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Read more Samantha Berg stories!

Samantha Berg and the Terrible Tome

by

James Turnbull



The fact that the room was nearly pitch black didn't bother me so much. I mean, it bothered me, don't get me wrong. I like being able to see what I'm doing, let alone how much I enjoy being able to see whoever's trying to kill me. Besides, the glow of that damned book gave just enough light that I wasn't worried about getting shot.

 

The book, however, bothered me a fair amount more than the dark. An ancient tome that man was not meant to have, as near as I could tell. And if man was not meant to have it, I knew damn well some two bit gypsy shouldn't have it. How she'd gotten a hold of it was anyone's guess, but I knew full well she planned to do horrible things with it. Granted, she was planning to do those horrible things to me, and mostly because I'd been trying to take the book away from her, but that seemed like such a minor detail.

 

The book wasn't the thing that bothered me the most, though. No, the most bothersome thing was trying to deal with everything while wearing that dress and those damn heels.

 

* * *

 

While my electricity fairy was fat and happy, I hadn't paid off my grocery troll in quite some time. The folly of my financial choices was becoming quite apparent to me as I made myself yet another mayonnaise sandwich for dinner. I was in the process of swearing to myself that I would never again trust a horse named 'You Can Trust Me' when I heard the knock on my office door. I left my dinner on the counter, moving quickly to my desk so that I didn't look quite as destitute as I was.

 

“Come in!” I called as I threw myself into my chair. The chair wobbled under my weight, and I used that motion to kick my feet onto the desk. Just in time, I looked relaxed and professional as my potential client walked in.

 

The man came from money, that much was obvious. His dark brown hair was well groomed and cut short, and his clothes were the kind of button up shirt and well ironed slacks that sit in the halfway point between a poor person's 'dressed up' and a rich person's 'casual'. He was clean shaven, and even from a distance I could see his skin was soft. I admit, I had to resist the urge to reach out and rub his cheek.

 

“Samantha Berg?” The man asked, his voice questioning but in no way nervous. “I'm sorry for simply coming over, but when I tried to call for an appointment I was told the number was disconnected...”

 

Right, I hadn't paid the telephone gnome, either. I would have to put that on the list. I gave the man a light shrug of my shoulders as I reached into my desk drawer.

 

“These things happen. Besides, I'm used to keeping odd office hours. Things crop up when you deal with the magical world as much as I do. Drink?” I pulled out my bottle of whiskey, holding it up to indicate what I was offering him. Don't give me that look, good whiskey was a business expense for me.

 

“Oh, yes, please.” The man gave a nod to emphasize his acceptance, and then sat himself down in the chair across from me. He held himself well, with the kind of calm authority one comes to expect from those who have money but aren't assholes. “So I suppose you're wondering why I'm here.”

 

“The thought had crossed my mind, yes,” I responded as I put ice into two glasses. I still say my magical ice holder was the best thing I ever purchased. Pulling ice out of my freezer was just so gauche.

 

“My name is Kero Sanya, and I own Sanya Enterprises. I'm sure you're familiar with them.” I was. Sanya Enterprises was the first name in self-defense. They did a good business keeping the police force equipped, and they were the only personal defense company to devote any kind of active resources to magical defense. Not much, since most people tended to consider magic 'that gypsy stuff', but even some was enough to corner the market.

 

“I am. I don't suppose you're here to offer me a cushy job on your magical defenses R and D department?” I smirked playfully as I poured the two drinks. I picked up one glass and offered it out to him. He took it with a nod of thanks.

 

“Get this taken care of, and I might. I'll cut to the chase. How are you at protecting from gypsy magics?” He took a drink from his glass, looking at me expectantly. For my part, I had to work not to look at him as though he were an idiot. Gypsies were notoriously poor magic users, and even the most powerful couldn't do much more than give you a cold for a week. Fortune telling and curses were their stock and trade, but I couldn't imagine a gypsy being able to cause much upset for someone who invested money in actual magical defenses.

 

“Good enough to know that you're not having a problem with just a gypsy.” I sipped at my own drink, remaining casual. I didn't think the man was lying, so much as perhaps testing me. The subtle nod of approval he made in response to my statement suggested I was right.

 

“Smart. If it was just a gypsy, it wouldn't be a problem. I don't know what else she's got, and my department keeps coming up with nothing. A month ago, at one of those charity dinner events I'm forced to go to every so often, the CEO of PolyShield brought her own entertainment. A gypsy that she said was fantastic at telling fortunes. It was dumb entertainment, so no one thought much of it. Until she started getting oddly specific.” His voice took an ominous tone as he spoke, and I could see worry in his eye.

