“Well, this is a bust”, Vincent lamented quietly. He'd gone through 2 cups of tea while waiting for any sign of who might own the briefcase by his feet; and so far nobody had caught his eye. He whipped out the small, black-leather bound Moleskine notebook and re-read the passage. Concordia street, check. Small business Cafe, check. This was definitely the place the text referred to. The book claims they should have been here an hour ago but nothing had struck him as odd about any patrons of the cafe.
“Another one sir?”, the waitress called, seeing his empty mug.
“No thanks, I better be off”, replied Vincent picking up the case. He left a tip and headed off into the busy city street. The next entry in the journal was down the street at a convenience store. Vincent sat on a bench and looked inside the small store. He checked his watch. He was still a few minutes early for this entry. There's no chance he'd be able to miss them now! His phone buzzed; another text from his boss. This one was not angry like the past few. This one was calmly telling him not to bother coming in anymore. Vincent grimaced and shoved the phone back in his pocket. This was more important... it had to be... Mysterious cases full of money and prophetic journals from the future don't just appear on your doorstep for nothing... Unless this was all a joke.
He checked his watch again, it was time. Why was nothing happening? He flipped the page of the notebook and checked again. This was the last entry he could follow. Every subsequent entry made no mention of any specific place or any concrete time. If he didn't find her here then she'd be kidnapped and shoved into the back of a van just like the book said she was going to be. The minute passed and nobody was taken. No strange men wrangling a girl into a truck. The only crime that he'd seen was the shop owner taking advantage of naïve tourists, selling them cheap souvenirs.
Vincent stood and began walking back to his car. He might have lost his job but at least he could now be sure that the book was fiction. It couldn't possibly be true since. Besides the locations existing, nothing in the book had come true. He climbed in his car and rubbed his temples. At least the $20,000 that sat beside him would help him find a new job. He started the car and as he looked onto the street to merge, a van zoomed by. Vincent recoiled at the dangerous driving and something clicked in his head. From his parking space, the bridge above looked familiar. One of the journal entries mentioned seeing something similar out the window. Could that van...?
There was no time to question it. If he wanted to investigate the van he needed to move. Vincent slammed the car into gear and roared out of his space. Evidently that was completely unnecessary. As directly around the next corner, Vincent spotted the van. It had scraped along a bin on the corner and scratched the side of the van. A man beside it was shouting at the driver and inspecting the van. Vincent stomped the brake and thankfully the man was too angry to notice. Vincent caught the word “slow” being shouted as the man climbed back into the van. It set off again, this time at a more leisurely pace. At the next set of lights Vincent fumbled the book open and attempted to read. The current entry did mention a noise that could have been a car scraping on something. Vincent had never been so full of both confidence and anxiety as he was now.
Vincent was no private investigator and in his attempts to follow the van discretely, he almost lost it a couple times. Thankfully he was able to piece together the vague clues from the book and eventually spotted it turning into the back driveway of a dodgy auto-shop. He parked across the road and hurriedly started reading. He hadn't read this far ahead before. It recounted her being pulled from the van, it told of her discussion with the... orcs? What? They wanted a potion? “Oh this is absolute garbage...” Vincent thought. But still, the final passage caught his eye.
“The Orcs messed up. They left my bonds too loose and let me disappear. But, I can't escape the place. This is the best idea I had. If you're reading this, I will need some help. The barrier is a class 4 so make sure you bring some silver or even some old elm might do the trick. It's not a well built spell. I'll be waiting”
This didn't sound like a 'normal' cry for help. They sounded annoyed, not frightened or scared. Still, he had to do something. He didn't have any elm or silver... who would? He didn't like his chances. Vincent meandered his way up the driveway. There was nobody waiting for him. He crossed the yard and approached a nearby door. Vincent glanced around him and jiggled the knob. It turned. He briefly wondered if breaking and entering still applied when the door was unlocked. Shrugging, he pulled the door open. Inside was... an auto-shop. Deserted but with nothing out of place. Vincent set off exploring. The shop was quiet but there was a murmur coming from a side passage. Along the hallway there was an unusually clean doorway. Vincent approached. The sound grew louder... much louder. Something on the other side was approaching too. Vincent hesitated.
Out of the door bursts a young woman carrying the very same briefcase he had in his hand. She hits the opposite wall hard, slams the door behind her and sprints down the hallway without looking forward. She is already at top speed by the time she takes her eyes off the door and notices Vincent standing in her way. The two share a look of confusion before they collide into one another. They fall into the open, the identical cases and notebooks slide together across the smooth floor.
“Why are you so late??” the woman asks.
“Late for what?” Vincent replies
“Everyone else got here minutes ago or not at all”, She answers, picking herself up and patting off the dust of the auto-shop before adding, “Alright, what have you got?”
“Uhh”, Vincent stammers, “You mean the silver? Or... oak?”
“Elm. But yes”, she corrects him with a growing anxiety. She glances back down the hallway, “Hurry up!”
“I... I don't have any Elm! That doesn't even grow here!” Vincent returns
“Well you must have...”, she stops as she notices Vincent's watch, “That, that'll work”. She grabs a hold of Vincent's arm and begins fumbling at the clasp
“Hey! What! Get off!” Vincent cries fending off the minx of a woman. Their scuffle is interrupted by loud voices echoing down the hallway.
“We don't have time for this!”, she shouts. Vincent relents and unclasps the watch. The woman snatches it and slides it over her wrist. At the same time the door once again opens violently and two men pour through. Vincent recognises one of them from the van. The woman mutters under her breath, a gust picks up throughout the shop, the men start charging them both. Vincent swore he could faintly see ethereal wings manifest on the woman's back. Her mutterings come to a cresendo and she thrusts the bewatched hand towards the men. Irrespective of their momentum, both men instantly freeze in place.
“Phew, thanks for that”, the woman tossed the watch back to Vincent. She moved forward to inspect the men. Vincent blinked hard and re-examined the men. They didn't look like normal men anymore. To put it bluntly, they looked like orcs. Vincent's surprise caught the attention of the woman. “You can't normally see our magic forms in this realm but they show up in the presence of strong magic. See?” She leaned in close to the frozen men and gestured to her ears. In the blink of an eye they were pointed. “Pixie, not elf if you must know”, she answered preemptively, her ears returning to human form as she approached Vincent again
“You are a pixie?” Vincent asked
“Yes. And these are orcs. And magic is real. I'm sorry to have exposed this all to you so suddenly. The name's Delana”, Delana clarifies.
“You're the one that wrote the journal?” Vincent pointed at the discarded items.
“Technically it was my enchantment that did that but, yes”. She moved over to the cases and picked up a book and case, “Oh, toss me your watch again”
“Is this some kind of magic wand?” Vincent said supplying the silver plated watch.
“It's a magical conduit, yes”. Delana answered with a sigh. Her mutterings resumed and in a flash the book and case disappeared. “Wands aren't the only conduits available”, she scoffed. She picked up the other case and held it out to Vincent.
“Is this for me?” Vincent asked
“Yeah. It was theirs”, she tilted her head towards her frozen captors, “It was supposed to be my payment anyway. And now it's your reward”
Vincent wasn't sure what to say. There was so many questions to ask. They stood awkwardly for a moment.
“Well, I had better be going. You should too, that spell won't hold forever”, Delana broke the silence.
“Wait I've got so much to ask! Can we go somewhere and so we can talk? Maybe we can get a drink?” Vincent stammered. He reached down and picked up the small black notebook. “I even know your favourite cafe”
“Alright, alright. We can get a drink together”, Delana agreed. She snatched the book out of Vincents hands, “But no more reading my diary!”