
Three rings later, "McNally here, what's up," came a voice over the line.
"McNally, this is the Wanderer. I have a little something for you," informed the Wanderer, "something which I don't feel comfortable giving to anyone else."
"About our pointy little friend?" McNally asked.
"Nah, I've got some of the hot ice that's been missing," relayed the Wanderer with a hard-boiled detective's timbre.
"I see. Allright, where?" said McNally.
"The same coffeeshop as last time, in an hour?" the Wanderer replied curtly.
"Make it an hour and a quarter, I've got some paperwork to finish first."
"Will do, I'm sure I can find something to amuse myself in the meantime," quipped the Wanderer before hanging up the receiver.
An hour and a quarter later, the Wanderer "popped" by and checked out the diner. McNally was seated in a booth with a cup of coffee and a paper.
The tinkle of the bell mounted on the door ushered in the black clad Wanderer, who sharply tugged on his hat brim in the direction of the waitress. "Java and dry toast, sweetheart," he mumbled with a Bogart flair before sliding into the booth across from McNally. The Wanderer reached deep within his overcoat and pulled out the black velvet wrapped parcel. Before presenting it to McNally, the Wanderer waited as the waitress deposited the toast and coffee, missing the wink offered behind the oversized goggles obscuring the strange alien's face.
Alone, the Wanderer placed the bundle on the mauve table top and slid it over to McNally. "Consider yourself the Port Alexander Lost and Found."
McNally just looked at it for a long moment, "Do I want to know what this is and where you got it?"
"I'm sure you *want* to know, should you? is the question," the Wanderer shifted his weight and leaned forward. "Contained herein are some of the missing jewels taken from the recent string of heists. And if you really want to know where I found them, then I'll be sure to oblige. Trust me, no investigation was impeded there was no way these heists were going to be pinned on him."
"Well, I'll take 'em and see they get back where they belong, but I don't think it'll work very well as evidence," McNally picked up the bundle and slipped into his pocket. "Anything else?"
"That's all I have, do you have any more info about our mutual friend? things have been quiet lately," inquired the Wanderer.
"Yes, they have." McNally sipped his coffee. "He's scared a lot of crime off the streets, I think. Which aint such a bad thing. But he did it by killing off some of them, which aint such a good thing."
"Granted, I'm grasping at straws here. But what do you know about the Undercover Street Unit? sounds to me like they have a mutual goal with very different methods. Anything there? any hot shots?," the Wanderer caused the normally cool McNally to double take as he nearly emptied a ketchup bottle onto his dry toast and then began to slather jelly and dairy creamer onto the concoction.
"Ah ... could be, but I doubt it. Those boys would probably just take the credit up front. It's a thought, though." McNally looked at the 'meal', "Is the kind of glop they eat on your home planet?"
"This?," indicating the smorgasbord, "I wish! no, this is my own creation. Would you like some?"
"Thanks but no," McNally went back to his coffee.
"I see," wiping ketchup from his mouth. "A force that size could easily contain a rouge who enjoys sticking it to the bad guys a little too much." Taking a swig of coffee, the Wanderer devoured the remaining food and stands. "I'll keep you posted what I find, or hear," said the Wanderer pulling a card from his pocket tossing it on the table. "If you need me, call."
The Wanderer pawed at his trouser pocket and peeled off a twenty which he handed to the waitress on the way out. "Keep the change, sweetheart."