He lifted his bloody arms to his face. All his energy was slipping away. A warm stream of blood came from under the strange collar they forced on him. He knew what was going to happen, but it never crossed his ancient mind that he would be one of the targets.
In front of him, stood his attackers: a man and a woman dressed in matching jeans and sweatshirts. Their white hair gleamed in the lamp light as they looked down on him empty red eyes. The woman’s mouth was stained with his blood. The man looked on with disinterest. It was obvious that he was there for the job; that this was merely business, nothing personal.
Behind them, a man in the black shroud thumbed through a book he had just picked up from the granddaughter of a friend who he now realized had been murdered by these fiends. The girl didn’t know how dangerous this book was to her. He know that they wanted the girl. She was important to the shrouded man. Powerful wards had been set in place, but he wasn’t sure how long they would hold.
A laugh slipped from the man’s lips. He turned to face the old man.
“Klaus Weihenmayer,” the man started, “it seems you have figured out my plans.” His heavy feet moved towards Weihenmayer. “Too bad you are someone I need.”
“Bitte.” The words chocked out of the old man’s mouth.
The man in black held up a patient hand. “Your power will be mine. However, answer my questions and I’ll make your death quick and proud. Deny me and the pain I will inflict on you will be like nothing you know in this world.” He laughed. “It does not matter to me, because you will die either way.” His face became somber. “Now, where did you get this book?” He held up the book in front of Weihenmayer’s face.
The old mage swallowed. He couldn’t risk the young woman’s life. He had promised his dear friend to protect her. She had given her life in the protection of the girl and her brother. Besides, he wasn’t about to give into this filth.
“Go to Hell,” he rasped, his German accent made thicker by the blood rushing into his mouth and coating his tongue.
The black mage tisked at him in disappointment. “I was hoping to give your death some dignity.”
He beckoned to the white haired man, who pulled out a long dagger, the blade catching the poor light, and a strange round disk with the ancient language of magic scribed on it. He nodded towards the woman, performing her duty with a smile. She stepped on his chest, pinning him to the floor. She licked her finger, a small flame igniting from the tip. Leaning forward, she ran her finger down the front of his shirt, the fabric falling away exposing his bare chest.
There was nothing he could do. He was going to die. Weihenmayer was suddenly angry. How dare this waste of space tell him that he was going to die a shameful death. That was something that he would decide. With the last of his strength, the Master Mage threw out his final words.
“Sie sind nicht angemessen das gleiche Blut mit Babette Devereux teilend.”
Those final words set the black mage off into a frenzy. The cursed dagger came down into Weihenmayer’s chest, cracking bones and ripping skin.
A mist of gold swirled up from the body. However, it was not able to escape. The black mage muttered a short curse, cradling the disk in his thick hands. The beautiful gold howled in pain as it was drawn into the pulsating black light that the disk was giving off. After a few moments, the light faded away. The cloaked man stood up, placing his prize in the pocked of his mantel.
“Four down, three more to go.”
I hate going to cemeteries.
But then again, who loves cemeteries? I mean, other than ghost hunters and super weird goth kids? There are so many emotions that you have to sort through while you are staring down at the ground where a loved one now is. There’s denial that the person is gone. There’s the sadness that the person is gone. There’s the bitterness that the person is gone. There’s the anger that the person is gone. There’s the questions why that person is gone. There’s the fear that the person is gone. They all sit jumbled at the pit of the stomach, bickering between themselves about which will be the most dominate.
For me, it was fear.
Standing at the foot of my grandmother’s gravesite brought back the memory of her funeral service. Every detail of it bombards me each damn time I visit: The sound of the rain and winds pounding down against the overhang that was set up by the funeral home, the gentle wind tugged at the bottom of my skirt, the hollow words of the preacher giving burial rights.
“We lay to rest Isolde Cavanaugh, a woman of immense charity. Born and raised here in Oklahoma City, she died three nights ago at the age of seventy-three. She is survived by her two grandchildren, Monroe and Olivia Abernathy.” His words hung heavy in the rain as he started Psalms 23.
There was as small gathering of people who huddled under the overhang. There were a few of my grandmother’s friends and a few loyal store customers. My brother, Monroe, wasn’t there. Jerk.
