Dragon looked around cautiously. She stuck her head through the open conference room door and looked, first down the hallway toward Mistress Writer’s office, and then up the stairs toward the front entry. She sniffed the air, then tilted her head and cocked her ears, listening carefully. “I think they are gone.”
She turned back to the conference room, where the companions had gathered. Sorceress nodded. “Yes. Mistress Writer and Master Miles left the house about 15 minutes ago. They said they would be gone all day. They told Cleric they are going to spend the day shopping, and then they plan to go to a restaurant and maybe to a movie after that.”
Dragon drew back her lips in a wide, toothy grin. “Good. We may commence.”
* * *
“Hey, Nolan! I thought you said that couple we’re watching left the premises.”
“They did, Johnson, about a half-hour ago.”
“Well, then, who’s that?” The man called Johnson pointed to a car leaving the garage of the property they were watching.
“I don’t know! Let me check. Maybe they came back when we were patrolling another area.” Nolan picked up his walkie-talkie. “Hey, Davis, you there? Over.”
The radio crackled, and a scratchy voice replied. “Yeah, I’m here. Who’s this? Over.”
“Davis, this is Nolan, at the stakeout. Are you still tailing that pair in the car? Over.”
“Sure, Nolan. Jakoby and I are right behind them. Why? Over.”
“Well Johnson and I just saw a car leave the garage. It looks the same as the car that left earlier, the one you say you’re following. We thought maybe they came back when we weren’t looking. Over.”
“Don’t know what to tell you. They didn’t return to their house. We’ve been following this car ever since it left your location about a half-hour ago. It’s heading east on 212, and it’s never been out of our sight. Over.”
“Okay. Stay with that car. Don’t lose them. Out.”
Nolan turned back to his partner. “Davis said . . .”
Johnson cut him off. “I heard. Contact Pruse and McFadden. They’re at the end of the street. Tell them to tail this new car.”
Nolan contacted the other team and relayed the message.
After a few seconds of silence, a reply crackled through the walkie-talkie. “Nolan, how long ago did you say this car left your location? Over.”
“Maybe five minutes. Why? Over.”
“You putting us on, Nolan? If it left your location five minutes ago, it should have passed us by now. There hasn’t been a car go past since the one Davis and Jakoby are tailing. Now quit trying to be funny! Over and out.”
Before Nolan could say anything, he and Johnson saw the garage door open again, and another car leave, identical to the first two. This time, they got a good look at the driver, who smiled and waved as the car drove slowly past them.
Johnson’s jaw dropped. “That’s the guy! That’s the guy we’re supposed to be watching. The one who left here earlier with his wife. The one Davis and Jakoby are tailing.”
Johnson grabbed Nolan’s walkie-talkie. “Davis and Jakoby! Pull that car over! Make sure the occupants are who you think they should be! You hear me? Pull it over! Pruse and McFadden, if a car tries to go past you, stop it!”
* * *
While Johnson and Nolan were trying to make sense of what was going on with the car, Deputies Whitewash and Dawg were patrolling the street east of the stakeout location.
“Whitewash! Look! There’s that crazy old coot with the suit of armor and the axe!”
Deputy Whitewash looked in the direction her partner was pointing. She saw the armored dwarf sprinting down the street. He was cussing a blue streak and brandishing an axe at a large rabbit that appeared to be enjoying the chase. Several times, the long-eared critter slowed down and looked over its shoulder, almost appearing to be waiting for the rotund figure who was puffing and panting after it.
As the rabbit led the Old Dwarf closer to the deputies, Whitewash and Dawg heard the dwarf yelling. “I be gittin’ ye this time, ye ornery little beastie, ye jest be seein’ iffin I do na! Thet be tha lastest time ye be getting’ in Mistress Writer’s carrot patch!” He waved the axe wildly over his head.
The two deputies eyed the approaching figure with trepidation. As the dwarf continued chasing the rabbit toward them, they both removed their pistols from their holsters and released the safeties.
