Turning several street corners to throw off anyone who might be following him, David put a fair bit of distance between himself and the magic shop. No one seemed to be following him. Maybe it was just an unlucky coincidence that he lost contact with Julia when he did, but he didn’t want to take any chances.
Ducking into a narrow alley, he looked around to make sure no one else was nearby. Once he was satisfied, he slipped on Sarah’s invisibility ring. He hadn’t seen any need for it, but Sarah insisted he keep it. Now he was grateful she had. Safe from prying eyes – he hoped – David made his way back to the house.
As soon as it came into view, he knew something was off. The building always had an air of magic about it, if you knew how to look. But this was different, unfamiliar. This magic, whatever it was, might be responsible for severing the connection with Julia. Leaving the ring on, David approached the house carefully.
He went to open the door, but something stopped him from touching the doorknob. A barrier was wrapped around the house, though he had no idea who created it or why. Had Julia set it up to keep someone out? Or had someone else set it up to trap everyone inside?
He considered trying to use brute force to break through, but that had too many downsides. For one thing, it might not work, and all he would have accomplished is announcing his presence. On the other hand, using elemental magic might even damage the house. Without knowing more, he decided to wait and see what would happen next.
Over an hour passed uneventfully. Tired of waiting, David decided to try to get through the barrier. As he approached the house once more, he noticed three people leave a house down the block and walk in his direction. The ring’s magic appeared to still be working, so he hoped they weren’t coming for him. Indeed, they walked right past him and up to the front door. All of them appeared middle-aged and male; none of them looked familiar to him.
Effortlessly, they opened the door and entered the house. David tried to follow them inside, but the barrier remained intact. If they could pass through, they were probably responsible for setting it up in the first place. But knowing that didn’t help him.
Instead, he went to the house where the men had come from. There was a “For Sale” sign in the front yard, and the place seemed unoccupied. The front door was unlocked, so he went in as quietly as he could.
There wasn’t any furniture in the living room. In fact, every room was empty, and there was no indication of who the men were. Had they even really been here? To be thorough, he decided to check the basement, too.
As with the rest of the house, there was nothing in it. It was hard to imagine that anyone had ever lived here. He noticed a door at the far end of the large space. Opening it, he found himself in front of a person blindfolded and tied to a chair.