Friday, October 2, 2015

Practical Magic: Teamwork (Practical Magic #19)

Deidre was sitting at her desk reviewing her notes from Charles’ latest extraction when her father called her into his office.

“Captain Taylor just contacted us and would like you to gather a team and join him on a,” Commander Keeper paused and checked his notes, “welfare check.”

“What’s that?”

“It seems there is some concern about a family of Others. Two members of their social services department went to look in on them and reported something odd. They didn’t say what it was, Captain Taylor said they kept saying no one would believe them if they did, but it seems they aren’t prepared to handle this one on their own.”

“All right, I’ll take a few of our people and meet him at his precinct. I’d like to take a couple of Spell-Casters along. If it is something we need to deal with it would be best if we took a couple with us first visit.”

“Check to see who is on duty and let me know who all is going with you. And be careful, he didn’t know what it was just that the two social workers were spooked and not sure they really believed what they saw either.”

“Of course. I’ll check in later.”

Deidre gathered her company together and met with Captain Taylor.

“This is what we know. There was a request for a welfare check on The Jameson family. This is a family of four, father 29, mother 28, two girls ages 5 and 8. They live a little off the beaten path and their older daughter had stopped going to school. Calls to the house have gone unanswered. No notice to the school as to why she isn’t attending anymore. So social services stepped in to see if they were all fine. A two member team drove out this morning and then turned around and came right back here. Neither one will say exactly what it was that they think they saw, but they say it was more in line with you,” gesturing at Deidre and her team, “than us. So I called to request a team to accompany us on a quick check of the area. The two social workers did not get close enough to the house to say if the family was there or not so we are walking in to a complete unknown situation. Before you ask, I’ve already requested that you be allowed to view their memory of the incident and neither one has given permission. So all we are working on is the bare minimum here.”

“So even though they understand that any information we could get from them would be helpful to us as we prepare to face something that they were too scared to handle they said no?”

“Yes, Captain Springwater, that is exactly the situation.”

Deidre shook her head. She would never be able to understand this particular personality aspect of most of The Others. Their fear was greater than their concern for other people around them. Aric had tried to explain it to her, their sense of individuality was as important to them as the sense of commonality was to The Gifted. But she was no closer to understanding them than they were of her.

“Then let’s move out.”

The Jamesons lived at the end of a narrow gravel drive so it was decided to park and walk the rest of the way in, they didn’t want to get in to a situation where they could not turn the cars around easily. As the team headed toward the house they fanned out keeping watch for what ever it was that had spooked the social workers.

Deidre was watching the house itself. She hadn’t noticed anything at all unusual in the area around her visually but could feel almost a breath of magic against her skin. She motioned to her team to stop and wait for a moment. There was something here. She just couldn’t see anything. The house itself looked deserted. She motioned to her team to move again slowly, eyes open. There was something here, she could feel it, it had scared the social workers but what was it?

Looking around the yard there were a few discarded toys laying in the yard. A wheelbarrow had been set up as a planter but the flowers inside had dried out and died. It looked like the family had been gone for awhile. They got closer and started to walk to the porch. Nothing there but an abandoned Teddy Bear. It was a mangy looking thing missing a few patches of fur and one of its eyes. Obviously not a newer toy. Deidre thought that one of the children must have dropped it when the family left, probably the younger of the two daughters. As she mounted the first step up the porch still scanning for any unusual activity she heard a gasp from behind her as she caught movement in her peripheral vision. As she turned to look she saw what had caused the Others to turn around and leave. The Teddy Bear had moved.

The hairs on Deidre’s arms raised as the magic around her increased. The bear was definitely moving toward her now. Watching her with the one bead eye it had left. Deidre kept on eye on the bear as she motioned to her team behind her. They were bringing the Spell-Casters in closer to read where the magic this bear was operating on was coming from. Deidre wasn’t afraid of the bear, it was a stuffed animal no matter what was making it move there was only so much cloth and stuffing could do when faced with a person, but she was concerned over who was controlling it. Animating an object like this was not particularly difficult magic to do if you were close by so who ever was controlling this bear was nearby. And using it to scare off anyone who got too close. Which worked, as long as you were dealing with Others and not Gifted.