“Sir? Sir! Please put down that weapon.” Dawg dropped to one knee and aimed his gun at the dwarf.
“Sir, we don’t want to hurt you, but you must put down that weapon!” Whitewash stood with her feet planted firmly apart and took aim at the approaching figure.
Suddenly, the rabbit and its pursuer made a quick turn and disappeared between two houses. The deputies gave chase.
“Where did they go?” Dawg looked down the side yards separating the houses. Nothing was there.
“They couldn’t have run the length of the houses and gotten to the back yards so quickly!” Whitewash gaped in the direction they had seen the dwarf and the rabbit running.
Suddenly, they heard a commotion behind them. The rabbit was loping down the side of a house on the opposite side of the street, coming straight toward them. The dwarf was hot on its heels, still cussing and yelling and waving the axe around.
“How did they get over there?” Dawg’s eyes were as big as saucers.
As the two deputies raced toward the dwarf, the rabbit turned right and streaked past several houses before turning again and running between two buildings. The dwarf was still right behind the creature.
“Stop! Stop or we’ll shoot!” Dawg yelled at the back of the departing figure.
When Whitewash and Dawg reached the side yard the dwarf had run down, they saw nothing. Once again, they heard a commotion behind them. They turned and looked just as the rabbit and the dwarf popped out from between two houses on the other side of the street.
Whitewash blanched. “That’s not possible!”
Using their shoulder microphones, Dawg and Whitewash contacted several of the other law enforcement agents who were manning various stakeout locations throughout the neighborhood. Soon, four sheriff’s deputies and six federal agents were chasing the dwarf and the rabbit around the neighborhood.
The dwarf and the rabbit always seemed to disappear between two houses on one side of the street, only to reappear a few seconds later, a little further down the road, running from between two houses on the other side of the street. They kept leading the law enforcement officials further and further down the lane, heading east, away from the house under surveillance.
* * *
Half of the task force was chasing the dwarf heading east, and all but two of the remaining members of the team were at the far western end of the street trying to figure out what was happening with the car that was being tailed, and the other identical cars that Johnson and Nolan swore they had seen leave the garage. Only two agents were still watching the dwelling when Dragon, in her customary elven guise, left the house with Cleric and Sorceress. The agents watched as the three figures crossed the street and hurried to the house of their neighbors, Mace and Gloria.
Dragon tapped on the door, then opened it just wide enough for her and her two companions to slip through. The two agents immediately ran over to the house. One agent crept up onto the porch of the house the three figures had just entered while his partner stayed on the sidewalk and used her walkie-talkie to contact the team leaders. “Johnson? Nolan? Denhurst here. Over.”
The radio crackled. “Nolan here. What’s up, Denhurst? Over.”
“Three of the people from the house we have staked out just left that house and entered the home of our two informants, Mace and Gloria. Over.”
“Stay there. Try to keep them in sight. Mace and Gloria could be in danger. Johnson and I will be right there. Out.”
Moments later, Johnson and Nolan joined the other two agents on the porch of Mace and Gloria’s house. Johnson placed his right index finger over his lips and pointed with his other hand. The front window was open a few inches, just enough to let the agents hear what was going on.
In the living room, Gloria was throwing a hissy fit, screeching and waving her hands around. “What is this? What are you three doing here? How dare you come into my home?”
Dragon narrowed her eyes. “We want to know what is going on, Gloria. We know you are the reason the task force is here, watching us.”
“Get out!” Gloria ran to the window and peeked through the curtains. “Get out now, before you bring them here!”
Sorceress snorted. “And why would you not want them here?”
Gloria’s face contorted into a snarl. “Get out! Get out! You’re going to ruin everything! It was the perfect plan. We convinced the sheriff’s deputies those annoying neighbors, Marge and Miles, and all you people constantly visiting them, are involved in illegal activities. When they saw all of you, particularly that crazy old coot that goes around in the suit of armor and an axe, it was easy to get them to open an investigation. Then, Deputy Dawg called in the feds and they formed a task force. They staked out that house and have you all under surveillance. That way, everyone’s attention is on that house, and nobody notices what Mace and I do. We can’t risk having them come in here and finding . . .”
