Chapter One: Escape Artist

Eventually, I found myself a niche where my work was valued and respected. But, I didn't expect to be working for the criminal underworld. I guess one can't have everything.

"Hey, 'lusion dude. Now would be a great time!" shouted the lead criminal at me as we ran from the lovely cacophony of police cars that seemed intent on finding us. Granted, we did steal a bunch of raw diamonds, but hey, one had to get by somehow.

"Fine! You could use the exercise, though," I spat with irritation as I began my "hacking" simultaneously into the minds of both the law enforcement chasing us and the rather stunned passerby. I knew I was going to have such a horrible headache after this job, but by God it paid well. As we swerved into the alley that held our getaway car, I grabbed hold of the people's minds and made them see. Additionally, I was forced to send my power far away toward the people behind the numerous surveillance cameras and create an illusion coercing them into deleting the data. The kind of troubles I suffered for my job, honestly.

The toll it took on me was instantly visible. I stumbled, clutching my ragged hair as I fought to make them all see the empty alley, see our figures running further, see nothing relating to us. I dimly registered a strong pair of hands pulling me into our ride as I strained to hold the illusion.

"Can you hide us?" the leader, Sam, I believed, revved up the car and edged it toward the entrance to the alley. Dimly I heard several sirens shoot past out hideout. Safe.

"Of course!" I sputtered as I began sifting through minds and slowly removed my illusions. I would need full power to keep the next illusion. "Do you… have the r-recording ready like I… asked?" I said, wiping sweat out from under my bangs. One of the other thieves grunted, holding up the stereo.

"On…my count," I breathed, removing all traces of my influence from hundreds of people. "One…two…three!"

Grunting Thief pressed down on the stereo and the loud whine of an ambulance instantly worsened my headache as I wove an illusion over our getaway car. "Go, dammit!" I said, leaning back in my seat, not even bothering to put on my seatbelt. The squeal of tires was somehow soothing as I set my mind to autopilot.

Running illusions that affected multiple people was exhausting. Doing it to one person was easy, but hundreds of people in a crowded city weren't my definition of pleasant or simple. Whenever I controlled what people saw, I had to break into each person's individual mind and take over their vision, controlling my illusion from all kinds of angles. I'd learnt to multitask, but I still found it rather irritating. I much preferred to weave illusions without hacking minds, instead manipulating light waves, but I had to see my work as I did it. It wasn't the most convenient form when we were running from law enforcement, so I was forced to rely on the more exhausting way.

An additional aspect that my illusions didn't cover was touch, hearing, smell, or taste. I could only manipulate what people saw. That wasn't too bad in itself, I supposed, as people really trusted what they saw far too much. It just made my job, sneaking criminals in and out of their targets, a little difficult when some of the bloody idiots I had to serve touched someone, knocked over something, or spoke too loudly. Surprisingly enough, a large majority of the criminals I knew were absolute dimwits. However, they generally understood that to some extent, and so they rather smartly hired me to keep their idiocy in check.

Sometimes it was rather hard.

The car we were in (some kind of van, I believe?) suddenly braked sharply, and I flew forward into the chair, face-planting into the back of the headrest. Even though I wasn't thrown very hard, that slight distraction was just enough to get me to lose my tired grip on my illusion. Instead of just letting go of the people who were out of sight, I let go of everyone.

Suddenly, there were a few screams. An ambulance changing into an old van tended to do that to the faint of heart.

Another one of the thieves (I'd taken to calling him Pointy Nose) helped me back against the seat as Sam yelled back, "Put the illusion back! Now!" I shook my head, already working on it. A few seconds passed before I regained my grip on everyone's minds. Unfortunately, my talents with fiddling with people's brains didn't extend to memory. I dearly hoped that this lapse wouldn't get caught on any surveillance cameras; of course this particular heist was in London, one of the most surveillance-heavy cities in the world. I couldn't chance anyone seeing me. To be honest, neither could the thieves, but I didn't particularly care for them.

The ride eventually quieted down (referring to the chase; the ambulance siren was still quite loud) and about half an hour later we arrived at the rendezvous. We slowly piled out of the car as I yanked the illusion forcefully down. We were in the abandoned warehouse where this particular group of criminals had agreed to meet with their buyer. I set an illusion of me walking away before I settled down against the side of the car, grabbing my knees with my arms, quickly weaving a simple illusion. I disappeared to everyone's eyes, curious to see the buyer. I tended to stick around sometimes; occasionally, if a buyer expressed an interest in the Illusionist, I noted them down as a potential client.

The other thieves, whose names I could still barely keep straight, cocked some freakish guns and began muttering to each other. Their impatience was almost tangible. I quietly sighed under my breath, glancing down at my wristwatch. The buyer was ten minutes late. It struck me as rather unprofessional, but I didn't really question it. They may have their reasons, even though they could have notified my troupe.

I twitched as I heard a sound. It sounded like someone shuffling their feet. I directed my gaze toward it, hyperaware of the situation as all of my thieves pointed their gun in that direction.

