The blank stone; an artifact at the Belwin Museum of History that supposedly has some kind of magical powers that some people still believe in today. If people still believe in these powers, there may be some truth behind them, so the blank stone is worth investigating. Unfortunately, I was unable to convince the museum curator to let me investigate this stone. Therefore, I was unable to complete any investigations into this item, but the next time I’m anywhere near the museum, I’ll be sure to stop in and try again. Perhaps the museum curator will have a change of heart.
Evaira finished reading the entry and closed her sister’s diary.
“The fact that Liza claims she will return here,” Evaira said, “and the fact that she never mentioned having done so, or disclosed the nature of the blank stone’s alleged powers, makes this a possible candidate for a place that she disappeared.”
A vase sitting on the table transformed, revealing itself to be Bill.
“Do you have to become inanimate objects all the time?” Evaira asked, “it’s a bit creepy.”
“It also helps me practice,” Bill said, “not to mention saving space in this small RV. You know there only is enough bed space for you. Anyway, you were talking about the Belwin Museum of History? I’m afraid I don’t recall seeing a town named Belwin anywhere near here on the map.”
“True,” Evaira said, “because the Belwin Museum of History is not in a town called Belwin, but rather, named after its founder, one Gregor Belwin. It’s actually right down the street from here, at least, according to Alpha’s GPS.”
The RV drove down the street, right past the Belwin Museum. When they passed it, Evaira noticed that the building was wired off by police tape. Two police cars were parked outside, and police officers were nearby, interviewing several bystanders.
“What happened there?” Bill asked.
“I’m a bit curious myself,” Evaira said, “Alpha, let us off here. Go find a place to park the RV where it’s not in anybody’s way.”
“As you request,” Alpha said, and the RV stopped.
Evaira and Bill stepped out of the RV, and Alpha drove off with it once they were out. Evaira and Bill walked up to a police officer on the scene. The officer was arguing with a medium-height bystander with short brown hair when they approached.
“I really need to know what’s going on here?” the bystander asked, “what do you know about the robbery?”
“I’m sorry, sir,” the officer said, “I cannot discuss an ongoing investigation.”
“But you’ve barely told the public anything,” the bystander said.
“With good reason,” the officer said, “discussing an ongoing investigation could compromise it. You know there was a robbery, and you know what was stolen. We’re pursuing every lead we’ve got. That’s all you need to know.”
The bystander grumbled and stepped back.
“Excuse me, officer,” Evaira said.
“Yes, ma’am?” the officer asked.
“What’s happened here?,” Evaira said.
“Robbery last night,” the officer said, “somebody broke into this museum.”
“Oh, my,” Evaira said, a little surprised, “was anything taken?”
“Nothing valuable,” the officer said, “just some white rock called the blank stone.”
“That’s what we came here to look at,” Evaira explained, “Supposedly, it has some kind of magic powers.”
“Do you think this robber might have believed in the blank stone’s magic powers?” Evaira asked.
“You know,” the officer said, “that would actually explain a lot.”
“Yeah,” Bill said, “if you’re going to steal an object that’s not worth very much, you’re stealing it so you can do something with it.”
“Then we’re dealing with some kind of a nut,” the officer said, “everybody knows that magic powers don’t exist.”
“If you saw half of the strange phenomenon that I have,” Evaira said, “you wouldn’t think that.”
“So you’re nuts too,” the officer said, stepping back.
“We’re just open to the idea,” Bill said, “We have encountered our share of real magic before.”
“Hey,” another officer cried, who was sitting at a laptop, “Officer Sprague, you’ve got to see this!”
“Then clear the area,” Officer Sprague said, “we’ve got a crime to solve here.”
Officer Sprague walked over to the laptop, and looked at something. He was watching something on the laptop that seemed to have surprised him. After a few minutes, he picked up the laptop, and walked back over to Evaira.
“So,” Sprague said, “you say you’re some sort of magic experts?”
“I’d hardly say that,” Evaira said, “but we are far from strangers to it.”