 

“Ok, so she's a good gypsy.” My tone came out more dismissive than I'd wanted. I didn't mean to belittle a potential client's worry, but I had very little respect for gypsy magic. “Get your threads knotted so you're not giving off any information accidentally and you're fine.”

 

“That's not what I mean by oddly specific.” He shook his head, a scowl crossing his face. “She started spewing out actual secrets. Industry secrets. Things that anyone with half a brain would have protected. Then, within days, the people she read for found everything tumbling down around them. These weren't traditional gypsy curses, Miss Berg. These people had solid foundations to their fortunes, there was no way a single gypsy's curse was going to take them down. Yet it happened, and it happened within a week.” Ok, so it wasn't just a gypsy. I rolled things over in my mind as Kero continued.

 

“She's been brought back to every event since, always by PolyShield's CEO. She's become something of a minor celebrity, since in addition to the curses she's given away a few blessings, too. Again, those people came into things that far exceed the power a gypsy should be bringing. I've thus far managed to avoid any contact, but given PolyShield is my direct competition, I can't imagine it will be much longer before I find myself at the whims of Joplin's hired gypsy.”

 

Well, that certainly explained that. I sipped at my drink, watching Kero attempt to stay casual. I could tell it was taking some effort. After a few moments' thought, I decided to make an attempt at the easy solution.

 

“Should be simple enough. If you have something of hers...”

 

“If it was that simple, I'd have had someone on staff take care of this weeks ago.” Kero cut me off before I could finish my statement. I should have known it wouldn't be that easy. “The gypsy currently lives on Joplin's estate, practically under lock and key. When she's out at parties, one of Joplin's guards is there. They never leave behind anything that she's had more than casual contact with, and naturally Joplin's estate is fairly well warded.”

 

“...So let me see if I understand this.” I couldn't keep the disbelief out of my voice. “You want me to get in close proximity to a gypsy in order to find out why she's able to cast such powerful curses. In order to do this, I will also have to sneak onto the estate of the CEO of the second most well known defense contractor in this country, and do so in such a way that it doesn't get me shot. Am I understanding this correctly?”

 

“Oh, no, not at all.” Kero shook his head. “There's a Halloween charity event coming up next week, and Joplin insists that her pet gypsy get to read fortunes when her power will be greatest. I need you to do it then.”

 

I stared at him blankly for a moment, before reaching into my desk drawer. I pulled out a note pad and a pen, and slid it across the desk. He arched an eyebrow in question, but I kept my face stoic.

 

“Tell you what. You write down a number on that paper there. If I like the number, I'll take the job and then we can discuss specifics. Deal?” He looked at me, and I met his eyes with a steely gaze of my own. The job he was asking for was going to require a good deal more danger than any simple track and grab, and we both knew it.

 

Without a word, he picked the notepad up from the desk. He seemed to consider things for a moment, and then put pen to paper. I confess, I went into the offer wanting to say no. But after counting fifteen full seconds until he was done writing the number, I figured it wouldn't be the stupidest decision I'd ever made.

 

* * *

 

I hated the party the second the limousine pulled up to the building. To be fair, I might have simply hated getting out of the limo. It wasn't often I got carted around in a fancy car as part of my business expenses. Still, having to be at the party in the dress I was wearing wasn't doing the place any favors. The idea was that I would go with Kero as his 'escort', which would let me get in without people giving me much in the way of attention. Once inside, I would mingle for a bit in order to look appropriate, wait until the gypsy showed up, and then find an empty room and connect to the threads. Kero had even taken a look at the blue prints of the building and suggested a few places that might be good for it.

 

Going as his escort, however, meant wearing a tight, low cut, high-slitted dress. With heels to match, naturally. I had a real issue wearing things like that, which was a little odd given how often I found myself completely nude. I suppose being naked is easier once you connect it with work instead of fun.

 

A valet opened the door to the limo, and I slid out with all the grace and poise of a professional escort. I only ruined the mystique slightly by wobbling on my feet as I stood. Damn heels. Kero slid out after me, and offered me the crook of his arm. I took it as much for appearance as to keep my balance, getting annoyed with myself for not having practiced the whole 'walking in heels' thing in a while. One thing my con-artist ex-husband had been good for had been keeping my acting skills sharp.

 

The building in question was a newly opened convention center, paid for with tax payers' dollars and a healthy donation from DivCorp. I didn't know what DivCorp did, but the various advertisements plastered all over the building suggested they had a hand in small movie playing devices. I filed them under 'company selling things I will never need' and moved on. At the moment, it was covered in decorations for the downtown Halloween festivities, which meant gaudy black and orange pumpkins as far as the eye could see.