My gloved hands smoothed out my heavy white wool coat as I bit my lip in an attempt to hold back angry tears. He left with no way of contacting him when just disappeared off the face of the earth. Hell, I didn’t even know if he was still alive. I have never told people I didn’t have a brother, I simply prefer to not talk about him. It was easier that way. Jerk.
A sudden wind gust rushed through the cemetery causing a mist of rain to hit the side of my face and my hair whipped around at the sudden gust. A tiny surge of electricity raced up from my feet to the tips of my fingers. I looked up scanning the area. There was nothing that I could see that was unusual. Perhaps I was imagining things.
But then again, maybe not.
I turned my attention back to the preacher who was finishing Psalms 23. “…thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” The preacher was the only one who said amen.
The headstone had Isolde Kavanagh carved in the white marble with gold inlay. Below her name was the phrase she lived by: Veneficus est meus vita quod meus nex. Magic is my life and my death. There was no born on this date and died on this date on the headstone.
My Gran was not sixty-two years old when she died. She was more like one hundred and sixty-two. My kind ages, but very slowly. This hereditary legacy I share with those like Gran and my parents tend to lets us live much longer than normal people. That’s what I got to look forward to. Joy.
Gran healed and protected the neighborhood and the city we lived in since our parents died when I was eight and Monroe was thirteen. She was so well respected by the community; more people should be here, I thought.
Most people called her small store “the magic store,” which technically it was, but it was more like a bookstore and alternative healing center with a touch hard to find items for making potions and such. Through out our time together in the bookstore, Gran always tried to raise us as normal kids. Well, some things don’t always happen as planned.
The preacher concluded the service and dismissed the few people who were there. Gran’s friends and the shop customers all gave me words of “if you need anything, let us know” and “your grandmother was a wonderful woman and we’ll miss her.” I smiled and accepted their hugs and kindness. It didn’t help the fear go away.
I stayed while a couple of men began the process of piling dirt on my grandmother’s remain. With each shovel full of dirt the fear in my stomach start to beat out the other emotions. I had always had a fear of being alone. And now I was.
The tears stayed in until the gravediggers were finished and gone to the safety of their work truck. The rain had stopped but the clouds still loomed low and dark. They weighed down on my chest, pushing the tears out of my throat. I cried. The sobs came sudden and hard against my heart. At least I didn’t fall on the ground and cry out “why.” Removing a glove, I bent down and touched the wet dirt. I closed my eyes and whispered a couple of words feeling the mud suck my fingers further into the earth. As a pulled my fingers out away, a soft green light vined its way out of my fingers and into the ground bring forth lush green grass. I wiped the tears away with my gloved hand and grabbed my umbrella with the other. I took a deep breath and walked towards my car knowing that I was on my own. It had scared the crap out of me.
I forced the memory to fade way. That was three years ago. I’m still scared.
My name is Olivia Eleanor Abernathy. I tower at an average 5’5” with average curves and average brown hair and brown eyes, and though I am almost thirty years old, I look to be around eighteen. I have genetics to thank for that lovely yet annoying gene. I get ID for everything. It’s a little ridiculous really. But despite my looks, I’m pretty average. If only my average appearance matched my life. If only I was merely small book store owner.
I looked around me. It was early morning so there was hardly anyone around expect for two gravediggers preparing the resting place for a new soul that had left this mortal realm. They were normal mortals. Nothing special. Just then, a funeral party entered the gates for the cemetery.
A black casket led the way followed by a young woman and two small children. The young woman carried a toddler boy and a girl, no older than five years old, held tight to her mother’s fingers. The mother’s face was a solid piece of stoic stone with stained tears. Following them was a herd of family and friends. There was a man who led the others in a song while the women wept. The words sounded Romanian or some other Slavic tongue. A small elderly woman with a red and blue kerchief covering her silver hair caught my eye. There was a tingling in my fingers.
A Gypsy with real gypsy magic.
Her face held a scowl but softened. She nodded at me and I gave her a smile and nodded in return. She could tell I was of magical heritage and acknowledging her was only the polite thing to do. I would hate to have a gypsy curse put against me. Gypsy magic is a tough stuff and it’s near impossible to remove whatever curse or hex they put on you. Better safe than sorry.
