"I'm not an elf!"Mid-May
"You don't like blondes."
"One of the walls fell over."
"I'm not going to make your life Hell on purpose."
"I can't believe I'm doing this."
Ayel crouched down, trying to keep to the shadows of the night. Just head, the warehouse sat, the parking lot bathed in light, drowning out the stars above. Beside her, Kristi pulled up the hood on her grey sweater. Kieu, dressed head to toe in black, sprawled flat on the ground.
Aidan looked down at the three women. "You're going to get noticed like that."
"That's, like, the total opposite of what we want," Kristi said. She stood up straight. "Aren't we going to get noticed anyway?"
"People tend to pay attention to the weird. If we act like we belong, we fade into the background." Aidan gave Kieu a light kick. "And if we lie down on a road, we get run over."
"Alright." Kieu got to her feet. "I thought we had to be stealthy."
"I don't see why we all had to come," Ayel said. "Who is going to bail us out if we're caught."
Ginger poked her head out from Kristi's jacket. "We're not going to be caught."
"We're going to be on any security camera around here," Aidan said. "The goal isn't to be stealthy. The real goal is to not give any indication that we were here and that the video has to be looked at."
"We don't pay you enough," Kristi said.
"You don't pay me at all. You're lucky I'm not working tonight."
"I'll make it up with you later." Kristi winked at Aidan.
"I'm fairly sure compensation has to be in cash, not 'favours'," Ayel said.
Aidan's cheeks flushed. "Right," he coughed. "Let's get our bit of larceny over with." The slim man led the way to the warehouse's main door. He retrieved a leather pouch from under his yellow rain jacket. Within moments, he had the warehouse door unlocked. "If there's an alarm, it'll go off as soon as we enter. Flashlights out, ladies. I need the alarm code as soon as we go in." He opened the door.
Rapid beeps filled the office. Ayel, Kristi, and Kieu split up, each illumuninating the darkness with flashlight apps on their smart phones. Aidan found the alarm control and flipped it open. The control's display showed a countdown. "Forty-five seconds!" he called.
Kristi shone her light on the receptionist's desk. "Nothing here."
"Nothing here, either," Ayel said from the filing cabinets.
"Look inside the drawers," Kieu said. She pulled open a cabinet near the printer, finding only paper.
Kristi opened the top drawer of the desk. She peered inside, angling her phone to get as much light as possible. "Found something!" The tawny-haired woman pulled out a sticky note. She ran over to Aidan. "Here."
Aidan punched in the code. The beeps stopped. The group waited one moment, then another. No loud klaxon sounded. Aidan looked over at the alarm console. "We're good."
The three women each let out the breath they held. "Good," Kristi said. "Now to find that wall."
Ayel found the light switch and turned it on. Everyone blinked as the flourescent ceiling lamp came one, the light a blinding white after the darkness. "That should make it easier."
"Yeah, thanks," Kieu said. She turned in a circle. "Found it!" She pointed at the wall behind where the receptionist would sit. A section of the wall gaped open into a meeting room. The wall itself rested on the large table in the centre of the room. Chairs were pushed up against the walls still standing.
"That's a very neat collapse," Kristi said.
"Cameras, everyone," Aidan said. "Try not to touch anything. The less we disturb things, the less anyone has to believe that we were here."
Kieu and Kristi aimed their cell phones at the mess. The flash created a strobe effect. Ayel walked around the perimeter of the room, taking photos of the reception area. Aidan returned the alarm code to the desk drawer before examining the missing section of wall.
"Don't forget to get close ups," Ayel said. "The sooner we're out, the better."
Ginger pointed to underneath the fallen wall. "What's that?"
"What's what?" Kristi knelt down.
"My nail!" Ginger scrambled out of Kristi's sweater, losing her tea towel wrap in the process.
"Ginger, wait!" Kristi reached out to grab the tiny woman but missed by mere centimetres.
Ginger held up her prize. "Found my nail!"
Kristi took a quick photo of the nail. "We probably should leave it here."
"Ayel, you're taller than me," Aidan said. "Can you take a look at the top of the wall here?"
Ayel picked her way to where Aidan stood. "What am I looking for?"
"The nails. I don't see any."
"I have one!" Ginger beamed.
Kristi dropped the tea towel on the tiny woman. "You might want to get dressed."
Ayel stretched out on the tips of her toes. "I see holes where the nails were." She took a quick photo with her camera. "No nails. Wouldn't they have been pulled out when the wall fell?"
Aidan pointed at the fallen wall. "I don't see any nails sticking out, do you?"
Kieu stepped in for a closer look. "None here," she reported. "What does this mean?"
"Good question," Aidan said. "Kristi, do you see any other nails around?"
Kristi shone her light around. "Just what Ginger found."
The tiny woman finished fastening the tea towel around her. "Just my nail."
Aidan knelt down to Ginger's height. "May I see it?"
Ginger held up her treasure for the slim man. "It's not shiny anymore. But I can fix that."
The nail had a bit of paint on its head and a slight curve to it. "Thank you." Aidan got back up. "It's bent."