An average man came out of the shadows, dressed in a dark suit pressed impeccably. I was rather impressed; for some reason, this businesslike man hardly seemed like someone that would have made such a breach of etiquette. As the man drew closer, his rather long, wave blond hair shrouded his face. I watched silently, curious to the face of this buyer I'd never seen before.

To my disappointment, the man was wearing a polar bear mask. As I stared at it, bemused, I almost didn't catch the man's first words.

"Do you have the product?" a quiet, calm voice asked. I thought that I could detect the tiniest accent. The man stopped in front of my thieves and straightened further. My thieves (dear God, what was with me always getting attached to my clients) slowly lowered their guns. Sam stepped forward.

"Yes, of course," he said smoothly, holding out a hand. The man with the polar bear mask (which seemed like an odd choice the more I thought about it) slowly held out his hand as well. They shook hands quickly before the man spoke.

"Can I perhaps see the product?" he asked politely. Sam stiffened the tiniest bit, which made me chuckle silently. What did the fool expect from a buyer? But I digress.

"Of course," Sam replied, and motioned for one of his men to retrieve it from the car. As he opened the trunk and began hefting up a bag of raw diamonds, the man asked a question almost hesitantly. "Word on the street says that you hired the Illusionist, did you not?"

Sam crossed his arms defensively. "And what if we did?" he asked guardedly. The man seemed taken aback.

"I was wondering if perhaps I could meet him," the man said. Oh, I was pleased. However, I wasn't sure if it was time to reveal myself yet. I decided to stay hidden.

The thief that was lugging one of the bags slowly hobbled over to Sam and the man, setting it down on the ground before stepping back and taking up his gun again. The man seemed unfazed, and instead reached down and poked around the bag.

"These are very good. How much did you get?" the man asked. Sam straightened a little bit before proudly replying "one kilogram of raw diamond, four kilograms of gold, twenty-six kilograms of silver, and half a kilogram of platinum. That suits you, does it not?"

The man nodded, his wavy hair falling into his face. "Thank you." He leant a little forward and stuck his hand into his pocket. I assumed that he was going to get out the payment, whatever it may be, but I was shocked when I saw the gun in his hand point right at Sam and shoot him in between the eyes. I didn't expect that from the calm man at all, stifling down a little gasp. I couldn't get involved; perhaps I was a target as well? The man began exchanging shots with my thieves, performing frightening evasive manoeuvres. I had to get away.

I was mostly recharged, so I furiously wove myself a strong illusion to encircle my body before I headed away from the man. I was not going to risk my life to defend a group of thieves who had hired me for a one time job. Forget the fact that I wasn't going to be paid; I wanted to live to see another day, thank you very much. I reached the end of the large room, shaking slightly as the amount of guns shooting steadily diminished.

I ducked into the next hallway, rather frazzled. However, I began to panic as I heard footsteps. I tried to calm myself down. Of course I wasn't being followed. I had a solid illusion made of reliable woven light, and my step was light. But the footsteps continued.

I chanced a look behind me and saw the shape of a man very similar to the first one, except that his hair was shorter, and he was wearing an eagle mask. He seemed to be looking right at me, and that caused a bolt of ice to shoot through my heart. I quickened my pace as I saw the hallway branch off in the distance. I quickly wove a shadow that I sent into the first hallway. Hopefully, the person that was chasing me would chance the wrong hallway. As I darted ahead into the hallway that I remembered would lead to the back of the warehouse, I gulped as the footsteps didn't even falter.

I looked back around, irritated. The man was still looking at me. In fact, his posture as he trailed me was nonchalant! What kind of person did the man think he was? I burst into a flat out run, suddenly glad that I was a very good sprinter.

What I didn't expect was hearing a second pair of footsteps joining the chase, ahead of me. Now that I thought about it, I didn't hear any more gunshots.

I was being cornered.

I swerved away from the second pair of footsteps, them falling behind and joining the second man's. I couldn't send off a fake illusion of myself to divert their attention; they somehow knew where I was without seeing me. They definitely wouldn't fall for my usual trick.

I saw a chance.

An open window almost at ground level beckoned to me, and I made the choice quickly. The footsteps suddenly sped up even further as I flung my whole body out of the window.

I rolled roughly and sprang to my feet. I suddenly didn't understand what was happening. I was being chased by a silent duo who didn't even speak a word. The situation was confusing. What was I supposed to do? I didn't stop to think. I took off at a sprint, heading towards civilization. If I could perhaps hide myself in the crowd, I would be able to escape their pursuit.

I rounded the corner of a nearby warehouse, my feet pattering against the concrete. I suddenly noticed that one pair of footsteps faded, and one of them slowed down. I ducked into the alley between the warehouse and some dinghy flat and was promptly given the shock of my life.

I ran straight into someone, who then grabbed me tightly and gave a low chuckle. I was so shocked that I let my illusion of invisibility go for just one second. I stared up into a pair of blue, tired eyes that crinkled a little around the corners, dark behind the eagle mask the man wore.

"Hello, Mr. Illusionist! That was quite the fun chase, was it not?"

Can anyone perhaps figure out who those two masked men are?

If anyone notices an error with my writing of London, feel free to correct me!

Please review! I'm always looking to improve. :D