“Look here,” he said, “at time index 19:62. Is this magic?”
He turned to show them the laptop, which showed security camera footage of the inside of the museum. They saw a man walk into the room. The man was dressed all in black and wore a mask, so he couldn’t be identified. He broke a glass display case, and pulled the stone out from underneath it. When he had grabbed the stone, he disappeared, leaving no trace.
“Trent said that this video wasn’t tampered with,” Sprague said, “and he’s our best technician; if he says that, I believe him. Besides, if the crook was to tamper with the footage, he would surely have erased all the footage of him, not just that taken after the stone was taken.”
“If that’s the case,” Evaira said, “it’s almost definitely magic.”
“Almost?” Sprague asked.
“By the looks of it,” Evaira said, “the person used whatever power that stone had to make himself disappear. Of course, it’s also possible that he had some technology to make him invisible, or disappear. They say unfamiliar technologies can be indistinguishable from magic. However, magic would be much easier to acquire, especially when you consider that stone’s legend.”
“I see,” Sprague said.
“May we have a copy of that video?” Evaira asked, “we might be able to make something more out of it with some analysis of our own.”
“Trent is our best technician,” Sprague said, “I doubt you’ll see something we didn’t. Besides, this is evidence.”
“And if this is magic,” Evaira argued, “we may be your best chance of catching this thief.”
“Alright,” he said, “you can review the video, but if you pass it along to anybody, or compromise its value as evidence, I’ll run the two of you in. Trent, get me another copy of the video!”
Trent ran over and handed Sprague a flash drive. Sprague then passed it along to Evaira.
“Thanks,” Evaira said, “we’ll let you know if we get anything.”
“Who are you anyway?” Sprague asked, as Evaira and Bill started to walk away.
“Evaira,” Evaira answered.
“Wait,” Sprague said, a bit concerned, “the writer?”
“No,” Evaira sighed, “my sister’s the writer. I’m just a concerned sister.”
Sprague looked confused, but didn’t say anything more. Evaira and Bill walked off. As they left, they passed by a young red-haired man.
“Excuse me,” he said, “what’s going on back there?”
“A robber,” Evaira said, “stole a stone from the museum. He apparently disappeared mid-robbery.”
“He disappeared,” the man asked.
“Yes he did,” Evaira said.
“It was on the security footage,” Bill said, “we saw it. The officer actually gave us a copy on a flash drive. The robber disappeared, just like that. One minute he’s there, the next…”
As Bill was saying this, Evaira gestured him to stop, but Bill kept talking until Evaira grabbed his arm and gave him a tug.
“We really have to go,” Evaira said.
“Well,” the man said, “thanks for the details.”
He walked away.
“Why did you tell him that?” Evaira asked Bill, as they were walking away.
“He clearly wanted to know what happened,” Bill said, “so I told him.”
“But we can’t tell him everything,” Evaira said, “the police can’t have everything they do become public knowledge, or it will help the crooks slip away. If the robber gets wind of the fact that this evidence exists, it could be bad.”
“But the officer told us,” Bill said.
“Only because he wanted us to consult,” Evaira said, “I’ve consulted with local police departments concerning crimes of magic before. They make it clear that we are not to give out any more information than they choose to publically reveal. The police will surely reveal the fact that he disappeared, but may not want to reveal their source.”
“I see,” Bill said, “I guess I don’t understand the world out of Carlsburn much.”
“Just don’t discuss active police investigations,” Evaira said, “aside from what the public will know. Now, I’d better call Alpha, and find where he parked the RV.”
Evaira did just that, and after finding out where Alpha had parked it, they headed directly there. It was a confusing route; the streets of the town are difficult to navigate, and the RV lot was not close to the museum. When they finally arrived back at the RV, they handed the flash drive off to Alpha.
“Alpha,” Evaira asked, “explain what’s going on here.”
“As you request,” Alpha said.
Alpha inserted the flash drive into a slot under his shirt, and began to download the data off of it.
“How did the criminal disappear?” Evaira asked.
