The next day Wheeler Pharmacy was hit by a dragon. An actual, fire-breathing, flying dragon. In broad daylight. During lunch hour.
Sanchez and two other members of CIS got to the scene within ten minutes, but it was too late. The front windows were blown in and most of the store was trashed. CIS found itself engaged in damage control and spin. By the evening news, the attack was explained away as members of the Animal Independence League dropping in using green parachutes and attacking the drugstore in retaliation for testing drugs on “our fellow beings.” It was an incredibly implausible explanation, but newsmen faced with that or an honest to goodness dragon chose to go with the terrorist parachutist explanation.
On Tuesday I worked an evening shift and this time it was Sanchez waiting for me when I came into the office.
“Ducky, what the hell did you do to piss off a dragon?”
“Me? Are you trying to blame me for that thing on the Southside?”
“If the shoe fits. Found a note. Points to your involvement”
“Me? I’ve never even run into a dragon before. And you people banished me to the Northside. I haven’t been to Wheeler’s Pharmacy since the day you took me there and made my life oh so interesting.”
Sanchez was about to snap something back when the Captain’s voice came ringing out of his office. “You two. In my office. Now!”
A minute later we were both standing in front of the Captain’s desk with him glaring at us.
“You two are my best shot at making this squad work and I won’t have any more stupidity like that. You don’t have to like each other or even work together all that often, but I won’t have the two most powerful members of my squad acting like spoiled children. You get me?”
I said a “Yes Sir” and Sanchez nodded sullenly. The Captain nodded back at us and went on.
“The attack today was by a wyrm, not a dragon. The damage was far too light for a dragon and you know it Sergeant Sanchez.”
“No Sir,” Sanchez disagreed, “I don’t know anything of the sort. The magic involved was too powerful for a wyrm. Nobody got a picture. Not a single one. Most never even thought about it and those few with strong enough wills to think of it missed or got pictures so bad you can’t make out anything.”
“It was a typical baseline reaction mixed with magical incentive and distortion. You know what happens to most mundanes and their equipment when faced with a supernatural. On top of all that, that was not the kind of damage a dragon does. The windows were blown in and the place was trashed. And most of that wouldn’t have happened without the fight. A dragon would have trashed everything in a two block area - if he was trying to be subtle. This was a wyrm.”
This was obviously an ongoing argument that wasn’t going to resolve itself any time soon. Sanchez started to speak again, but I cut across her.
“Captain, what are y’all talking about? She tells me there’s a note and now you’re saying there was some sort of fight. I thought it was just some sort of random attack. What happened?”
The Captain looked at me and then his face did something between a sigh and a grimace. “The story for the mundanes is the terrorist attack. The story for the supernaturals is a smash and grab. Wyrms and dragons keep young women. In the past they used chains to keep them from leaving; in modern times they use addictive drugs. The supernaturals will believe he went in to steal oxycodone or hydrocodone or something similar.”
Sanchez’s voice cut in. “Reality is that it was a smash and grab. Only he went in to grab Maggie. She ogred out and fought back. Only, a dragon is several orders of magnitude stronger than an ogre. She went down fast.”
“A wyrm is stronger than an ogre too . . .” The Captain started to take the bait back into the argument, but I held up my hands in a halting motion.
“Hold on. What about this note?”
It was Sanchez who answered. “Ducky, I don’t know how you did it, but you made big time enemies. I found a note on the dining counter addressed to you. It’s magicked so I can’t open it.” She pulled an envelope in a plastic evidence bag from somewhere in her dress and held it out toward the Captain. “Not sure you should open it. All sorts of magical nastiness could be attached.”
The Captain reached over his desk and took the envelope, then immediately handed it toward me. “There’s not going to be a problem like that. It would be considered bad form to do something like booby-trapping the ransom letter.”
“Just like it would be bad form to attack a building in broad daylight, during lunch hour, when at least a seventy mundane witnesses could see you.” Sanchez snatched the letter back. “These people aren’t playing by the rules. We need to call in the sorcerer.”
“It’s after six and you know Professor Gryden is already half way through his first bottle of wine. This is an abduction situation and we need to know what’s in that letter now. Give him the envelope Sergeant.”
Sergeant Sanchez handed me the plastic bag and I ripped the top of it open and took the envelope out. I examined it for a second and grabbed it at one edge to rip it open in turn.
The Captain’s yell almost made me drop the envelope. “Let’s not open that in an enclosed space.”
With that vote of confidence, the Captain and Sanchez walked me out of the building to the top of the parking garage next to the station. They stayed next to the stairwell while I walked to the other side. I grabbed the end facing away from me and ripped it open.
And nothing happened.
A little disappointed, I pulled a slip of paper out of the envelope. The words looked like they came from an old fashioned typewriter.
I HAVE YOUR WOMAN.
COME TO THE MARKET SATURDAY.
TELL NO ONE.
TAUG OF SVAROG
Come alone? Tell no one? Screw that.
I walked back toward the Captain and Sanchez and handed over the note. Sanchez looked smug. She pointed to the name.
“See, I told you it was a dragon.”
“Taug? You really want to count Taug as a dragon? You know he’s banished from the Halls.”
“I don’t care.” She had a smirk on her face. “They can banish him all day long and twice on Tuesday. He’s still a dragon.”
I had no idea what they were talking about and I didn’t really care. “What are we going to do about this?”
It was Sanchez who answered. “Well, Ducky, we’re going to round up all our friends and go to the market.”