I turned back to Gran’s simple grave marker. I placed a small bouquet of daisies in front of the white marble. Making sure no one was watching, I knelt down and stuck of my fingers in the cool earth. The grass over the grave became a richer shade of green and soft like a fuzzy shag carpet. I removed my fingers watching the vines of green energy linger and then wrap back into my hand. I smiled.
“See you soon, Gran,” I whispered.
As I stood up I caught a glimpse of my watch. It was after 10am. The store opens at 10am. Crap.
I rushed out of the cemetery catching the eye of the old gypsy and gave her another polite nod. When I got past the Gypsy funeral I sprinted towards my car. As I got in my old Jeep and started the car I crossed my fingers hoping that no one would be waiting outside for me to open up.
I am never on time…ever.
Speeding through Edmond away from Memorial Cemetery, I hit Broadway Extension heading south towards downtown Oklahoma City. I felt slightly crusty in my clothes from last night: a very nice pair of black flair legged slacks, a very fitted black vest, a black lace push-up bra, a pair of silver glitter 4 inch heels, and flashy jewelry. The curls I had set last night in my long chocolate brown hair had fallen from the security of the bobby pins and the hair spray. They now hung limp down my back and around my shoulders. My I ran my dry tongue across my teeth and felt fuzzy with remnants of fancy h’ourderves and top shelf tequila. Yuck. I took a big drawl off Big Gulp filled with soda trying to wash away the taste in my mouth.
Too much partying with a friend from the past. Friend is a lose term, and easy one. It was more like a reason for a free meal and drinks. My heart tried to thump in my chest some kind of deep hidden truth, but I quickly shut it up by turning up my stereo and pushed my rickety Jeep past the speed limit. I mean, it’s not like I remember much of the night out. The evening got hazy after three shots of Tequila. Yeah. It was that kind of evening.
The magic world is an insane place to be in. And without any parental figures to look up, I found that visiting my grandmothers grave helps keep my semi-stable. My white mage mother and my wizard father graves are a mystery to me. I have no clue where their remains rest. There was no ceremony and no goodbye. Just a “sorry to hear about your folks.” It’s probably why my brother and are I are so damaged and tend to do acts of self-destruction. My choice: alcohol and bad romances. My brother: a fugitive on the run.
Usually, it only takes no more than fifteen minutes to get to my shop downtown. But due to a three car pile at the I-44 west junction, it took more like an hour. I love Bricktown. The two square mile area of Oklahoma City carried a duplicity to that seemed to settle deep inside. There was the ritzy and trendy and beautiful side: clubs, restaurants, and sports arenas. Then, there’s the underbelly of darkness that gets stopped under the I-40 bridge before the Chesapeake Arena: the low income, the poverty stricken, the homeless. My father always said that The Light and Darkness next to each other pulling to and fro in a crazy dance of symmetry. Can’t have one without the other.
Gran knew what she was doing when she bought this old section of building fifty years ago. The worn and faded red brick building was two stories with a basement. There was a glass front window, with the name of the shop, Cavanaugh’s: Specialty Books, Rare Items, and Occult Store. The first floor is the store. Racks of books and shelves of weird and unusual items crammed every nook and cranny. In the back, there is a small area that held the office and the most expensive and rare items are kept behind an iron cage door which requires a key to get into.
She turned the second floor into a three bedroom and one bathroom apartment with a great sized kitchen. I thought about moving into Gran’s room since it was so much bigger than the room I have been living in since I was eight. But for some reason, I can never bring myself to move in there.
As I pulled up, I saw that there was one person sitting outside. I was happy to see that it wasn’t a customer but Andrew, my trusty shop assistant who happened to be werewolf. He’s not the werewolf that you see in movies. Those are lychenthropes. And they are nasty beasts. I’ve never come up against any, but I have heard stories from other practitioners and I was going to take their word on the matter. They can’t control when they’ll change, nor do they remember anything after they transform. Werewolves, on the other hand, have the ability and the control to transform. They are themselves only in wolf form.
The eighteen year old kid came into my employment a year ago after I put an ad in the paper. It was a month after he started working that I found out what he was. He knew that I was a practitioner before I the truth about myself. When I asked him how he knew what I was he simply replied, “Just a hunch.”
