Sunday, June 5, 2011

Short Fiction Story

The Magician’s Ring    

Katie could feel the hilt of the knife against her ribs as she leaned against the wall of the alley. She knew the knife was in its sheath but accessible should she need it. How close was the man chasing her? A group of tourists had momentarily obscured his vision while she had run from the museum she had just robbed. She didn't understand how he knew she had stolen the Magician's Ring. Her timing had been perfect. No one had seen her slip the ring into her pocket.

She could feel the ring deep in her cargo pants pocket. It was heavy because of the large Tigers Eye stone in the center of the ring face. The band had been made of something Katie hadn’t seen before. It wasn’t gold but it seemed to shine from within.

Katie stepped away from the wall and faced the opening of the alley. She was going to have to step out onto the main street again since this alley had ended up being a dead end. She was about to peer around the corner when the man stepped forward into the alley.

“You’re in danger,” he said. “You need to come with me.” Katie was momentarily paralyzed. The man had caught up to her so quickly. He moved so fast that she was in a stronghold before she was able to assume a fighting stance. She struggled but he was as strong as stone. He easily picked her up so her feet were 6 inches off the ground.

“I’m serious and we don’t have time to debate. Come with me or you’re not going to make it. There are some bad people out there who want what you took.”

Katie knew she didn’t have any other option at that moment. She couldn’t break his hold and he seemed willing to carry her if she didn’t participate.

“Ok, let’s go. But who are you?” she asked.

“My name is Hunter but we don’t have a lot of time for more questions. Here’s how we’re going to play this. We’re going to look like a romantic couple and walk back the way we came. They won’t be expecting you to be with someone since you were alone, and they certainly won’t expect you to go toward the museum, not after what you just did. Take off your jacket and let down your hair so you won't look like an antiquities expert anymore.” He patted his pockets and handed her a pair of sunglasses. “These might help too.” He said.

“How do you know other people are after me? How do they know what I've done?” Katie demanded.

“I'm not sure they know what you have, but whoever they are, they had people watching the entry doors and when you ran out of the museum so quickly, it seemed suspicious and now they're looking for you,” he answered.

Katie gave him a withering look, “I ran out of the museum because I noticed you were watching me!”

Katie could hear a commotion out on the street. It sounded a little ways away but getting closer. She believed him now; people were after her. She quickly removed her jacket, released her hair from the ponytail and put on the sunglasses. Hunter reached out for her hand and they quickly exited the alley and walked back towards the museum. Katie could see the people who were searching for her. She could count three of them on the block. They had tried to blend in with the normal citizens out walking on a wonderful warm day, but they were scanning the street from left to right and back again. No window shopping and no talking to anyone around them. She assumed there was at least that same number searching on the museum block as well. All of a sudden she was grateful for Hunter’s presence. It would have been difficult to evade that many men. But it seemed crazy to walk right back into the lion’s den by heading toward the museum. She was concerned about Hunter and who he was, but she didn't have a better option at the moment. Not to mention that his grip on her hand, although not painful, was like a vise. So who was he and why was he helping? In fact, was he really helping her?

Katie and Hunter continued to hold hands as they walked toward the museum. As one of the searchers came near them, Hunter turned toward a department store window and pointed something out to Katie. Katie and Hunter were both facing the shop window as the searcher walked by. They were able to watch him through the reflection on the glass while appearing to be looking at the items in the window. The searcher passed by them without much more than a passing glance. Katie felt more confident that they looked like the rest of the people that were window shopping on the main street.

“We need to go back in the museum,” Hunter said.

“What? My orders were to steal the ring, not put it back!” Katie said.

“I know. You’re orders were to steal the ring, but my orders were to use the ring once you stole it. By having two of us involved without knowing each other, it made the mission easier to complete. We only had to focus on our individual parts. My orders were to look for the only woman in the Antiquities Audit Group that was scheduled for today and to take the ring she stole to the Steltzer Exhibit.”

“If your orders were to take the ring from me, why did you bring me back with you?” Katie demanded.

“You were in danger. I would have taken the ring from you but the others were already onto you. You're lucky I found you first. They wouldn’t have been gentle when they couldn’t find what you took. It was easier to take you with me.”

“Are we just going to walk in the front doors?” Katie asked as they neared the museum.

