The ring Sarah had given him made him invisible, but wandering through the compound was still a little nerve-wracking. With every step, David expected someone to raise the alarm. It wasn’t that he doubted Sarah’s skill; he just had no experience with this magic, so it was difficult to relax.
In theory, the plan was simple. Sarah would distract Marie by inquiring about Rebecca. That provided her an excuse to enter the compound and allow David to sneak in with her and look around. There was no concrete reason to think this group had abducted Rebecca, but Sarah had a hunch.
The problem with the plan was that neither of them had any knowledge of the layout of the place. Sarah had only been here once, and only in the first house. David, who had never been here, had no real idea where to even begin. His own village had a communal organization, but this place had an air of hierarchy that he was unfamiliar with. Every building seemed like it held secrets, but their nature was indeterminate. None stood out.
David entered the first house he came to after the one in front, as much to get out of the open as to start looking. Would things be hidden? Or did the group feel safe enough from the outside world to not bother with concealing anything? Because he couldn’t be sure, he looked through every room.
The floor above ground was normal looking, if sparsely furnished. There were single beds in three of the rooms, and a front room with a couch and several chairs. It took him a bit to realize that what seemed off was the lack of a kitchen. There was no one obviously being held captive, however. That just left the basement to investigate.
The basement was dark and unfinished. After fumbling around for a few moments, David found a light and turned it on. Against one wall were shelves piled high with food. Considering the lack of a kitchen in the house, the supply seemed especially out of place.
Other buildings he checked followed the same basic pattern, simple furnishings and a stocked basement. Water, gasoline, freezers stocked with meat, tools, and so on. This group had enough supplies to be self-sufficient for some time. And yet, there was no sign that Rebecca, or anyone else, was being held against their will.
A somewhat larger building towards the middle of the compound held a sizable kitchen and dining hall. Unlike the others he had been in, this building was occupied. Several people were busy preparing a meal. David headed to the basement expecting to find yet more food.
To his surprise, there was a small room at the bottom of the stairs, with a locked door on the far wall. He knew nothing about picking locks, and there was no obvious place for someone to have hidden a key nearby. Using magic to get through the door would be destructive, but the only other option he could think of was leaving. While he was trying to determine the least noticeable method of getting rid of the door, footsteps on the stairs interrupted his train of thought.
The invisibility was still intact, but he wasn’t intangible, so he tried to get as flat against the wall as he could. A man in a simple white shirt and jeans appeared after a moment.
“Is there someone down here?”
When no response came, he finished descending the stairs and walked over to the door. After checking that the door was still locked, he produced a key and unlocked it. Once through the door, he turned on a light. David carefully followed him inside. Several work benches were stationed around the room, and there was a gun rack on one wall. While the scene was disturbing, it still wasn’t what David was looking for, so he turned to leave. In doing so, he accidentally kicked the table nearest him.
“Whoever you are, don’t move.”
Looking behind him, David saw the man holding a rifle aimed at the door. At first, he worried that the invisibility had finally failed, but he could tell the man was still scanning the room. Slowly, David took a step towards the door. The man aimed and squeezed the trigger. The bullet just missed David’s head.
“I said, don’t move.”
David wasn’t sure how he knew where to shoot. Rather than risking another attempt, he decided to cause a distraction. There was a table right behind the man, and it was a simple enough matter to start a fire on it. Unfortunately, something on the table exploded when the fire touched it. David’s world went black.