Andrew leaned against the front door smoking a cigarette. He smiled when he saw me walking up to unlock the door. He pushed his shaggy hair out of his face placing his sunglasses on top of his head.
“Hello Olivia.” he smiled. “Wow. You look like…”
“Like Hell?” I grimaced adjusting the sunglasses on my face.
He laughed and put an arm around my shoulder. “I was going to say you look like you had fun last night.”
I stuck my tongue out at him. Andrew leaned in, his face smiling but his amber eyes full of worry. “There’s a blue sedan parked across the street two buildings down that showed up ten minutes after I got here at 9:30.” I looked around the lanky teenager and saw the car. I could see there were two men sitting in the car. I lightly touched the door with my index finger, a tiny blue spark arching towards the door.
He walked around me through the door. My stomach churning from my hangover as I and worry from what those men could want. I hate when I get the feeling that something bad is about to happen.
“Hey! Am I going to be making a paycheck or what today?” Andrew called from inside.
“It’s totally going to be one of those days.” I groaned.
The magic of a hot shower is a power I will never comprehend. With my skin clean and my teeth de-fuzzed, I quickly threw on whatever was clean, which wasn’t much. A pair of bright blue leggings and a black tunic dress. I went back down to the store level still feeling a little gross but happy in the knowledge that I didn’t smell of sweat and alcohol and wasn’t covered in body glitter.
As I walked through the door from the stairway that lead upstairs, the two men from the sedan came in. I walked behind the counter and forced a smile. Both men returned the faux-polite gesture.
They were opposites in their looks. One was older with a Mediterranean dark tan and bald head. He was sporting an expensive suit, a pair of aviator glasses and a toothpick hanging precariously from his bottom lip. The top of his shirt and the ends of the sports coat, small hints of tattoos peaked out. Must have been a sailor in a past life. He carried a folder in his left hand and removed his sunglass with his right. His partner had midnight black hair that seemed like it had never seen a comb, features were sharp complimenting his pale skin and ice blue eyes.
From some reason, he was vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on where I knew him from. Maybe he has one of those faces.
“We’re looking for an Olivia Abernathy,” asked the older detective.
“That’s me. What can I do for you?”
The younger man pulled out his wallet, revealing a police badge. “This is Detective Larios and I’m Detective Stiles. We have a couple questions we want to ask.” He smiled. “Is there somewhere we can talk?”
“Sure.” I gestured towards the back with the iron gated area of the shop. “Hey, Andrew.”
“Yes?” he popped around into view from behind a bookshelf.
“Watch the front.”
Andrew eyed the detectives apprehensively as we walked away. I turned around as he mouthed the words “be careful.” I nodded and rolled my eyes. I mouthed to him in return “Duh.”
His paranoia was not unwarranted. These guys were plain old human. When you own a shop that houses real magic, you never know who is just a curious by passer, a kindly Wiccian Witch, or a crazed Alchemist. My customers are from all over. Good or bad, they help pay my rent.
They stopped at the iron gate. Detective Larios tried to open it but found it locked. I pulled out the key and opened the door for him.
“Can I ask why you this is locked?” he asked suspiciously.
“Nope.” I walked in front of them towards the small office. I got to the office door and opened it. Larios walked in, but Stiles was staring down at a book in his hands.
“What does this say?”
“Oh. It says “The Legend of Princess Eiran and the Kingdom of Cariamor. ” I smiled politely, taking the book. I replaced it on the shelf. “It’s written in…uh…in old Swedish.” Actually, it wasn’t in old Swedish but the forgotten language of a tribe of Elves that aren’t around anymore.
He put his hands in his pockets and walked into the office. I followed, closing the door behind them. I sat down behind the old desk. I offered them a seat on the worn down coach. Neither of them took my offer. Larios stood in front of my desk, while Stiles leaned against the wall.
“Do you know a Klaus Weihenmayer?” asked Larios.
“Yes. Well, not too well. He was a friend of my grandmother’s.”
“And your grandmother is?” Larios asked opening up the folder.
“My grandmother is Isolde Cavanaugh. This was her shop which I inherited when she… died…three years ago.” My voice cracked a bit, which I coughed away.
“When was the last time you saw Mr. Weihenmayer?” asked Stiles. Larios pulled a couple of photos out from folder.
