TUESDAY OCTOBER 4, 2005

19:52 GMT-3

VICKI CHURCH

THE MERIDIAN CINEMA | MERIDIA FALLS

“How are you doing?” Steph asks as she closes the living room door. A strawberry milkshake and latte balance precariously on top of a large pizza box in her hands.

Ignoring the gorgeous smell of the pizza, I tap my finger on the monitor screen showing Penny’s shimmering ghost. “Teddy helped me set up a better-quality CCTV camera to record Penny’s ghost. The clearer signal will help with isolating her magic signature, but there’s something else I noticed after Teddy left.” I tap my finger on the screen again. “Tell me I’m not going mad… Please!”

“Why?” Steph carefully places the pizza and the drinks on the table, then pulls off her hat and gloves. “What’s wrong?”

“Watch this video.” I press play on the sped-up footage of Penny’s ghost I prepared. “I’m sure her lips are moving.”

“What?” Steph’s eyes open wide as she peers at the sharper footage on the screen. “Play it again… I think you are right.”

I loop the footage. “I think her hand moves ever so slightly too. She could be trying to tell us something.”

“Maybe.” Steph glances over her shoulder at the door where Penny’s ghost stands. Not visible to her, but visible to me — and Logan. “Do you think you’ll be able to track her signal and find her — and the people responsible for what’s happening here?” she asks.

The inviting smell of pizza threatens to take my full attention. I stop the recorded footage and return the monitor to the live camera stream. “I’m using software that Mystery Tek was developing. A magic tracker.”

“Really?” Steph asks as she takes off her coat. “I’m surprised they were allowed to work on software like that. Then again, I’m surprised they’re allowed to do any of the things they do.”

“Don’t worry, they shelved the project long before I worked for them.” I press my hand to my stomach. “The software couldn’t have worked as it was; there’s no way it could have tracked us — any of us.”

“I hope so!” Steph exhales and hands me the milkshake. I take a long cool sip. “I thought you didn’t like strawberries,” she says, frowning.

“I don’t… well, I didn’t,” I say, rubbing my tender stomach.

Steph half-smiles. “Cravings.”

I nod and take another sip before turning back to the computer. I pull up an overhead map of Meridia Falls. “Look at this,” I say. “The Mystery Tek software has limitations. It can’t focus any closer than this.” I press the enter key, and a digital orange cloud appears over the map. “This is the magic signature in this town.”

Steph peers closer at the screen, straining her eyes.

I take another sip of my milkshake. “The software can’t isolate anything specific. This could be one person or hundreds. All we know is there’s magic here — or has been magic here.”

Steph turns on the main living room light. “So how can we isolate Miss Summer’s signature if this software can’t track magic?”

“Therein lies the problem that shelved the project.”

Steph half smiles. “Good! Although I sense a ‘but’ coming.”

“But… after leaving Mystery Tek. I developed an algorithm that could pinpoint tiny fluctuations in magic signatures.” I wave my hand over the keyboard, pretending to tap the keys. “With a little tweak to the code, and using the camera frequency as a filter, I think I can isolate Penny’s ghost signature — then we can track her whereabouts using one of Dad’s satellites.”

Steph takes a deep breath. “There’s a lot of organizations that would kill for any kind of magic-tracking technology.”

My heart rate increases as I feel the tiny tremor of the other life growing inside me. “I know.”

“Does your father know about your algorithm?

“Yes. In fact, he encouraged me to work on it after I left Mystery Tek.”

Steph frowns and brushes her hand through her hair. “I bet he did.” She bites her lip, then half-smiles. “Pizza.” She opens the box. “I just got a plain cheese.”

“Fine by me,” I say, eagerly taking a slice from the warm box. “I’m so hungry.”

“I’m glad you’re eating something,” Steph says. “You looked so ill earlier after the hospital. I was worried.”

I stop chewing and press my hand to my stomach. “I’ll be fine,” I say, ignoring the wobble in my voice.

Steph takes a slice of pizza and sits back on the sofa. Leaning back, she nods at the blinking lights inside the open safe on the wall. “Did you find anything else of interest in Miss Summer’s files?

“She’s been busy. I only scraped the tip of the iceberg, but I there was something. She was investigating a series of local robberies.”

“Robberies?”

I reach across and take another slice of Pizza. “Yes. Penny got hold of some confidential police reports — witness reports.” I grab a beige file from the desk. “There was a paper copy of one in the filing cabinets.” I pass a photocopied police report to Steph. “Look at the part Penny circled.”

 

Three teens with glowing eyes.

 

“Enchanters,” Steph says, her voice trailing off as she quickly scans over the rest of the report.

I nod. “Yes. It sounds like a classic Trinity formation.”

Steph frowns. “Or it could be just three teenagers up to no good and a drunk witness.”

I take another bite of pizza. “Penny documented several similar incidents going back a few years. Always three teenagers, always at night.”

“Glowing eyes?” Steph asks.

I shake my head. “Most of them had no witnesses, just dark and shaky CCTV images. No way to identify the teens involved.”

“Put it in the ‘investigate later’ pile,” Steph says, as she takes a sip of her latte. She winces as the drink is too hot. “We have enough on our plate.”

“Texas?”

She nods.

“So, what do you think Logan’s dad wants?”

“I don’t know, but it worries me that he’s made contact after all these years.” Steph pauses for a second. “It feels like something huge is about to happen.” She takes a deep breath. “You can smell it in the air.”

“That’s just the pizza,” I say, taking another bite from my slice.

Steph half-smiles. “If only that were the case.”

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