“I would say this is invisibility magic,” Alpha explained, “triggered by the stone this man had just stolen.”
“So the stone makes people invisible,” Evaira asked.
“The odds are favorable,” Alpha replied, “unless our thief brought his own magic source.”
“Then wouldn’t he have used that to get into the museum as well?” Evaira asked.
“Good thinking,” Bill said.
“Evaira!” Chira’s voice came from the back of the RV.
Evaira and Bill walked to the back to find Chira, a grounder, peeking out of her pot, and watching their television. A local news show was on.
“You’ve got to see this,” Chira said.
They turned to the TV.
“And to summarize,” the news reporter said, “the Valdez family robbery has proven to be a strange case. Marco Valdez was awake at the time of the robbery. He claims to have heard footsteps, and saw the doors opening and closing. However, he also claims to have seen the family valuables floating through the air on their own as they move out of the house. We are not certain how this has happened, or if Marco was actually sane, but we will bring you the detail as it comes in. This is Angela Bastion reporting.”
“It looks like this town has just got itself an invisible burglar,” Evaira said.
“So, should we do something about it?” Bill asked.
“The police aren’t going to be able to catch this guy on their own,” Evaira said, “and besides, I’d still like to examine that stone.”
“But how do we catch an invisible thief?” Chira asked.
“We need to figure out where he’ll come next,” Evaira said, “and beat him there.”
“Unless,” Bill said, “we can lure him to us.”
“What are you suggesting?” Evaira asked.
“I can easily impersonate some priceless treasure,” Bill explained, “all we need to do is spread the word that we’re in town, and we’ve got valuable treasures, and we’ll make ourselves a target for thieves. I can become the treasure to make it legitimate.”
“Good thinking,” Evaira said, “that might work, except for one little issue: if the thief is invisible, we won’t be able to see him coming. He can steal Bill and get out without being seen.”
“I can shapeshift back the moment he gets near me,” Bill said, “I can become some opaque liquid, and reveal where he is. But liquids are hard. I’m going to need some time to prepare. We won’t be able to pull this off tonight.”
“We’d probably need a whole day to get the story out that we have such a treasure anyway,” Evaira said, “let’s do this tomorrow.”
“Agreed,” Bill said.
So, Evaira sat down and studied her sister’s diary for the rest of the day. Alpha remained in the driver’s seat, and continued to analyze the flash drive video. Bill and Chira sat at a table, and played chess with each other. Though Chira could easily sit upright, her small size and short front arms made it difficult for her to move the pieces. Before long, it was nighttime, and everybody went to bed.
In the middle of the night, Evaira woke with a startle when she heard a loud bump.
“Bill, was that you,” she cried.
“Not me,” Bill’s voice cried back.
“Chira,” Evaira said, “did you break your pot again?”
“No,” Chira said obviously a little frightened by something, “but you might want to get out here!”
Evaira got up, and walked out into the main room of the RV. She was surprised to see the flash drive the police had given her, and a large wad of cash floating in the air, heading towards the exit. She knew what was happening immediately, the invisible robber was robbing them!
“Stop!” Evaira said, “put that down!”
But the loot continued floating out of the room.
Evaira got ready to attack the robber, but before she could, the rug on the ground bunched up, creating an obvious tripping hazard. There was a loud thud, as the robber tripped and fell. The money he had taken flew everywhere. The rug then changed, revealing it was actually Bill.
“Thanks, Bill,” Evaira said.
“Now,” Bill said, “let’s get him!”
“We still can’t see where he landed.” Evaira said.
A moment later, they heard the RV door open and close, as footsteps rushed out.
“He got away!” Bill said, a bit upset.
“And by the looks of it,” Evaira said, “he’s got the flash drive. Thankfully, Alpha has saved a backup copy.”
The next morning, they continued to look, to ensure that the flash drive was indeed stolen, and not mixed in with the money. While they were looking, there was a knock on the RV door. Chira quickly ducked into her pot, and Evaira went to open the door. It was Officer Sprague.