“It’s Wednesday today, so three days ago. He picked up a special order.”
“Do you happen to know what that special order was?” Larios asked.
“Actually no. He told me he found a book or journal of some kind and had it delivered here. Did something happen to him? I mean is he okay?”
“A bit unusual...not knowing your own products you sell” Larios muttered.
“I work in a business of rare books and item. Sometimes, I’m merely a middle man. customers might find an item and then have me hold on to it.” My head was pounding. I pressed a hand to my hangover head. “What is this about?”
“Are you alright?” Asked Stiles
“I’m hungover. I answered your questions. So you kinda need to answer mine. Because without a warrant, you guys will need to vamos.”
Larios leaned forward and placed the photos on the desk.
I stopped breathing for a few seconds. In fact, I almost threw up what was left in my stomach.
“Is that Mr. Weihenmayer?” Stiles asked softly, his words drowned out by the heavy pounding in my head.
“Yes.” I picked up the picture and looked at it. I swallowed hard trying to keep the vomit that had crept up to my throat at bay. The photo shook in my hand as I peered down at. My mouth had gone dry, and my cheeks were wet.
Weihenmayer was not much older than my grandmother when she passed away. He always came by keeping me updated on current events with the White Mage Guardian, which he was a high ranking member of, and was constantly trying to recruit me into. I would just smile and say “Try again next week.”
Most people who saw him thought he was stuck in some Albert Einstein time loop. In the sweltering heat of an Oklahoma summer, he was always wearing a tweed coat and wool pants with a linen button up shirt and a bow tie, and his silver hair was always in a constant state of perfection. He was stout and had developed a belly from his frequent visits to Ingrid’s German Café. He could be anyone’s eccentric college professor.
But this Weihenmayer, I barely recognized.
His face was splattered with blood. The area around his mouth was wet with it. Around his neck was a huge metal collar. The collar was engraved with intricate vines with thorns and writing in an ancient language. Blood was coming from out under the collar. His chest to his stomach was slashed open, the skin folded back revealing an empty cavity.
“Ms. Abernathy, how did your grandmother die?”
I looked up at Stiles and Larios. This was something that was out of their league. And from their haggard and tired expressions, they knew it. My stomach flipped and flopped, and it was at that point I was grateful for the small trashcan by my desk. I turned and heaved whatever was left out of my stomach, the soda’s carbonation burning on its way back up. I had just seen this cantankerous old man last week; had given him a hard time about his stupid tweed jacket, and had laughed at his really bad jokes. But there was something else that had caused me wretch and spew in front of two cops. It was the collar around his neck. Memories, bad ones at that, flashed into my mind until there was nothing left in my stomach to come back up.
I forced myself up away from the trash, pushing the bin under the desk with my foot. I wiped my mouth with the back of one hand and kept my eyes averted as I pushed the photo away from me.
“You’re here so you know how. When did this happen?” I chocked out, trying to hold back a mixture of anger and another wave of fear flavored vomit.
“We believe it happened late Monday evening.” Stiles said.
“Do you know what this thing is around his neck?” asked Larios.
Hell yeah, I knew what it was. I just didn’t want to tell them. It would only bring up the images of Gran’s death. I knew that they wouldn’t understand the world that I had to share with this one. I looked up at their faces, knowing that I had to tell them something. I mean, they had to have known about Gran’s death. I took a deep breath gathering my thoughts. The air in the office became thick and heavy. My stomach lurched. I felt like I was losing my battle with the vomit that kept trying to come up. I had to get out of there.
I stood up and walked out of the office. The air was cooler and lighter. My stomach started to settle with the comforting smell of musty old books. The detectives followed me out.
“Ms. Abernathy?” Stiles asked.
I took a deep breath and turned around looking at both of them. I was going to totally regret this.
“Um. Sorry.” I took another deep calming breath. “The, uh, thing around his neck,” I gestured to my own neck, “it looks like something I read in a book once.” I walked towards a shelf next the door. I reach up to the top of the shelf reaching for a black book. My fingertips could barely touch it. Stiles came up from behind me and got the book down no problem. He smiled at me. Behind his tried face, he’s blue eyes smiled and were filled with warmth.
“Is this thing even in English?” Stiles looked at the book. He raised an eyebrow at me.
