It was déjà vu.
All morning long, I had had the feeling of being watched. It was unnerving, especially considering recent events. I couldn’t concentrate. I kept looking up from my computer, expecting to see one of my characters at the door, ready to barge in and disturb me at my work . . . or worse, still, a disembodied pair of eyes watching me. Each time I looked, there were no eyes and there was no one at the door, although several times I swore I saw a quickly retreating shadow.
It was almost lunchtime. I had just looked up from the computer and I had seen it again – just a shadow moving by the door. Suddenly, there was a commotion in the hallway.
“Ye jes’ be commin’ along quiet-like, now. Tha lass’ll be wantin’ ta be knowin’ wat ye been doin’ oot here.”
My Bounty Hunter balked at the door, but my Old Dwarf pushed him into the room. The rotund figure followed, axe in hand, smacking the flat of his axe blade into the open palm of his other hand in a threatening gesture.
“What’s going on?” I glared at my Bounty Hunter, who brushed himself off, straightened his tunic, and quietly regained his composure.
When it became obvious that the man was not going to respond, my Old Dwarf spoke up. “I be seein’ thisun oot here tippy-toein’ around by yer door. He be lookin’ liken he be spyin’ on ye.” The dwarf gave the man another shove. “Why do na ye be tellin’ tha lass jes wat ye been doin’?”
I looked questioningly at my Bounty Hunter, who remained silent. I could feel my anger rise.
“It was you!” I sputtered. “You . . . you have been spying on me! And I suppose my Arrogant One was responsible for the eyes.”
“No!” My Bounty Hunter glared at me.
The dwarf scoffed. “Now, do na be tellin’ tha lass no fibs. I be catchin’ ye in tha act.”
My Bounty Hunter scowled. “All right. As you say, you caught me in the act.” He started pacing. “I often watch and listen to those within this house, unnoticed by the subjects of my observation. It keeps my skills sharp. I am a bounty hunter. I need to be stealthy.” He stopped and faced me. “I was bored on the illusory trip. While my companions were enjoying themselves, I returned here several times to practice, to watch you here in your office. But I acted alone. The elf had nothing to do with this. If he was behind the watching eyes – which I doubt – he acted without me.”
“We’ll see about that.” I nodded to my Old Dwarf. “Bring him. We need to talk to the elf.”
I pushed past the other two and led the way out of the room and down the hall. My Bounty Hunter reluctantly followed, prodded every step of the way by the dwarf. We didn’t have far to go. We found my Arrogant One in the conference room, in heated discussion with Dragon and my other magic users.
The small group of spellcasters – Dragon, Sorceress, Cleric, my Gypsy, and my Arrogant One – fell silent as we entered the room.
Without apologizing for the intrusion, I accosted my Arrogant One. “Elf, we need to talk.”
My Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, grasped his cloak with both hands, and scowled at me. “We are busy. Can this not wait?”
“Very well.” He frowned and sighed. “Please be quick.”
I glared at the elf. “Your sidekick was just caught in the act of spying on me. He admits he was the one responsible for several incidents wherein I felt as if I were being watched while you were all allegedly on your illusory trip. I want to know if you were with him, if you are the one responsible for the eyes that appeared in various places in this house and in the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store.”
My Arrogant One’s face flamed, and his jaw dropped. He glared at my Bounty Hunter, then turned to me. “I have already told you I am not responsible. Did this miscreant tell you otherwise?”
“No, he claimed he acted alone. He also said he did not believe you were involved in the appearance of disembodied eyes.” I raked my hand through my hair. “But if he was involved in spying on me, it stands to reason that you, his best friend and cohort, would be involved.”
Dragon stepped in front of me. “He was not.”
I scowled. “How do you know? If the one was involved . . .”
Dragon gestured toward my Bounty Hunter. “He frequently spies on us when he thinks we are unaware. He has done this since he fell out of your manuscript and arrived here.”
My Bounty Hunter’s face fell. “You . . . you knew?”
Dragon scoffed. “Of course we knew. We humored you. You really are not very good, you know. I do not know how you survived as a Bounty Hunter in our world.” The beast turned from him and continued. “The Bounty Hunter may have snuck back here during our illusory trip in order to spy on you, but the eyes – whether illusion or something else – were not the work of the elf.”
“And I am tired of the constant accusations.” My Arrogant One’s voice was something between a whine and a threat.
“If you truly were not involved, I apologize for the accusation.” I turned to my Bounty Hunter. “But you are guilty. If you are ever found spying on me again, I will let Dragon and my Old Dwarf deal with you.”
Flame-cheeked, my Bounty Hunter nodded curtly to me, then scurried out of the room.
“Now, if you will excuse us, we are busy. We have been trying to devise a way to expose whoever or whatever is behind the disembodied eyes.” My Arrogant One unceremoniously hustled my Old Dwarf and me out of the room, slamming the door closed behind us.
When they emerged from the conference room several hours later, my little band of magic users seemed in better spirits. Dragon approached me. “We believe we have identified the culprit and have a plan to expose him.” She grinned a toothy grin and rubbed her hands together gleefully as she explained the plan to me.
What is Dragon’s plan, and who does she and her colleagues in magic hope to uncover? Be sure to come back next week! We’ll leave the porch light on for you.