“Excuse me,” he said, “do you still have the flash drive I gave you, or did he strike here too?”
“Too?” Evaira asked.
“Last night,” Sprague explained, “we found all our copies of the security footage were erased. The night patrolman says that nobody entered, but the door to the computer room opened on its own once, and several of the computers seemed to be strangely operating with nobody using them.”
“So the invisible robber struck you too?” Evaira asked.
“He struck here?” Sprague asked, “and he’s invisible?”
“Yes,” Evaira said, “we believe he’s the same guy who robbed the Valdez house, and he used the invisibility powers of the stone from the museum to rob the Valdez house, and also steal the only footage that can identify him from both the police and ourselves. He tried to steal some of our money too, but ended up tripping and dropping it on his way out.”
“Normally,” Sprague said, “I’d find the idea of an invisible robber preposterous, but at this point, what else can I believe? So, you lost the footage too then?”
“It was backed up,” Evaira said, “in one place the robber would never look. Please come in.”
“I wonder how he learned about the footage,” Officer Sprague said, as he entered the RV, and sat down.
Bill smiled innocently at Sprague’s comment.
“Interesting place you have here,” he said.
“Thanks,” Evaira said, “Alpha, roll the footage.”
“As you request,” Alpha said.
A moment later, on the television screen, the footage from the museum played. Officer Sprague watched it.
“I’ll make you a replacement copy,” Evaira said.
“Thanks,” Sprague said, “but the question becomes if he’s invisible, how do we catch him?”
“We were actually contemplating a plan last night,” Evaira said, “we just need to lure him back here, and we’re in business.”
“Lure him here?” Sprague asked, “I can do that. I’ll just make it public that a key piece of evidence was almost lost, but we still have a copy thanks to a consultant who managed to keep a backup. That should tempt our crook try to steal your backup.”
“Then here’s what we’ll do…” Evaira started.
Evaira, Bill, and Sprague discussed their plan for the capture of the invisible robber.
That evening, everybody got in place to enact the plan. Evaira, Bill, and Alpha hid in the bedroom. Although it was cramped for the three of them to be in a bedroom built for one, it made the main section of the RV appear to be empty, and thus, easy for the invisible robber to search without drawing attention. Evaira expected him to be careful after what happened the night before. They waited for several hours, trying to occupy themselves, mostly by playing chess (difficult to do on the bed surface).
Then, they heard a squeaking noise coming from the main section of the RV. It was Chira crying in grounder language, the prearranged signal for when she noticed something suspicious was going on. Evaira nudged the door open, and she saw some of the objects on the shelves moving and drawers opening and closing as the invisible robber meticulously searched for the backup.
She then heard a banging noise, followed by a splash, and Bill’s voice swearing.
“He’s out there,” Evaira said, “now’s your cue.”
“We need a new plan,” Bill said.
Evaira turned to him. Bill had inadvertently knocked a bowl of water off of a surface next to Evaira’s desk, and gotten himself soaked.
“Why do you keep a bowl of water right there?” Bill asked.
“Helps me cool off on hot nights,” Evaira said.
“Well,” Bill said, “unfortunately, I can’t shapeshift when I’m soaked. We need a new plan.”
“That sounds a little silly,” Evaira said in disbelief.
“No,” Bill said, “I mean it. When a shapeshifter tries to shapeshift when wet, he risks absorbing the water into himself. Absorbing water this way can severely compromise our abilities, may even make it impossible to change back properly.”
“Then I’ll just have to improvise something,” Evaira said with a sigh.
She looked around the room to think of something she could use to expose him, but didn’t see anything. Then, she slipped open her closet, which was crammed to the brim with her dresses. She then noticed her powder was sitting in the closet. That’s when she had an idea.
She put talcum powder on the puff, and walked to the door. She noticed that at this point, the invisible robber was not far from the bedroom, as could be evidenced from the movement. She threw the powder puff right in his direction, and hoped for the best.
