The dark-haired young woman pulled out a mirror before entering, seemingly to adjust her make-up. Effie was mildly impressed, but the woman was scanning the parking lot behind her for a human, not a bicycle. And at that very moment, Eff looked like a rusty old bicycle that had probably been there for ages, just leaning against the stone wall, out in the rain, for a very long time. At least, that was the idea she had in mind. In reality, Eff looked like a bicycle, and that was all.
After determining that there were no threats in the vicinity (a bicycle, particularly a rusty one, is not an especially frightening sight to see), the woman put away the mirror and walked into the abandoned apartment building, completely oblivious to the floating bicycle that was approaching from behind her. These illusion powers she'd discovered were pretty darn cool. If only Nate could see them...
Anna Zinaida looked up as her apprentice walked into the room. Mindy Almaz scowled, tossing her raven-black hair over her shoulder and asking, "Where's Mr. P?"
"Mr. Prevoskhodnyy," Anna corrected. "Calling people, especially important officials, by nicknames they don't like will get them annoyed at you. In the case of Mr. Prevoskhodnyy, he may even attempt to have you eliminated, or at least terminate your employment.
Mindy rolled her eyes, and said "Of course, ma'am."
The last bit was mocking, of course, referring to the fact that both Mindy and Anna looked about college-age. Mindy actually was nineteen, though she didn't act it, but Anna was one-hundred and three. She'd always had a young face, though, and her magic only enhanced that.
"'Miss Zinaida' is perfectly adequate, Mindy. 'Ma'am' makes me sound old." She knew that that was the point, but she had essentially given up on saving Mindy. The best Anna could do was not be the one killing her when her cockiness offended someone powerful.
Mindy was about to come back with some snooty comment Anna didn't particularly want to hear, when the door swung back open. No one seemed to be there, but Anna could hear light breathing nearby, not Mindy, not herself.
"I hate the drafts this time of year," she remarked, scanning her apprentice's face for any sign of a smirk, but Mindy had clearly been surprised by the interruption as well. Casually, Anna looked up and down the hallway, seeing no one, but the hat rack by the door had been scooted slightly to the left, as of someone had brushed against it.
At that moment, the exterior door swung open and Anna spun. She relaxed at the sight of Mr. Prevoskhodnyy, and waited for him to deliver the code phrase.
"Miss Zinaida, what a pleasure to see you! I trust the corn on your homestead is growing ears?"
Anna hesitated, almost ready to deliver the 'all is well' code, but decided to play it safe. "If there are any ears, I cannot see them," she said, hoping he would know what that meant. She was stretching the code a little, but hopefully it was still close enough that she wouldn't appear suspicious.
Mr. Prevoskhodnyy laughed a low laugh. "Invisible ears, then?"
"Call me a fool, as I can't see them, but I'm sure I heard them rustling in the breeze."
At that moment, Mindy stuck her head out of the door. "Anna is hallucinating," she said. "A draft blew the door open, but she thinks that--"
Mr. Prevoskhodnyy pointed at Mindy, and her words began coming out as bubbles. She was smart enough to pop one, but her words came incomprehensibly out of it, all at once.
"One of the basic lessons of spy training," Mr. Prevoskhodnyy said, glaring at Mindy, "is to learn to keep your mouth shut. The young mage hiding behind the door heard your every word."
(A/N: Wow, Eff has a long backstory! I'm even leaving out the bit where she runs away from home...too hard to write. Just FYI, the bits in the present are during Fabi's nightmare)