The rich of Chicago, like the rich elsewhere, live protected lives. Rhonda June Marsky, a rich matron who indulges in fine gems, arrives home and tries to relax, but the tapping of a crow at the window rouses her. The crow smashes its way into her apartment and captures her with its gaze. She takes a heavy diamond pendant from around her neck, and as she drops it, the crow becomes a towering Indian. The man has little difficulty dispatching Miss Marsky, slashing her wrists with a knife from her sideboard. As his last act, he collects the pendant--all that remains of his visit is a handful of crow feathers…
A day later, on November 13th, Lucy Lapont Addison returns to her home at following an opera opening. The woman finds her dog, a Doberman, dead on the carpet, its throat torn open. A coyote enters from the next room and Ms. Addison removes a long pin from her hair to defend herself. But the coyote catches her with its gaze and she freezes, entranced. It transforms into the same tall Indian and Ms. Addison takes a large diamond and emerald bracelet from her wrist and mindlessly drops it on the floor. Seizing the hatpin, he stabs the lady in the heart and takes her bracelet.
In each case, the police have ruled death by suicide. At the INS offices, Carl disagrees, believing it’s murder. He cites as evidence that Ms. Marsky had just won a proxy suit that would allow her to take over another company, while Ms. Addison was about to add another husband--and a great deal more money--to her portfolio. Suicide, under those circumstances, seems unlikely. Emily pipes up, supporting Carl by claiming that neither woman fit the suicide profile according to a Swedish study, as both were looking forward to immediate goals. However, Tony won’t let Carl run with this story; for even if there was a story, Carl lacks the tact, finesse, and decent attire necessary to mingle with high society. Carl storms off to buy new clothes, trailed by Miss Emily’s shout of “Finally!”
The police radio in Carl’s car calls for units in the vicinity of State and Fourth to proceed to 732 State Street. Police are responding to a robbery in progress at the city’s most prestigious gem exchange. Inside, there are two dead guards, the safe’s been ripped open, and there are small diamonds everywhere. The K-9 officer releases his dog, a German shepherd, and it darts up the stairs. Its barks mix with unearthly growls, until it yelps, bringing the officers pounding up after it. On the next landing, the dog lies dead. Continuing, Carl and the police see a tall Indian on the landing, his arms outstretched. Carl snaps a flash picture and the man’s hands fly to his eyes. But when the police close on him, he scatters them like bowling pins. As the police open fire, the Indian clutches his eyes again but the bullets have no effect. He makes it to the roof and leaps from the edge as the police and Kolchak watch. They run to the edge but the Indian has completely disappeared. Missing from the exchange is a million dollar sapphire. As the police and Kolchak leaves, they have no idea that the same mysterious crow is perched above, looking on.
At the press conference, Captain Baker concludes that the two gem exchange guards shot each other by accident. Baker cannot explain how the man escaped, or how the dog he used to kill a police dog escaped. His theory that the man was a high-wire artist of some sort seems unlikely to Carl, for eight feet tall men don’t into that line of work. Unconvinced, Carl pretends to be a Detective Tagwood and calls the ballistics lab. He learns that each guard was murdered with this own weapon--there was no crossfire at all.
Carl’s next stop is a barbershop, and Al Delgado. Al once made a living cutting down stolen gems, but more recently is a graduate of the Joliet State College of Barbering--the seven-year plan. Al has heard nothing about the stones; if they’ve been fenced, Al’s usual contacts aren’t the ones involved. Al does have a theory, though: the guy passes the little stuff by, taking only large, very expensive pieces. To Al, this means the thief is a collector.
Carl’s picture of the dead police dog includes some tracks of the animal that killed it. Seeking out a guard dog trainer at “Reliance Guard Dog,” he asks the man to identify the breed that made the tracks. Leaving a Doberman to keep Carl “company”, the man consults a reference, but is angry that Carl has been wasting his time--the animal that left the tracks was a coyote.
Carl next visits the Lincoln Park Cultural Arts Center, trying to get a handle on the Indian’s clothing. He consults with Agnes Temple, curator of the American Indian collection, and sees a display that resembles the Indian, Temple identifies it as the sorcery costume of a diablero, a strange figure that reoccurs many times in southwestern Indian lore. The diableros were tribal sorcerers--man who had learned to step into another reality. They possessed the power to entrance their victims, and can also transform themselves into animals.