I hesitated finishing the sentence. Oh what the hell? People already think I’m crazy because I run this shop. Why not add the police to that list?
“No. Actually it’s in French,” I sighed. “But I think there might be something in here that will tell you what those things are.”
Larios arched an eyebrow at me.
I took the book from Stiles and flipped through it till I found what I was looking for. “Says here they called Mage Collars and there are a total of seven. Each one is different. The collars are usually accompanied with a dagger called a Mage Masher, and the design on the blades matches that of the Collar it is with.” I handed Larios the book, showing them the pictures. “Says here that no one knows who made them, but there are records that mention them as early as the sixteenth century.” I looked over my shoulder. Through the bars I could see Andrew. He looked like he was reading, but I knew that he was listening to the conversation.
And I crossed my fingers that it was only Andrew was listening in. But that’s wishful thinking. Of course he is listening.
“May we take this book with us?” ask Larios handing it to Stiles.
“I will be happy to make you copies of these pages. Andrew?” I took the book from Stiles.
Andrew rushed over to the gate. His eyes looked suspiciously over the policemen. I handed him the book through the bars.
“Are you serious?” he whispered. “You won’t even let me in there to look at the cool shit you got, and you want me to make copies of the magic torture book? How do you know they’re not pure evil?!”
“It’s called Armes de la Guerre Magique not magic torture book. If they were pure evil, I would have sensed it, as would your little wolfy nose. Besides, to them magic is just make-believe. Now, I’m the one who signs your paycheck so just do it,” I whispered back.
Andrew took the book and returned to behind the counter where the copy machine was.
“It’ll be a second.” I forced a smile walking back to the office to get the keys to the iron gate.
Walking in front of the detectives as I led them out of the office, I couldn’t see their faces, but I knew that one of them was dying to ask me a question. Andrew stood at the counter guarding the black book, the copies about the Mage Collars sitting on the counter. I handed the pages to Larios.
“I hope this helps you out.”
“Thank you Ms. Abernathy. I know talking about this must have been difficult for you.” Larios put his aviator sunglasses back on. “You were very helpful,” he smiled.
“It’s not a problem. It’s kind of in my nature to help as much as I can. Bit of a blessing and curse. Besides, Mr. Weihenmayer was a family friend. He didn’t deserve what happened to him.”
Andrew nodded in response, still clutching the book. Larios and Stiles started walking out of the door, but Stiles stopped and turned around.
“I’m sorry. But I have to ask this.” He walked up to the counter. He looked up at Larios, who was standing outside lighting up a cigarette. “So, this store…I read up on it.”
“That’s not a question.” I said, my voice flat.
“Right. I guess what I’m trying to ask is…um...well? Magic?”.
“Here. This is the list of things in my store and what it’s all about.” My voice was tired and annoyed as I thrust a brochure at him. “It’s even got a calendar of upcoming events and stuff that get hosted here from time to time.”
Despite the rawness of my bad attitude, Stiles smiled and took the brochure. He pulled out a smile white card with his contact information from his wallet and handed it to me.
“Have a good day, Ms. Abernathy.” He walked out the door and Larios met him with a cigarette. They walked down the street out of sight of the big shop window.
Andrew watched the detectives walk away. When they were out of sight he relaxed his grip on the book. “Two things. One: That dude’s game is horrible. I mean, that was a weak attempt at flirting.” I rolled my eyes and took the book from him, heading back towards the rare books. Andrew followed me. “Two: I cannot believe that you gave them copies of that book.”
I unlocked the gate and walked in.
“Better to give them copies than walk out of here with a book that is worth more than rent on this place. Besides, the owner of this here book would be pissed if it left the property” I pulled over a foot stole and replaced the book. Andrew stood inside the iron gated doorway. “I’m sure you heard the conversation. Weihenmayer is dead by the same method that killed Gran. I had no choice.”
“I know, I’m just a little worried, that’s all.” Andrew followed me out doorway and towards the counter. “Something doesn’t feel right about those two. One of them is off. I can smell it. And if those pages get out, you know that White Mage Guardian and the Magistrate of Wizards are going to come knocking at your door.”
“Well, let that happen then.” I sighed and sat on the cushioned barstool. “It was only a matter of time before I piss one of those groups off.”