The powder puff bounced off him, and then fell onto the ground. When it struck him, the robber briefly said “huh”, and looked around, but did not notice Evaira who had already closed the door. However, he did not notice the fact that the powder puff left a large spot of white powder clinging to his body. His location was exposed, but he did not notice. The powder must have struck him from behind.
“Hand me a blanket,” Evaira said.
“As you request,” Alpha replied, handing her a large white blanket.
With the invisible robber’s location exposed by the powder, Evaira opened the door. As she did so, the movement stopped. The robber noticed her, and froze. He was unaware of the fact that Evaira has already spotted him. Evaira then threw the blanket right above the powder mark, and it landed right over the robber’s head. The robber reached for the blanket, to pull it off, but then Evaira screamed “now!”
Bill and Alpha rushed out from the bedroom and tackled the robber, while he was still blinded by the blanket. They held him to the ground as officer Sprague ran in.
“Here’s the stone,” Bill said, noticing that the blank stone had fallen from the robber’s possession in the chaos.
They removed the blanket, and discovered that the now visible robber was the bystander who was arguing with Officer Sprague at the museum.
“You!,” Officer Sprague said.
“You can’t catch me,” the man cried, “you can’t!”
“We just did,” Evaira said, “you know, the villains who claim to be invincible never are.”
“No wonder he was so persistent in asking about the investigation,” Sprague said.
“I guess it wasn’t my fault he learned about the video,” Bill said.
“True,” Evaira said, “but it was still not smart to bring it up. Regardless, there is one thing still bugging me: why does the stone make his clothes invisible but not work on the things he steals, the powder, or the blanket?”
“These clothes are special,” the robber said, “not easy to find, but I found a motorcycling salesman who had clothes that can turn invisible with you. I’ve been planning this for years, and now, after just two nights…”
He then turned to glare angrily at Evaira and Bill.
“Let’s go,” Sprague said, “to jail with you.”
Sprague handcuffed the robber, and began to escort him out of the RV.
“This is not over,” the robber said, “I’ll hunt you down and have my revenge if it’s the last thing I do! You haven’t seen the last of Jay Briggs!”
The robber was then gone. After Sprague locked him up in the back of his police car, parked in a hidden place nearby, he returned to the RV.
“Thanks for your help,” he said, “I guess we’ll have to take this stone into evidence, but when it returns to the museum, we’ll make sure it’s put under extra high security. I’ll also have the reward money send to you, for your help.”
“Great,” Evaira said, “Bill, you can have the money.”
“But you’re the one who caught the robber,” Bill said, “and I almost screwed up by telling that other guy, and getting myself wet.”
“I got plenty,” Evaira said, “Besides, you’re the one who pulled the rug out from under him.”
Evaira and Bill laughed at Evaira’s little joke, while Officer Sprague looked at them, confused.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
The next morning, the police came to the RV to gather whatever evidence they could find, before they returned to the station to process Jay. Evaira and her companions left town that afternoon. It was clear the blank stone had nothing to do with Liza’s disappearance.
Author’s Notes (may contain spoilers):
Normally, when I write Evaira, I try to include some kind of moral dilemma for the characters, or unanswered question, to make for a thought-provoking story. But when I wrote “The Unseen Phenomenon”, I decided to step away from that for a bit, and just write a caper. I initially was concerned that this lack of a dilemma made it a weaker story than the other seven I’ve finished so far, but ultimately realized it was just as good a story in its own right.
I really struggled with the decision of who to make the robber. I originally wanted it to be the guy who Bill spilled too much information to, but was concerned that would be too obvious. I also considered making it Trent, the police’s techie, but then realized if he was the robber, he could have simply deleted the security data before anybody saw it. I ultimately introduced Jay watching the police as a resolution. He overhears Evaira’s conversation with Sprague, so he learns of the footage that way, and everything works out.
I was struggling a bit with the ending, and it did take a while to finish this story, and not just because Evaira stories are typically long. I just had a little trouble getting the flow of events in the final confrontation with Jay straight. But it all worked out in the end.