We stayed together. Even if Izzy and Jaclyn could have been there instantaneously, it was just safer.
The park was largely empty–not completely because there were stragglers and groups that were still talking. There were also a few police officers.
Vaughn sat on the grass, his face lit by his phone’s screen. As we came closer, he turned off his phone and stared at us.
“How did you do that? We were talking and now you’re all over–”
He stopped. “Something bad just happened. I wasn’t talking to you, was I?”
Jaclyn glanced around the park. “Daniel? Izzy?”
Daniel shook his head. “Give me a second. I’m trying something.”
Izzy closed her eyes, and said, “There’s too many people even now. I don’t see anyone we know, or anyone I’ve heard of.”
Next to me, Haley sniffed the air. “I smell something that doesn’t fit.”
Looking down at her, I asked, “How?”
“It doesn’t smell like Denver. It’s got the wrong soil, the wrong plants. I’ve never been wherever the smells are from, but it’s wetter there. It’s more like Michigan, but different plants.”
I didn’t say anything, thinking about that.
Haley continued, “I know it sounds weird, and it’s not very strong. I don’t think it’s here anymore…”
I pulled myself out of my thoughts. “It?”
“I don’t think it was human, but instead of it, I should be saying he.”
I raised an eyebrow.
Haley looked up at me and shrugged. “Look, I know the difference.”
I wondered if I should ask her how. Dogs and cats constantly seemed to be smelling each other’s butts. That might explain it for them—
Daniel shot me a look. I was probably distracting him. It was hardly my fault he could read minds. It might be our fault collectively that we so easily slipped into each other’s.
Vaughn pulled himself up and put away his phone. “I’m kind of surprised none of you are asking me what happened.”
Jaclyn shook her head. “Daniel’s got what? A ten minute window while he can… do what I think he’s doing. I didn’t want to distract him.”
“Me either,” I said, sensing amusement from him.
“Don’t worry about it,” Daniel said. “I got what I could—which wasn’t much.”
Then I felt everyone’s thoughts, not as strongly as I sometimes felt Daniel’s, but strongly enough.
Here’s Vaughn a few minutes before we arrived.
He sat alone on the ground, leaning his back against a tree. His smart phone was in his hand, and he was clicking on it, and holding it out to the side as if showing it to someone else. Sometimes he said a few words, but no one appeared.
I felt a flash of anger, and Vaughn thought, We were talking more about the Turkmenistan regime’s weaknesses, and how we might take them down, and then Amy said she didn’t have a copy of the documents, so I sent them to her.
Fear and anger erupted. Daniel must have done something then because it faded—the others’ fear faded, that is. Mine stayed with me, but at least it wasn’t being reinforced.
The email address. Do you have it? I asked.
I felt Vaughn thinking. Yeah. Well, I don’t remember it, but it’s got to be in my email, right?
Daniel let the vision of the past fade as Vaughn clicked away on his phone. Then Vaughn thought, Got it.
He opened the phone up to the “Sent” folder. It wasn’t there.
Vaughn stared at the phone. I know I sent it. Maybe I deleted it?
Don’t worry about it, I told everyone. I’m sure I can find the message and get the address. The League’s server keeps a record of the messages it sends even if you delete the message.
Huh, Jaclyn thought at me.
I thought back, I don’t read them. Anyway, it’s not something I can do instantly. We’re going to want to walk back to the van, and if I haven’t gotten into the server by the end of my walk someone else will have to drive back.
I felt a poke, but not a real, physical poke.
Daniel thought, I wasn’t quite done. I couldn’t find any people we recognized, but I did notice this.
Obscured by the shade of the trees, the streetlights didn’t fully illuminate the creature. Purplish, leathery skin covered a humanoid shape. Naked, it had pointed ears and sharp teeth.
A wave of annoyance hit me along with confusion as Cassie thought, What’s that supposed to be?
Izzy’s attention stayed on the creature. I could feel her noting every detail. A fairy?
Jaclyn’s thought came almost too quick to catch. An evil fairy.
You can’t know that, I thought back. Hypothetically, it could just be ugly.
Evil. Amy’s mental presence felt completely confident. I don’t know what kind it is, but I’ve seen pictures of them before.
Okay, I thought, so now fairies want to steal plans for taking over Turkmenistan? Why? What’s the motive?
Amy pulled something out of her purse. It sparkled in the streetlight—a pin. Easy. They don’t have a motive. The person who’s controlling them? That person’s got a motive. Everyone, gather in. Unless you want to fall prey to every illusion they throw, I need to cast a spell.