I stood in the doorway, hesitant to enter. There was blood smeared across the floor, leaving a wet, red trail into the next room. I was called in to find the body. The snarky half of my mind wondered if they had followed the bloody trail, but I prevented the sentiment from leaving my mouth.
I crossed the threshold and felt the shimmer of a ward caress my skin. Interesting. Mr. Reynolds should not have needed a protection ward unless he thought he was being targeted. It also meant that whoever killed him was a friend because he or she was invited inside.
The ward was weak but still intact. If I became a danger to the one it was meant to protect, the ward would activate, with nasty results for the attacker. At that point, the killer would have had two options: break the ward or vacate the building as quickly as possible.
I thought perhaps the killer used a third option—kill Mr. Reynolds somewhere else and dump the body back into the house. If he was already dead, then the ward wouldn’t activate. But why? Why move the body back into the house?
The question plagued me. A murder to send a message was possible but all of our info on Mr. Reynolds said he was quiet and straight-laced. He wasn’t involved with the mob and had no known enemies or even activities that would create enemies.
I followed the bloody streak on the floor. It led from the living room into the kitchen before abruptly ending in the middle of the floor. I scanned the room. Magic remnants were thick in here. So this is why I was called in.
The bloody smear ended in a perfectly straight line. Something had erased the blood and left clean floor in its wake. Two things came to mind. The first was a teleportation circle, though that should have left the blood in an arc instead of a straight line.
The second was an illusion spell. I moved closer, watching the ground carefully. It shimmered ever so slightly as I moved. I walked past the end of the blood. Nothing.
An illusion that altered space was a difficult trick. This meant a very powerful witch or wizard was involved and that narrowed the suspect list to only a handful of people, myself included. I stepped back out of the area of illusion and called up my magic.
The illusion shivered as my magic rose, like a mirage or heat waves off of the hot August pavement. I felt the edges of the foreign magic, a square about six feet across and two feet high.
The illusion was good, masterfully crafted and completely generic. My eyebrow rose. Magic was linked closely to the wielder. Like a thumbprint, magic could be traced. It took an enormous amount of time and effort to remove that thumbprint. The list of suspects narrowed again, but without the magic link it wouldn’t stick to any of them.
I pushed gently, my magic curling around the edges of the illusion spell. It held. I pushed harder and the spell still didn’t budge. Interesting.
“Mike,” I shouted, knowing the police chief was nearby, “you may want to pull back. No telling what is going to happen when I crack this thing.”
Mike’s bald head popped into the kitchen. “You find something?”
“Yeah, illusion spell. Good one, too. Going to take some doing to break it.”
“Okay, we’ll be outside. Try not to blow yourself up…again.” He smirked and ducked out of the kitchen. I sighed—blow yourself up one time and you never live it down.