The Brotherhood (Part 4)
By Mark W. Meier
The Final Spell
I trained you for hours every day and for weeks on end. As the humidity of summer gave way to dry, crisp evenings, your skill improved dramatically. Visits to your teenage girls dropped off, and before long you stopped talking about Caryn from Bristol, despite seeing her every week – lunch every Saturday at the Crow’s Corner.
One thing you insisted upon is using your magick for good. When you were thirty it hadn’t mattered much. As age fifty came and went, perhaps you had your mortality in mind. Then again, Caryn might be influencing you – Caryn and her church. I’d felt their prayers.
You turned fifty-five and your abilities continued to blossom. With the wave of a hand, you caused fireworks to detonate in the sky. A gesture filled a sink with water. You’d think, and rain would fall. The right movements with your fingers produced gallons of warm, soapy water, and a mop would wash your Mercedes without you touching a thing. While driving through Bristol one day, you even stopped a mugging by ripping the knife out of the attacker’s hand. The victim ran off, the mugger stared at the knife blade sunk two inches into the concrete sidewalk.
Caryn rang your doorbell on a hot and sunny June day. Arriving with her: a man and woman from her church. The taste of the cross seeped from their skin, dripping to the floor and sizzling. None of you could sense it. Only a Brother would.
“Won’t you come in?” You stepped aside to give them room.
Your invitation didn’t sit well with the unknown man and woman, but Caryn didn’t hesitate to cross your threshold.After seating your guests in the palatial day room, you moved into the expansive kitchen.
I showed myself again. “I don’t like these people. They have a prejudice against magick.”
“They’re nice.” You pointed at the granite countertop and a platter appeared. With a complex hand pass and a muttered phrase, a heap of quartered sandwiches materialized. Surrounding them, a tasteful circle of cheese and crackers. Some of the crackers supported a small wedge of premium sausage.
I scowled. “They’re not here to be nice. They’re here to stop your magick.”
A look of disgust crossed your face, and then your first overt act of betrayal manifested.
“Begone!” Your fingers flashed the complex weave of magick used to drive away spirits.
I laughed to cover my anger. “I’m more powerful than that spell. Just remember my warning.” Fading into invisibility I followed you into the day room.
“I have ham and cheese on rye.” You placed the tray on a coffee table, where the aroma of meat mingled with fragrant cheese. “Also, egg salad on pumpernickel, whole wheat with salami, or if you’d like, something else. It won’t take a moment.”
Caryn looked receptive and nibbled on a cracker, but the others made no move for the snack tray.
“Anything to drink?” You remained standing as if eager to serve your visitors.
“Do you have some ice water?” Caryn asked. The others shook their heads without uttering a word. You glanced toward the kitchen and sub-vocalized a spell to ask for the water.
I didn’t want to miss anything happening here, so I grimaced and summoned an imp to take care of the request.
You sat. A low level Brother, doubling as a servant, emerged from the kitchen with a pitcher of ice water and glasses. You and Caryn drank, but the others didn’t.
“How did your servant know to bring water?” The bald man with wire-framed spectacles glared at you. Suspicion oozed from his words like condensation on the pitcher of water.
“They’re well-trained and very observant.”
Even an imp could interpret human wants and needs. It looked at me and I waved it toward the kitchen, where it could safely vanish. I wouldn’t owe it too much.
Baldy frowned. “Then why didn’t one of them bring your tray of appetizers?”
You smiled and crossed your legs. “I wanted to help you feel at ease. Something seems amiss, and I wanted to welcome you properly – with my own efforts.”
Baldy’s frown deepened. “Your own efforts. That’s rich.”
“Ken, we’re concerned about you.” Caryn leaned forward and placed her glass atop a coaster on the coffee table. “Magic is wrong, and we’ve seen you do too many unexplained things.”
I moved in to disrupt her composure, but drew up short against her aura of faith. Y-you could handle her, even if I couldn’t. How much longer would they stay?
“Magick?” You affected confusion. “I don’t understand.” Playing dumb was good for an opening gambit.
The gray-haired woman, who looked every inch the stereotypical librarian, cut in. “There are strange things happening, and they’re centered on you and this house.”
She looked over the top of her glasses. “Here. People you meet are affected in ways that are not natural. It’s very subtle. Some win scratch-off lottery tickets. Others living in high-crime areas have homes that are not robbed, and those people are not mugged. We’ve seen these things happen.”
“Sounds like people are doing well and you seem to resent it.”
Baldy elaborated. “Unexplained. And it only happens with people you sell amulets and trinkets to. They tell us you do magic.”
I whispered in your ear. “That act won’t play out for long. Change tactics, or better yet, get them out of here.”
Your expression never changed, but Baldy and Library exchanged a look. Maybe they perceived me. I backed further away from the circle of chairs and sofas.
You stood – a subtle invitation for them to leave. “Look, I appreciate your concern, but I know what I’m doing.”
Caryn took the hint and also rose from her seat. “I care, Ken. We’ve gotten to know each other over the last few months, and I have to say God doesn’t appreciate magic.Your salvation depends on stopping its use.”
You paused. “When I was growing up both of my parents died. I’ve never been able to rely on anyone but myself. What I’m doing is an extension of that.” You went to the front door and opened it.
Before anyone could leave you said, “Caryn?”
“Would you like to have dinner tomorrow night?”
If I had a jaw it would have dropped. Having dinner was a huge step and I thought I’d stopped you from taking any strides that direction..
Baldy and Library paused by the open door, looking like they’d sucked on a lemon.
“I think that can be managed.” Caryn’s eyes sparkled. “Bristol Steakhouse, quarter to six?”
Baldy and Library doubled their citrus.
You nodded, and your broad grin made you look even dumber than a constipated alpaca. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
When the door closed, I snapped into full view. Anyone could see me. “What do you think you’re doing?” I demanded.
“Allaying their suspicions.” You banished the snacks and drinks with a wave. “If they suspect I’m using magick, the best way to disabuse them of that notion is to meet with them openly and without fear.”
“Just be careful,” I warned.
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