Alex had no idea how Harold could be so certain that Noah and the others were inside doing whatever it was they were trying to do, right at that moment. For all Alex could tell, they might have been in there watching game shows and eating pork rinds.
“How do you know they’re in there working? I can’t see anything out of place,” Alex said.
“That’s because you don’t know how to look. Anyway, for now, I just know,” Harold said.
“Have you picked all this stuff up just from reading the books I bought yesterday?” Alex said. “Because I’m either impressed, or worried.”
“No, Mr. Minor, I didn’t just learn this yesterday,” Harold said. His face was impassive, as always, but Alex thought he detected a hint of a sardonic tone in his voice.
As they approached the house again, Alex pulled over and then parked the car. They got out of the car, and stood next to each other for a moment, looking at the house.
“So, how should we do this?” Alex said. He looked around, checking to see if they were being watched.
“Leave it to me,” Harold said.
“What?” Alex said. He turned back to face him, but Harold had already vanished. “Hey!” Alex said.
In the spare bedroom of FairyWingz’s house (her real name was Andrea), Noah had set up a three legged table in the middle of a large circle, drawn with salt, on the floor. Inside the circle he had drawn a five pointed star, and the table was set up carefully in the center of the star.
Under each of the table’s legs was one of the wax disks Thomas Smith had made, and on top of the table was the larger wax disk. On top of that disk, was the golden disk, and on top of all of it was a black piece of obsidian, carefully milled and polished into a circular mirror.
Each of the five points of the star had a candle burning. After discussing their experiences, Noah, Andrea and the others (Jan, David and Mark) had concluded that the chanting had little impact on the actual results of the rituals, so they had abandoned the chanting. Noah sat at the table. Mark sat next to him on his right, with a notepad and pen, ready to write down what Noah said. David, Jan, and Andrea all sat where they could inside the circle, meditating.
They had locked the exterior doors of the house because, honestly, that’s just good sense in this day and age. They’d also locked the door to the spare bedroom, which was more symbolic. The intent was to keep out any energies that weren’t specifically invited in.
Noah stared deeply into the mirror, describing what he saw to Mark. Much of it was nonsensical in the moment, but when they looked at the notes later they were sometimes able to make clear connections between seemingly random things.
Noah was intensely focused, marveling at the wondrous visions he was seeing in the mirror, waiting for the key he was looking for to appear. Once he knew how, he would be able to summon and converse with angels, just as Thomas Smith had hundreds of years before. Noah wanted more than anything to match Thomas Smith’s work, and then continue it. And so he watched intently, waiting for the meaning of the visions to all come together for him.
He was, therefore, very surprised to hear someone, apparently standing just over his left shoulder, politely clear his throat. Noah turned, ready to give Jan, David or Andrea a good tongue-lashing for interrupting him.
He recoiled so hard he nearly landed in Mark’s when he found himself face to face with Harold.
“You’ve been very naughty, Mr. Tipton,” Harold said.
“Who are you?” Noah said. He glanced over at the door. It looked like it was still shut, and locked. “How did you get in here?”
Jan, David and Andrea were all on their feet and on the other side of the room now. Mark was in the corner opposite them. Ordinarily they wouldn’t have left the protection offered by the circle on the floor, but then, ordinarily their visitors weren’t able to stand inside the circle the way Harold was.
“Those are not the right questions, Mr. Tipton. You should have asked what I want,” Harold said.
Moving quickly, he brushed aside the scrying mirror, and picked up the gold and wax disks. Then he had lifted the table off of the three disks it sat on, and he had picked them up as well.
“These do not belong to you, Mr. Tipton,” Harold said. He turned and went to the door.
“What are you?” Noah asked.
“A humble butler, of course. Good day,” Harold said.
Alex felt extremely conspicuous standing on the street next to the car, watching a stranger’s house. He wondered if he should try to follow Harold in, and then figured it might be best to wait outside, ready to facilitate a clean getaway. He shook off the strangeness of Harold’s speed and stealth, and decided he would be more comfortable waiting in the car.
He had no more than reached the driver’s side of the car when he heard Harold say, from the passenger side of the car, “Everything is taken care of. Let’s go.”
He turned to look, and saw Harold getting in to the passenger seat carrying an armload of stuff. Alex wondered how the hell Harold had managed to sneak up on him again, but it didn’t seem like it was really the right time for that question. He could ask questions later, for now, it was probably best to move before Noah decided he’d rather keep the artifacts after all, and came after them.
Alex got into the car, started it, and drove off.
“That couldn’t have taken you more than a minute,” Alex said. “How on Earth did you pull that off?”
“I just went in, took what we needed, and left. Of course, it only took a minute. Luckily, I didn’t have to waste time looking for the artifacts,” Harold said.
Alex didn’t think that was really an answer.
“Yeah, but how did you get in and out so quickly? Had they left the doors unlocked? Didn’t they try to stop you?” Alex said.
“They may as well have left the doors unlocked,” Harold said. “They didn’t really try to stop me. They seemed very surprised to see me, more than anything.”
“Yeah, I bet,” Alex said. “OK, so what next?”
“Well, we have what we came for, Mr. Minor. Let’s go get our things from the hotel and fly back to Minneapolis. I’m sure Mr. Darcy will be happy to see us,” Harold said.
“I’m sure he will be,” Alex said.
It only took them a couple of minutes to get back to the hotel. While Alex was packing his few things (and new collection of occult books), Harold called to charter a jet for the flight back to Minneapolis.
Alex made a mental note to try and stop somewhere en route to the airport to pick up some light reading for the flight. He wanted to be sure he at least had a magazine to kill time with.
Once they were ready, Alex and Harold stopped by the front desk of the hotel to check out. Alex realized the person behind the counter was the same guy who had been working when they checked in to the hotel. He definitely remembered Harold, too.
“How can I help you, sir?” he said.
“We’re ready to check out,” Harold said.
“Oh, I’m sorry you’re going to be leaving us so soon. Have you had a pleasant stay?” the clerk said.
“It has been satisfactory, thank you,” Harold said.
“I’m glad to hear that. Well, I hope you’ll come back and stay with us again soon,” the clerk said, and flashed his very best P.R. smile at them.
“Indeed,” Harold said.
The drive to the airport was easy. Alex was glad to find a gas station and convenience store along the way that had a decent selection of magazines. He selected a few of them, and felt relieved that he wouldn’t have to sit through another boring, silent flight. He wasn’t sure he was going to be able to sleep on the plane this time, since it was still reasonably early in the day.
When they arrived at the airport, there was a representative from the charter company waiting to greet them. Once again, they were led from the rental car (which the representative said he would handle the logistics of returning), on to the tarmac and directly on to a waiting jet. It was so quick and easy, Alex couldn’t believe it. No wonder Harold only flew on chartered planes.