 

Kero and I moved across the sidewalk, stepping past bar hoppers in costumes and people already far too drunk for how early it was. We were stopped at the door by a pair of security guards, who felt the need to molest us with metal detecting wands. Kero had warned me about this, so I'd left my gun at the office. It didn't make me happy, but then, nothing about the job made me happy. I was just glad none of my ritual components contained metal.

 

The guard pulled me aside, wrapping his arm around me in a way far more familiar than I enjoyed. I kept to my act, pretending to be too airheaded to notice. He ran the wand over me carefully, and then opened my purse to give it a quick look over before handing it back. He released me to Kero's loving grasp, and I grabbed my client's arm with perhaps a touch more emphasis than I'd meant.

 

“You could have gotten shorter heels, you know,” Kero said helpfully once we were past the security guards. I snorted in response, keeping my eyes ahead to help me focus on each step.

 

“Like hell I could have. Your personal shopper wouldn't let me. 'You have such nice legs, Samantha',” I mimicked her annoying voice perfectly, speaking entirely through my nose and making sure to sound especially whiney. “'You should make sure to show them off!'”

 

“To be fair, she did a good job with your appearance.” Kero's flattery was smooth, and if I hadn't known better I might have fallen for it. As it was, I was too busy focusing on not tripping for it to work.

 

The beginnings of the party were exactly what I expected them to be. Old, rich men staring at my cleavage while their old, frosty wives stared down their noses at me. I learned to be very good friends with the people walking around with drink trays, and the fact that all I had to do was pretend to be arm candy helped as well. No one expected me to have thoughts about the take over of Innerverse by a rival company, or how the supply of beetroot from Fwas was hindered because of a trade embargo from certain countries, and I easily fed into their expectations by not actually having any thoughts about those things.

 

It took two hours and three times as many drinks before Kero elbowed me into attention. He pointed to the door as two women stepped into the grand hall, and I had to work to keep myself from laughing. The women wore matching dresses, the color of which was a kind of orange and black combination no doubt supposed to look 'mysterious' and 'eccentric'. It reminded me of candy corn. The fact that one of them had gray hair that looked off-white in the light of the room didn't help. I was just glad they weren't showing much in the way of skin. The younger woman, who I presumed was the gypsy, carried with her a thick, leather bound book.

 

That made me take notice. Books were one of two things when in the hands of a magic user. They were either idiotic props meant to confuse the mundanes, or an old tome that really shouldn't be taken out in public. That the gypsy apparently had more power than she had any right made me think it was the latter, and thinking it was the latter made me think the gypsy was young and not used to the power she wielded. If she was old power, she'd have known better than to bring a book of magic along with her to a fancy dress party.

 

“I know their dresses are utterly hilarious, but I feel I must remind you of how many zeros I wrote on that paper.” Kero's voice was firm, but quiet. His tone suggested he was willing to accept that I was already in the process of doing my job. Which I was, of course, but I'd be lying if I said that the candy corn dresses didn't distract me just a little.

 

“Whatever power that gypsy has is new. And I'd be willing to wager that book is at least partly to blame,” I responded as quietly as I could, even going so far as to lean in close and whisper directly in Kero's ear. I'd played the dumb bimbo often enough to know that people always presumed the busty woman was whispering sweet nothings. It annoyed me on one level, but I didn't have any issues exploiting it to my own ends.

 

“It giving off some kind of aura?” He asked, likewise whispering. He even pulled me closer, his hand resting on the small of my back. It shouldn't have surprised me that the head of a personal defense company would know how to play a con.

 

“Not mundanely. Tell me, has she had that book every time?” The answer to that question would give me all the information I needed.

 

“Yeah. Reads out of it when she throws her curses and blessings, claims it’s her grandmother's tome.” Kero spoke as if this made sense to him. He should have known better, or at least someone on his staff should have. Gypsy magic was intuitive, not taught.

 

“Bullshit. That thing's either a prop or the source of her power, and given she's throwing around power she shouldn't be throwing around I'm guessing the second. I'll...” I didn't get a chance to tell him what I planned to do, since the gypsy and the woman I presumed was Joplin stepped over to us at that point.

 

“Kero! How are you, darling? And with a new girl tonight? My, it seems you have someone new on your arm every time I see you. What will the papers say about that?” It's always so kind of people to set the tone for our entire relationship with the first words out of their mouth. The older woman looked ancient up close, wrinkles etched deep into her face. Her gray hair was pulled into a tight bun, which did nothing to help the smoothness of her skin but did serve to let me know how I should respond.

