I admit it, my life flashed before my eyes when I didn’t find the gauntlet.
It was really freaking depressing.
Almost immediately, I thought of the weird two-tailed fox thing I’d caught last night. I hadn’t killed it, which meant it was still probably hiding here somewhere. Had it stolen the glove? I looked at the footprints again. Human, adult sized, and obviously wearing shoes. No, this hadn’t been the fox cub. But then who?
“Oh my God,” I whispered, sitting down with a sinking feeling in my chest. I hugged my knees and slowly began to rock back and forth. “He’s going to kill me.”
Dex got down on one knee to inspect the scene, apparently unfazed by all the gore. He ran a finger through the blood, then rubbed it against his thumb. Then, pulling out his scepter, he waved it over the footprints. The yellow gem at the tip, the same color as the potions he drank, lit up.
“Hmm,” he said, standing back up. “No luck. Whoever was here, they didn’t leave any trace behind.”
Feeling numb, I got up and followed the footprints. I knew it was stupid. Anyone who knew enough to follow me here and steal something this important wouldn’t let themselves be tracked by freaking footprints. Still, I had to know.
They led around the corner, and then went a few steps down the hallway before vanishing entirely. The footprints didn’t fade, they just ended. Whoever it was, they must have used magic to warp themselves somewhere else.
I began to shiver. Somewhere, deep inside me, I had known it would come to this. By taking Hendricks’ protection, I had made a criminal of myself. I’ve seen The Godfather. I knew that people like me didn’t get happy endings. If a rival gang doesn’t strangle you in an alleyway, you get shot by your own boss for screwing up.
And, oh hell, had I screwed up.
“What do I do?” I asked when Dex walked up behind me. “He’s going to kill me. He said he would. He said he’d skin me alive. I can’t run from him. He always knows where I am. I’m—”
“Calm down,” Dex said, walking past me. “Panicking isn’t going to solve anything.”
I growled at him, but he ignored me and pulled out his scepter again. Have you ever tried telling a panicking person not to panic? It’s almost as effective as telling a fish to stop being wet. Trust me, the last thing anyone wants to hear in the middle of a panic attack is to stop panicking.
But…that didn’t mean he was wrong. I hugged my chest, squeezing myself tight, and took a deep breath. In…out…sure enough a little bit of the tension melted away, and I opened my eyes to see Dex waving his scepter back and forth across the floor just in front of the last footprint. Nothing was happening. He took a step forward. Nothing. He took another—and the gem gave a dull blink.
“Aha!” He smiled. “And Bingo was his name-o!”
He got down on his knees and started making vague gestures with one hand, moving the scepter around in slow circles with the other.
“W- What does that mean?” I asked.
“It means,” he answered, “that I can trace their teleportation spell.”
“But you just said they didn’t leave any trace!”
“They didn’t. This is different. They…” He sighed and shook his head. “It’s hard to explain. Mythics like you and Stewart have magic in your souls. That’s the biggest thing that differentiates you from humans.”
“Really?” I asked flatly. “I thought it was because I turn into a giant dog.”
He held up a finger. “Because of your magic! And you leave bits of that magic everywhere you go. Kind of like fairy dust. So, in a way, you’re a big fuzzy Tinkerbell.”
He looked pointedly at me. “Hey, you’ve never had one of those things pissed off at you. It’s like a hornet, except a hundred times worse.”
I shrugged. “Okay, so what?”
“So, if you know what to look for—and I do—you can use the magical trail they left behind to find clues about them. Sometimes even follow them.”
“But you just said they—”
“Right. They didn’t leave a trail. It is possible to cover your tracks, so to speak. It’s just really hard.”
I sighed and leaned against the wall. “Which means we’re dealing with a professional.”
“Not as professional as you might think.” The gem on his scepter lit up even brighter, and he slowly began to trace it in a circle that stretched the width of the hallway. “They did this out in the open.”
I leaned forward. “What’s that?”
“The teleportation spell. I’m…reverse engineering it, I guess you could say. If I do it right, it’ll take us to the same place it took them. Spells always leave traces of magic behind, even more than you Mythics do. It’s almost impossible to cover it up.” He smirked. “If they were smart, they would have done this somewhere harder to find.”
He completed the ring, and it began to shine bright yellow light up towards the ceiling. I hesitated as a faint humming sound began to come from it.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and I spun around. There was nothing there. Just me, Dex, and the footprints left in Stewart’s blood. I shivered anyway. Hendricks…was he watching us right now? Did he already know? What would he do if he thought I was running away from him? I wouldn’t survive the—
A hand grabbed my arm, and I nearly screamed. It was only Dex, though.
“Don’t be afraid,” he said quietly, still looking down at his magic circle.
“Of that? I’m not—”
“No. Of Hendricks. Of any of this. It’s going to be all right.”
Slowly he turned to face me, and the look in his eyes caught me off guard. He…actually looked serious. As if he really cared about helping me here. That was crazy, though. I had to be misreading him. Dex was friendly, but he only cared about himself. He’d told me so a dozen times. Everything he did was for his own benefit one way or another.
Dex did not care about me.
He stepped into the circle of light.
“Now come on. Let’s go get it back!”