Every time Deidre took a step closer to the door the bear took a step closer to her. She decided to experiment and take a step back, the bear matched her movement. Turning and motioning to the Spell-Casters to watch she repeated the steps a few more times. If she stepped toward the door so did the bear, if she backed away the bear would as well. She stopped and waited while the Spell-Casters searched for the spell controlling the bear. Feeling a surge in power in the area Deidre kept her eye on the bear. It straightened for a moment then fell over in to a heap. A regular toy once again.

Deidre looked back toward the Spell-Casters for an idea of what she should expect, was the magic user in the house? What she got instead was a puzzled look and a shrug of shoulders. The lead Spell -Caster mouthed, “we don’t know” at her so she motioned to her team to start again. Closing in on the door nothing else moved. The feeling of magic in the area was no longer as strong. When nothing happened she motioned Captain Taylor forward. He knocked at the door.

“Mr. And Mrs. Jameson? This is Captain Taylor, could you please open the door?”

There was no sound from inside. Captain Taylor knocked again and they waited, listening for any movement. When they heard nothing again he tried the door. It was unlocked. Slowly they opened the door and made their way cautiously in to the house. The living room was empty and there was a fine layer of dust on the end tables. Either the Jamesons were not very tidy or no one had been home in at least a week. The joint company moved through the house searching room by room for signs of the family. They weren’t there. There were also no signs of any other magic alarm systems.

Deidre walked in to the last bedroom in the house to search, this was obviously the room of the youngest daughter. “Captain Taylor? Will you come here a minute, I have something I’d like you to take a look at.”

Captain Taylor made his way back to Deidre. As he walked in the room she pointed to the corner were a large decorated Styrofoam cake stood with a chunk missing from the bottom. “Is that from your bakery robberies?”

Captain Taylor walked over to look at the dummy cake, “It sure looks like it. And just when I thought there was nothing odder than seeing you dance the cha cha with a stuffed bear this day just keeps getting weirder and weirder.”

Captain Taylor and Deidre walked back outside of the house to gather the teams together to discuss what they had and had not found. “I’m going to get a team together to search the rest of the house for any possible stolen items as well as any clue to where the family has gone. What have your people found out here?”

Deidre looked to the group of Spell-Casters, “Frannie, you take lead on this, what did you find? Can you pinpoint where the spell was coming from?”

“Well, that’s the thing. There wasn’t a spell per se. Not what we would expect to find. We were looking for an animation spell, something you’d do at a kid’s party for entertainment, or to play a trick on a sibling?” Deidre smiled while Captain Taylor looked horrified, probably imagining what his reaction to a moving stuffed animal would have been when he was a child. “But there was nothing. And no thread connecting a Spell-Caster to the toy. Who ever was controlling it wasn’t here. They had set it up before they left.”

Deidre narrowed her eyes, “It wasn’t a current casting? It was just left? Animated? For how long?”

“We don’t know. Once we searched around for the connection and didn’t find it we focused on the toy itself. There was a wisp of a, a, I don’t really know how to describe it, instruction maybe? Like someone had told the bear to watch the house? But as soon as we found that it stopped. Like we tripped the wire and shorted it out, that’s the best way I can think to describe it. I’ve never seen anything like it really.”

Captain Taylor spoke, “I take it this isn’t normal?”

Deidre laughed, “Well I guess to you none of this would be anywhere close to normal. But no, even for us this isn’t normal. Animating the bear? That would be somewhat easy. We all learned the spell as kids. Now a Spell-Caster can do a better job of it, but even I could make a doll blink or raise her arm if I tried. But to do a spell like the one we saw, where the bear matched my movements? That would require the caster to be close by, to be watching me so they could mirror the bear’s movements to mine. To be able to cast a spell that isn’t a spell, one that leaves the bear animated and able to move in coordination with me? That’s something else entirely.

What about the cake? Was that from your robberies?”

“As far as I can tell. But until we get a picture from the bakery file up here we won’t know for sure. There is a piece missing out of the bottom level that wasn’t in the description but that could have happened while the thief was moving it around. But having it here still doesn’t answer any questions over why it was stolen in the first place.”