“We’re just going to act like this is the first time we’ve been here. The Steltzer Exhibit is on the right wing of the museum, second alcove. We’ll head there directly after getting a pamphlet of exhibits at the Information desk. The guys looking for you will never expect us to waste time at the info booth. It helps us blend in.”

The museum's main hall was dark after coming in from the outdoors, and the cool air sent a shiver down Katie’s arms. They picked up a pamphlet from the info booth, smiled at the person behind the counter, and headed toward the exhibit.

“What is in the Steltzer Exhibit that needs the Magician’s Ring?” Katie asked Hunter.

“Apparently the Magician’s Ring is a key. We need to find the statue of Ranfuld. The statue requires the key. From there, the orders weren’t real clear. Just bring back what the statue provides.”

Katie and Hunter turned into the alcove for the Steltzer Exhibit. It was not a large exhibit so there were not many items that could be the statue of Ranfuld. They separated and quickly searched the exhibit. There were three statues. One was twelve feet tall and in the shape of a fierce warrior. The second was of a woman in a flowing gown and merely ten feet tall. The last was a statue of a small boy with a book in his hand. At the bottom of the statue was a plaque that read “Ranfuld - the boy who decides”.

“This is it,” Katie said. “Where does the ring go?”

“I’m not sure, let’s take a good look at the statue. I’ll take the back and you take the front. We need to be quick.” Hunter glanced at the opening of the alcove. Katie knew it wouldn’t be long before the people searching for them would be back at the museum. They could even be here now if they had realized they weren’t on the street. Hunter bent down to look at the back of the statue. Katie did the same to the front. She started at the plaque and slowly worked her way upward. When she got to the face of the statue she gasped.

“I’ve found where the ring goes,” she said.

Hunter moved to the front of the statue. The boys face was shaded by the hat that was carved on his head. What hadn’t been noticeable until bending down to look at the statue was that the eyes of the statue were actually made of gemstones. One was still in place, but the other was missing. The gemstone in place was a Tigers Eye. The Magician’s Ring was Ranfuld’s other eye.

“Are you ready?” Hunter asked Katie. “I don’t know what’s going to happen when we put the ring into position.”

Katie could hear what appeared to be several people walking quickly down the right wing corridor. She knew they didn’t have much time before they were found.

“Let’s do it.” She said. She looked at the statue and realized that the empty eye had been filled in with putty. She pulled her knife out of the sheath and began to gently scrape at the putty. Katie regulated her pressure on the statue so it was no heavier than that of air blowing from the cooling vents. She knew that the security monitors recorded every shift in pressure and force.

She could hear the footsteps coming closer. “We don’t have much time. I’m going to have to put the ring in now.”

She pulled the Magician’s Ring from her pocket. She glanced at the Tiger’s Eye in the statue and lined up the ring so that the Tiger’s Eye design matched the statues eye. Katie carefully pushed the ring into the statue. As she pushed, she felt something click into place. In the next moment, the book that the statue was holding seemed to flip its page. As it did so, Katie could see that the book actually held a compartment. Katie reached down and pulled the small worn papyrus book from the compartment. Hunter stood next to her but watched the main corridor.

Katie pulled the eye out of the statue and the statue’s book flipped back which closed the compartment. She shoved the ring and the book in her cargo pants pocket. Right then a couple of men that Katie had seen on the street came into the exhibit at a run. Hunter had been just a little bit faster. He had Katie in an embrace and was just leaning down to kiss her. Katie's eyes opened wide with surprise and a small gasp escaped her.

He glanced over at the men and then back at Katie and said “I guess we’ll have to find our privacy somewhere else.”

Katie recovered from the shock and jolt of attraction she had felt. She played her part and hugged him back and smiled. They sauntered out of the alcove leaving the men uncertain.

Katie and Hunter exited the museum and quickly hailed a cab. Once settled in the backseat, Katie pulled the book out of her pocket. She opened it up but couldn’t read the text. She pulled the ring out and held it over the book. The light from the ring passed through the Tiger’s Eye and made the book decipherable.

“Good work Agent Jones, you have completed your final Sig Ops exam.” Katie read out loud.

“Congratulations,” Hunter said with a quick grin. “Partner.”



cherie said...

Nice twist at the end. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hooray! This was fun, thanks for playing!