Gloria’s voice trailed off, and she looked around the room, her eyes wide with fear. She wiped her damp palms on her jeans and sweat poured down her face in rivulets.
“Finding what, Gloria?” Cleric advanced on the woman. “What is it you do not want them to find?”
Just then, Dragon yelped. “I hear someone out front. Come, we must leave. Head for the back door!”
Johnson jumped. “They’re running! Denhurst, you and your partner get to the back of the house and stop them. Nolan, we’ll take the front door.”
Johnson and Nolan waited until Denhurst radioed that she and her partner were in position at the back of the house. Then they drew their weapons and kicked in the front door to Mace and Gloria’s house.
Gloria was just coming down the hallway and into the living room with a hamper of laundry when two federal agents burst through the front door with weapons drawn. Gloria screamed, and dirty socks and wet towels went everywhere.
* * *
Later that afternoon, Mace and Gloria met with federal agents. They threatened to press charges against the members of the task force. Gloria was almost hysterical. “They broke our front door, and they tore our entire house apart! They kept saying over and over and over that the jig was up, that they had heard everything! They claimed that right before they broke in they had seen and heard me talking with three people from my neighbors’ house. They’re wrong! I was alone in the house when they broke in!”
Mace was not much calmer than his wife. “Gloria said they pointed weapons at her! I think they’re all crazy!”
Every member of the task force was brought in to be debriefed by their superiors. Four sheriff’s deputies and six federal agents all claimed they had been chasing a suspect going east through the neighborhood. Deputy Dawg kept babbling about the chase. “It was that crazy old coot in armor. He had an axe, and he was chasing a rabbit. We called to him to stop, to drop his weapon, but he wouldn’t. He just kept chasing the rabbit. They would run between the houses, but then they would disappear and pop out from between the houses on the other side of the street!”
The deputy’s nine colleagues sat there with him, looking dazed. They all kept nodding at Dawg’s account.
Meanwhile, Agents Johnson and Nolan, along with four of their fellow task-force members, were gibbering about a car that kept leaving the garage over and over and over, without ever first re-entering it. And Agent Denhurst and her partner kept blathering about people who had been in a certain house, talking with the owner, and who just disappeared.
Their superiors frowned. One sighed and raked his hand through his hair. “Maybe it’s time for some of these people to be put on leave.”
Another answered, “Maybe it’s time for them to check into a nice, quiet rest home.”
* * *
Dragon smiled at her companions. “That was a good day’s work.”
The Arrogant One nodded. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands, puffing out his chest with pride. “I told you I was an illusionist extraordinaire.”
“You did a great job with Master Miles and the car!” The Gypsy’s voice held a grudging admiration for the elf.
Cleric chuckled. “And with our little chat with Gloria as well! Do you think Gloria was able to convince the authorities that she never saw us in her house, let alone spoke with us?”
Sorceress smirked. “Serves her right if she cannot!”
The Old Dwarf doubled over with laughter. “An’ tha looks on tha faces o them deputies! I couldna be belivin’ me ownest eyes, as ye been havin’ tha illusion ye been creatin’ o me be chasin’ thet fool rabbit all o’er tha place! Do ye be thinkin’ tha deputies be still tryin’ ta be catchin’ me?”
Dragon smirked. “I do not believe we will have to worry about the deputies or any of the others ever again.”
* * *
As Miles pulled the car into the driveway, I commented, “I hope my characters had a nice, quiet day today and didn’t get into any trouble.”
Miles looked at me as if I had grown a second head. “Yeah. Right. Like that would ever happen!”
We both sighed.
So now that my characters have taken care of the intrepid Deputies Whitewash and Dawg and the other members of the task force, what’s next? Be sure to come back next week and see! We’ll leave the porch light on for you!