The Disappearing Act
He was supposed to be the one in charge here.
He'd had years of training in the Marines, the Navy, special ops, four blackbelts...and yet, he'd stood there dumbfounded as the teenager had saved his ass.
He'd woken up to said teenager standing over him, holding a cup of Starbucks and giving him a look of disdain he would never have had the guts to give his own father.
"Yo." The teen nodded. "You alright?"
"Uh..." He hesitated. "Sure?"
The Starbucks cup waved in front of his face. "Here."
"Thank you," he muttered, still feeling utterly unequipped to deal. "Where are we?"
The teenager pulled out a cellphone and showed it to him, Google mapped to an address. "Apparently Denver."
"Wait -- what? How long have I been asleep??"
"Four hours. It takes some getting used to. I slept for about one." The teenager crouched, leaning in until he could see a glint of anger shining off a silver nosering. "I took your gun, your badge, and your phone. You'll get them back after I'm gone. Meantime, tell your people to leave me the fuck alone."
He nursed the coffee. "We were in Jacksonville."
"That's not four hours away from Denver."
The teenager stood and shrugged, their hoodie slumping over their shoulders. "I don't pick the destination. I just GPS it when I get there."
"Who's house is this?"
"Dunno. When I Googled it, it popped up on AirBNB. You're lucky, man. I don't usually land somewhere this convenient."
"What do you mean land? How did we get here?" His voice cracked and he unconciously took a sip of the black brain juice in his hand. Control, he had to reassert control.
The teenager sank into a chair across from where he sat on the floor. "You still don't know, even though you've been following me since I appeared in that confidential military thingy?" A smirk floated across a face hidden under a hoodie.
Years of reviewing government secrets meant gears clicked a bit faster as he processed this information. "You're a teleporter."
"Kinda. Can't pick where I go though. Otherwise trust me - your base would not have been my choice." The smirk faded into a frown. "That's ruined my life more than they have."
"Who's 'they'?" The caffeine did little to dull the throbbing ache that suddenly started pounding his skull. He wasn't sure if this was a side effect of magically appearing on the other side of the country, or grappling mentally with the fact that he had found someone who could.
"The Houdini's." The teen answered softly, an undercurrent of muddled anger with fear hissing out of a deflated figure.
The events of the previous day flashed in front of his eyes and he rubbed his throat. "That person...choked me like Darth Vader."
"The Drowner. He controls breath." The teen explained. "Houdini trick number one."
"The Lockpick - he can unlock anything by touching it." The teen took another sip of coffee. "The Regurgitator - don't think I need to explain that one, it's kinda gross." The agent thought of the bullets that had sunk into flesh, only to pop back out. "Then there's The Wall - able to withstand any blow - and finally The Swapper, who's kinda like me but can only swap places with something in her line of sight." The teen stopped and watched him, waiting for his disbelief.
However, he was laying on the floor of a one-bedroom granny unit in Denver right now. The moment for disbelief had ended. "They're trying to recruit you?"
"Yeah. I said no, several times, but - they don't like that answer."
"What's their end goal?"
"General mischief, or thievery. Most of Houdini's tricks lend themselves well to heists it seems." The teen shifted uncomfortably. "I can't say I haven't 'borrowed' things before, but I never asked for this life and I'm just trying to get by. I'm not setting myself up like some magical mafia boss."
The agent croaked, "You saved my life."
The teen shrugged again. "Didn't know if it would work. I've never disappeared with someone before. Laptops, backpacks, yeah. Not whole bodies." The teen rubbed their temples, and the agent thought of his own headache.
"How often can you do it?"
"It takes me at least eight hours to recover, normally. Used to be three days. This time? I dunno."
The agent stood finally, surveying the area. "No wonder we couldn't track you. You had no premeditated movements, and we couldn't figure out how you traveled so quickly."
The teenager barked out a short laugh. "Lot of good that's done me."
"Let me bring you in. We can protect you."
"You can use me, you mean." The teenager shook their head. "I don't feel like living as an experiment any more than I feel like joining the Dark Side."
"Your power's not that helpful. Hate to break it to you, kid. I don't think even the government could figure out much use for it."
"That wouldn't stop them from trying, though, would it?" Tired eyes, much older than the face that framed them, stared into his soul. "Look - can we just call it even and you walk away for now? I need to lay low, recharge, then move on."
"You're going to spend your entire life on the run?"
"Not much choice here."
Thinking, the agent reached into his tactical vest under his shirt and pulled out a mundane piece of paper. "Here. That's my contact card, it goes to an untapped personal phone that will only record voice mail. Keep it, and if I can ever really repay the favor give me a call."
The teen paused, then accepted it. "Alright, mister. But I still need at least 24 hours to reset here. Then you can call in to whoever and let them know where you are."
"Fine. I need to recharge myself." He lifted up the coffee. "Thanks for this."
"Not a problem. You need any Advil?"
The agent suddenly noticed the plastic bag on the dresser, filled with various drugstore items including a large bottle of generic pain killers. "Nah, I'm good. It'll pass."
The teen nodded, then stood up and collected the bag. "Alright. Well, this is me leaving again. Your stuff's in a lockbox down at the post office four blocks west from here, key's in the toilet tank."
"Take care, spy guy."
"I like spy guy better." The teen smiled and Taylor questioned whether he'd jumped to conclusions assuming his target was male. Then the smile faded and the hoodie and bag quickly exited, closing the door softly behind them.
And there goes the Disappearing Act. Taylor continued to sit for a few minutes, finishing his coffee and contemplating how to explain this one to his superiors.
One thing was certain - his target had changed. There were now others out there, far more dangerous than this kid, that needed to be taken in or taken down. He shuddered again at the memory of being choked out, thrashing helplessly until everything had turned black.
The Houdini's...how long would it take to bring them down?
Or could they ever be contained at all?