I opened my office door, surprised to find three people standing there. Two men, and a woman.
I couldn’t remember when I’d last had so many visitors at my office. Maybe never.
“Can I help you?” I asked, recovering from my surprise.
They were all unassuming in appearance, all slight of build, but their posture suggested confidence. Usually, when people show up at my office, they’re a bit nervous. I guess average people don’t quite know how to act when meeting a wizard for the first time. The trio outside my door didn’t seem to be nervous or hesitant in any way. In fact, if I were to put words to their manner, I’d say “on a mission.” I wondered for a brief moment if maybe they were going to try to sell me something, but they didn’t have the false cheer of salespeople. No, there was no way I was going to guess their agenda just by staring at them.
The tallest of the three, a middle-aged man in a battered suede jacket, extended his hand. “Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, of Angel Investigations.” He said with a polished British accent.
“These are my associates, Will Benton and Buffy Summers.”
I shook his hand. His grip was firm but not uncomfortable. His hands hard and rough from manual work of some kind. He briefly made eye-contact with me, not long enough to trigger a soul-gaze, thankfully, but long enough for me to see his sincerity. That was a bold move, and one I generally associated with other wizards. My curiosity was piqued, and I had no intuition of danger, so I pulled on a gracious smile.
“What can I do for you?”
“It’s actually more what we can do for you.” Pryce said. The shorter man beside him quirked a wry grin. “May we come in?”
“Uhh, yeah. I mean, yes, of course.” I stepped away from the door, gesturing them inside. As they passed me, I reached out with my senses, trying to get a feel for them. What I felt astounded me. The amount of power crossing my threshold was immense. Each of the trio was oozing power of one sort or another. Pryce had a latent energy about him, he was obviously someone who had a bit of experience with magic. The other two, however, almost hummed with power, but not like I’d expect from a wizard. This was a more natural, inherent power, similar to supernatural beings like vampires and werewolves. Except the energy wasn’t dark. At least, it wasn’t all dark. Curiouser and curiouser.
The young woman was probably in her mid to late twenties. Her dark-blonde hair was loose around her shoulders, and her hazel eyes were large and pretty. It would have made her look young and innocent, but her posture and the look in her eye spoke of a maturity beyond her fresh-faced appearance. She was dressed simply, but attractively. Her jeans were well-cut, and her corduroy jacket hugged her figure in a way that was both flattering and business-like. I wondered where they had parked, her high-heeled boots didn’t look comfortable for walking very far. She seemed a bit ill at ease, whether it was me or the situation, I wasn’t sure. She seemed to be avoiding close contact with either of her companions, and I wondered what the relationship between them was. Pryce had said “associates.” It could be that Miss Summers was new to the team. Or maybe there was more to it than that.
The man Pryce had introduced as Will Benton was shorter than Pryce and lean of build with a thin, sharp-featured face. His light brown hair was short and curly, somewhat tamed by some sort of glossy hair product. While Pryce was wearing a button-up shirt and khaki pants, Benton was wearing a brown t-shirt and dark denim. I got the feeling he was the sort of man who bristled at dress-codes, and the scuffed utility boots he wore seemed to support my theory. Benton, like Pryce, had startlingly blue eyes, but he seemed quite adept at avoiding my gaze. Whether it was because he didn’t like attention, or because he was avoiding a potential soul-gaze I wasn’t sure.
Pryce handed me a business card. It didn’t really give me much information. An abstract logo that might have been an angelic figure of some kinds, a phone number, and an address. In Los Angeles, California.
“Angel Investigations… “ I said to Pryce. “You’re private investigators then?”
“In a very broad sense, yes.” Pryce said, leaning forward on the couch. “We assist people with problems of a… supernatural nature. Much like what you do here.”
“In Los Angeles.”
“So what brings you to Chicago?” And more specifically, my door, I thought.
“One of our colleagues has a talent for finding out where we need to be.”
“And your colleague had a vision that indicated you should come here.”
“Apparently there’s something supernatural stirring in Chicago. We’re here to find out what it is, and help if necessary.”
“And you came to me because….?”
“She told us you’d be a possible ally, and that you might appreciate our assistance.”
Okay, that sounded reasonable. In the ongoing supernatural war between good and evil, allies are tough to come by. Most people aren’t even aware of the supernatural, and those who are generally are unwilling to become involved. And of course the lifespan of those who do get involved can be quite… short.
Pryce filled me in on the vision their colleague had received. As my own sources had told me, a dark power was rising in the Chicago area, and if it wasn’t preempted, things would get bad. Apocalypse bad. Luckily, the young woman’s vision had been a bit more detailed than the rumors I had heard, so we had a good place to start from.
“So we know where the power is centered. We just need to determine who the instigator is, and what they’re trying to achieve.” I said, leaning back and surveying my new “team.” It felt strange to be discussing strategy with a group. So often I was on my own situations like these. Unless I counted Bob as a teammate. Which I didn’t.
“We’ll need a plan of action. Personally, I don’t fancy showing up on a warlock’s doorstep and asking what he’s trying to raise in his basement.” Pryce said dryly.
“That’s cuz you’re a boring git with no sense of adventure.” Benton said. It was the first time he’d spoken, and I was surprised to find he was British as well. I’m not an expert on dialects, but my impression was that his was a bit rougher around the edges. His comment elicited a quick glance and a smile from Ms. Summers, but she quickly looked away and composed her features into the mask of indifference she’d been wearing since she arrived.
Pryce gave Benton a long-suffering look. “Thank you, Will. Your opinion is duly noted.” He said with a raised eyebrow and a touch of sarcasm. Benton grinned. Clearly the two men enjoyed needling one another. It would seem they’d been working together for quite some time.
“Sounds like we need to do some recon.” Ms. Summers said. “Mr. Dresden, do you have any local sources that might have some useful information?”
“Yeah, I have some sources.” I said, “But getting them to talk is kind of tricky.”
“Eh, Buffy and I can handle it.” Benton said nonchalantly. “We can be pretty persuasive.”