Captain Taylor looked over to see Deidre’s face wrinkled in concentration, “Do you see something? Or feel something?” He was automatically back on guard looking around for the threat.

“No, not exactly but I have an idea. I need to head back down to town and check something out. I need some information from my brother and I need to let my fath…Commander Keeper know what we’ve found. I can meet you back at your precinct with what I’ve found later. Give me an hour?”

“That’s fine. We will wrap up here now that we know there are no more magical surprises waiting for us and I will see you then.”

Deidre got to her car and placed a call to Aric, “Hey, can I get you to check lineage on a family of Others? Yeah, Jameson.”

After checking in with her father and releasing her team to head back to Guard headquarters Deidre met up with Captain Taylor at his precinct to help fill out the paperwork. On joint assignments they tried to work together to file paperwork on cases. There were things that the Others could not explain and things that the Gifted would not have added to their own reports so they found it best to work together to get as complete of a report as possible.

Deidre found Captain Taylor working in a conference room when she arrived. He had pictures from the bakery robberies and pictures from the Jameson house in front of him comparing the dummy cake they had found and the one that what stolen.

“Making any progress, John?”

“It definitely looks like the same one And there were some bakery boxes out back in a trash pile that matched the other bakery robberies. But I have no idea how it ties in to them leaving. I can sadly say that it wasn’t because we were closing in on them. We had no leads at all on those robberies and as we hadn’t had one in a few weeks we were starting to think who ever had been behind them had decided it wasn’t worth the risk to steal cookies. Now it appears that the robberies stopped right around the time the Jamesons disappeared. But why would they be stealing baked goods? It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Deidre looked at the two cake pictures, “Well, it sure looks like the same cake to me. Have you called the shop owner to come look at it to tell for sure?”

“I have. But I still can’t wrap my brain around what the connection is. And we have a missing family, are we looking at foul play or a family vacation without warning? And either way we need to track them down because they are our only leads on those break ins.” John made an exasperated sound and rubbed his hand over his face, “How about you? Did you get the information from your brother you were looking for? ”

“Not yet. He’s looking into the family lineage of the Jamesons for me. You need to know if you are looking at your people or ours I think. That will help us understand who set the Teddy Bear alarm. It was obviously something left to scare your people more than mine, but does that mean that maybe mom or pop Jameson is really one of us?”

John nodded, “Good thinking. I just have to scratch my head over all of this, there has never been a record of any trouble with this family. No trouble with the daughter in school, no record of trouble with either parent. Young family, not a lot of money, not really social, but not antisocial, if that makes sense to you?”

“Yeah, even with as connected as we tend to be there are some among us that prefer to live a little farther out. Not every one is a joiner, right?”

“Exactly, we aren’t talking about someone cutting themselves off here, just a young family living outside the city, still sent their daughter to school in town. Heck if they had been a homeschooling family we wouldn’t have realized they were gone. “

“What about work?”


“Work, you said the welfare check was instigated by the school. Didn’t one or both of the parents work? Wouldn’t they have been missed at work?”

“Ah, no, they ran a small business out of their home. The first time someone would have noticed them missing would have been,” with this John shuffled through some invoices, “next Thursday. They had a pick up scheduled for that date. The delivery driver would have noticed them gone, but more importantly would have noticed that bear. Now if he came forward with that information we don’t know. It would be hard to come in to a police station to say you saw a walking Teddy Bear, you saw how the social workers responded. Even though there were two of them to corroborate each other’s story they didn’t want to be thought of as crazy.”

“So maybe the Teddy Bear wasn’t an alarm like we were thinking but a way of preventing anyone from reporting them missing? Maybe who ever set it up knew that there wasn’t a strong chance of someone coming forward with that information.”

“It could be, but we’re still back at the drawing board as to why.”

Deidre took the photographs from John and shuffled through then while she thought. She stopped at a picture of the youngest daughter’s room. Then started rifling through the stack for any other shots showing the room. “Well, here’s something interesting.” She laid the photographs out on the table. “See these things, this outfit, these books and this stack of toys?”


“You remember the case against Charles Standing? I’m pretty sure these are the things he was charged with stealing. I need to make a phone call.”

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