"Hang on, does that mean the nail was pried out?" Ayel asked. "I thought ghosts couldn't touch cold iron."
"It's a normal nail, galvanized steel," Aidan said. "And steel is always forged hot. There's no other way to make it."
Kristi stared at the blonde woman. "Where did you learn about cold iron?"
Ayel blushed. "Supernatural. I watch it for the eye candy."
"Oh, me, too!" Kieu stepped out of the meeting room. "Did you see the latest one?"
"Girls? Focus." Kristi glared at both of her partners. "And no spoilers! I don't have cable yet."
Aidan shook his head is dismay. "We should get going. The longer we're here, the--" A crash in the back interrupted him. "Where's Ginger?"
Ginger came out from under the fallen wall. "Here."
"Time to go." A second crash, this one louder, came from the back. Aidan whipped his head around to find the source. "Move, now!"
Kristi scooped Ginger into her arms and ran for the door. Ayel waited for Kieu to get going before she followed. Aidan waited for them women to be out of the warehouse before getting into gear himself. He stopped at the alarm control. Through the gap in the wall, he saw the flapping of cloth. Aidan hit the button turning on the alarm, then dashed out the door.
The four women were waiting at the van, Ginger seated on Kristi's shoulder. "What about the lock?" Ayel asked.
"Doesn't matter," Aidan said. "We need to go now, before the alarm goes off."
"Right." Ayel jumped into the driver's seat. Kristi and Ginger got in on the passenger side. Kieu ran off with Aidan to his hatchback.
As Ayel started the van up, Kristi put a hand on the blonde's shoulder. "Wait."
"Wait?" Ayel put the van into gear. "You heard Aidan." She hooked her thumb at the slim man's hatchback as it sped out of the parking lot.
"I heard Aidan. What don't you hear?"
"Is this one of those Zen questions? Not the best time for it, Kristi."
"No, Ayel. Listen."
Ayel rolled down her window. "I'm listening." She heard traffic in the distance, a squeal of tires, her own van's motor rumbling. "What am I missing?"
Kristi pulled out her phone, holding it up so that Ayel could see the time. "How long has it been since we got out?"
"Can't be more than a minute." The blonde woman cocked her head to the side. She smiled as she got Kristi's point. "So, where's the alarm?"
Ayel drove out of the warehouse's parking lot, keeping to the speed limit. "Let Aidan and Kieu know. There must be a Tim Horton's somewhere close."
Thirty minutes later
The parking lot at Tim Horton's had a few cars beyond Ayel and Aidan's. Ayel had the van's side door open to let people sit. She preferred to lean against the vehicle, coffee in hand. Aidan half-sat on the hood of his hatchback, a bottle of orange juice in hand. Kristi and Kieu sat on the floor of the van, each with a tea in hand. Ginger stood in between them, balancing herself against a plastic cup filled with iced coffee as she bent the straw to her face.
"So what if the alarm didn't go off?" Aidan said. "There was someone in there."
"Someone only you saw," Kristi replied. "You had all of use running out the door. Besides, if the alarm didn't go off, doesn't that mean someone had to punch in the code?"
"Guys," Ayel said, pushing herself away from the van, "this isn't getting us anywhere. We have photos to examine, numbers to crunch, and packages to track."
"And coffee to drink!" Ginger took a long sip of her iced coffee. She closed her eyes, then winced. The tiny woman clutched her head with her hands as she fell into the fetal position. "Cold," she stammered.
"I think that's the first full-body ice cream headache I've seen," Kristi said. "I think we need to go back later tonight."
"And risk getting caught?" Aidan shook his head. "No, Kristi. Bad idea."
"I don't want to break in. I just want to take a look around outside. If you did see someone, they didn't get past us."
"Unless they were there before us," Kieu said. "And why are we assuming a 'they'?"
"Singular 'they'," Ayel said. "Could be plural, though. Depends why they, singular or plural, were there."
Ginger got to her knees. She adjusted her tea towel as it slipped down. "They were there for the magic."
Aidan snorted. "I'd argue against that, but I'd be arguing against a fairy."
"I'm not a fairy. I'm Ginger."
Kristi cut her hands through the air to stop Aidan from commenting. "We've had this talk before, Aidan. Trust me, she's Ginger." She turned to the tiny woman. "The magic what, though? That's the question."
Ginger shrugged. "Dunno." She pulled herself to her feet using her cup of iced coffee. "There's some sort of magic in there, and it's not one I know."
Kieu set down her tea. "I should have brought that device."
"None of us thought of it, Kieu," Ayel said. "Okay, I'm curious, too. Aidan, can you drive Kieu home and pass by the warehouse to see if there are any police or security vehicles there? Kieu can text Kristi and we can decide then if we want to check the grounds for clues."
"It's risky, Ayel." Aidan shrugged. "But, a drive by should be good enough. Kieu?"
"Sure. I have Kristi's number."
Kristi beamed. "Great! I'll email everyone later with what we find out."
"Coffee won't help here."
"You should do something else, expand your horizons, find a nice boy."
"Coffee, coffee, coffee."
"There's a stranger on our couch!"