Mrs. Charlotte Elaine van Piet returns home from the last bridge game she’d ever play. A crow alights on her chauffeur’s hat, kills him, and then changes into the Indian. With a wave of the hand he opens the automatic car window and mesmerizes van Piet.
Arriving a little later, Carl learns from one of the officers on scene that a pearl necklace belonging to Mrs. van Piet is missing, presumably stolen. He also finds a few crow feathers and covertly pockets them Since the Indian has stolen unusual and expensive jewelry, Carl suspects where the Indian will strike next--a gem auction that evening,. Carl doesn’t know where and when, but one INS reporter does: financial reporter Ron Updyke. Ron would never share the information with Carl so Carl has Emily set up a bogus phone call to get Ron to give up the time and place of the auction.
Carl appears at the Waverly Building for the pre-auction reception. However, even with an affected upper-crust accent, he cannot get in. Just as he’s threatened with physical expulsion, the auction begins and a perfunctory search by the guards fails to detect Kolchak hiding behind a drape. Carl watches through the seam between two closed doors as the auctioneer, brings out the latest offering from Van Hern in Johannesburg--several very large diamonds.
Flapping noises from the balcony interrupt his pitch, but he dismisses it and returns to his bidders--as the window shatters and a large crow enters, perching on a side table. Its gaze captivates the room’s occupants, and Carl enters the room seconds later to see everyone dead and the diablero bent over the jewels. Carl snaps pictures--once again, the sorcerer winces and clutches at his eyes. He transforms into a crow and leaves as he entered. A guard enters seconds later and sees only Carl, standing near the window, in a room full of bodies and no jewelry.
Captain Baker has a lot of questions for Carl. Carl’s description of the diablero meets with the same irate skepticism that colors most of his police encounters. Baker asks Carl what an Indian sorcerer needs with jewelry, and Carl…hasn’t quite figured that out yet. While Carl was dealing with Captain Baker, Emily left a message with the booking sergeant: Dr. Agnes Temple had called.
At the museum, she introduces Carl to Charles Rolling Thunder and several other Indian elders. Mr. Rolling Thunder fills in a few blanks for Carl, including a most important one: the diablero’s power is in his eyes. Without sight, he cannot mesmerize his victims. Carl’s flash temporarily robbed the sorcerer of his ability to hypnotize, forcing him to flee. Another important revelation is the legend of the diablero’s sole weakness: he cannot live with the sight of his own gaze. This particular diablero was an ancient sorcerer from the cliff-dwelling Ushoni, cursed to roam the world gathering gems as punishment for stealing the ritual treasure that belongs to the gods alone. But Charles Rolling Thunder can’t answer the question of where the murderous magician can be found.
Back at INS, Carl rifles Ron’s desk, remembering a story Ron mentioned a few days ago, “High Rises Take a Nose Dive”--about a high-rise office building that has gone largely untenanted. Carl’s theory is that a cliff-dwelling Indian would be most at home in a tall, unoccupied building. Finally, Carl discovers the story, and races to Champion Towers. He tricks his way past the guard by pretending to represent a neon sign company, and begins an arduous 35-floor climb--the elevator only goes to the fifth floor.
Passing the thirty-ninth floor, Carl hears it--a weird atonal, buzzing chant. Picking his way through the skeleton of the half-finished floor, he tries to find the source of the chant. It builds to a crescendo, stops briefly, and resumes. Carl creeps closer and the acoustics change; the chant is the diablero, murmuring in his own language as he offers his stolen treasures to the gods. Carefully, Carl slips a mirror from his pocket--and drops it. It shatters, drawing the diablero’s attention. It begins to chase him but Carl snaps a few pictures to blind him. But Carl stumbles and drops his only defense--he has no choice but to continue running for his life. In coyote form, the sorcerer outflanks Carl, forcing him into an alcove full of uninstalled bathroom fixtures. Resuming human shape, it follows him in. But leaning against the wall are--mirrors. Shattering one, Carl seizes a piece and holds it before him. The diablero backs away in horror as Carl confronts it with the jagged piece of mirror. Groaning in pain, the monster collapses and within seconds, it is a decayed, ancient figure, barely able to move. Seconds after that, it has crumbled to dust, and soon, even that is gone.
Nothing is found on the 39th floor of Champion Building, and the police rule the case closed. But of the stolen jewelry--in Chicago and throughout long centuries--there is no sign. It has never been seen again in this world. And with his camera destroyed, Carl’s only evidence is…a handful of crow feathers.
Written by Gadfly on Dec 7, 2015