 

“Oh my god! That is a fantastic candy corn costume!” I bounced as I said it, making sure my voice held the proper tone to suggest I was an idiot without proper social training. “Kero, you didn't tell me this was a costume party! I could have worn my fairy wings!”

 

Joplin stared at me with daggers in her cold blue eyes, while Kero looked like he couldn't decide whether to be mortified or burst into laughter. The gypsy woman maintained an air of calm mystique, her sea green eyes appearing to drink in her surroundings. Her look suggested intelligence, or at least the ability to give off that appearance. It made me wonder why she would bring the source of her power with her to fancy parties, but that was a question I'd have to answer in a more magical way.

 

“Hmph. I see you're picking them up before they're finished being properly trained. You do like them young and foolish, don't you Kero?” Joplin's tone was cold and frigid, but I had already stopped caring. I was doing my best to look bored, and began twirling a strand of my hair around my finger to aid the appearance. I kept a subtle eye on the gypsy, but she seemed content to stand by Joplin in silence. Other than the occasional inspecting glance towards me, she gave no indication that anything at the party interested her.

 

“Always a pleasure, Joplin. What can I do for you?” Kero bypassed both Joplin's insults and her obvious candy corn like appearance, his tone far more polite than I felt the woman deserved. Joplin seemed to recognize that he wasn't rising to her bait, which only served to annoy her more.

 

“Have you given any more thought to the offer my lawyer sent you?” Joplin ignored me, even going so far as to turn slightly away from me. The gypsy, meanwhile, openly continued to stare at me. I should have realized that that meant something, but I was busy feeling creeped out.

 

“You mean the one that would cause me to lose some forty percent of my current assets? You know, I did think about it. For some strange reason, I just can't bring myself to think it's a good idea.” Kero didn't even attempt to hide his disdain for Joplin's offer. I didn't blame him, based on the little I knew. That was alright, since Joplin seemed to have enough blame for both of us.

 

“With the market moving the way it is, Kero, both our companies will be taking a larger loss than that if we don't merge those divisions.” Her tone dripped with venom, and it was obvious even to me that she hated the idea of doing what she was suggesting. Maybe it was a scam, though I couldn't have cared outside of the information it gave me about the woman herself.

 

“No, Joplin. Your company will be taking a larger loss than that. My company still has contracts with every police department in the state as well as a fairly lucrative foreign market. Is there anything else I can help you with?” Kero stood with his arm resting around my waist, sticking with the visual of me being his date. For the amount of money he was paying me, I couldn't bring myself to care.

 

“Well,” Joplin responded, threat clear in her tone. “Perhaps we shall see tonight when Genevieve begins telling people of their futures.” She smiled in a way that reminded me of a shark, making the threat even more implicit.

 

Genevieve looked up from my purse at the sound of her name, and gave Kero a soft smile. That was my cue. Kero must have thought so as well, because I felt a subtle squeeze on my hip. At least, it had better have been a sign that he wanted me to get to work. I don't care how much he was paying, there was only so far I was going to go for a con.

 

“Kero, sweety, I'm gonna go powder my nose, kay?” I looked up at him as I spoke, putting a sigh in my voice so I sounded good and bored. I kissed him on the cheek before pulling away and flouncing towards the door of the room.

 

The hallways of the center were empty, though the sounds of the party floated easily through the air. The place was clean and cold, giving off the feel of a place built recently by dead machines controlled by people with no knowledge or appreciation of the threads. I'd have to work quickly, which would be hard because I'd also have to be more determined to connect with the threads.

 

I moved through the hallways at the quickest pace my shoes would let me, stopping only when I got to the janitor's closet that I'd pre-picked as a good ritual location. I glanced around quickly to ensure no one was watching me, then tested the handle of the door. As I'd suspected, it was locked. I reached into my hair, pulling out two of the pins that I'd had Kero's stylist use. Never say I don't plan ahead. It's not my fault that all my recent jobs had been double crosses or set ups.

 

It took me longer to get out of that dress than it had taken me to get into the room in the first place. I thanked the ethereal that the janitor's closet was as new as the rest of the center, since sitting nude in cleaning supply room was not high on my list of fun times. It took me only a few moments to set up the ritual, and within seven minutes of having left the party I was busy connecting to the threads.

 

As I'd suspected, I'd had to work harder than I'd wanted to do so. The newness and high technology of the place made it cold, which meant the threads hadn't yet connected to it very strongly. Still, I was good at what I did, and before long I felt the familiar burn of the threads bonding to my body. I began to follow them, looking into the ballroom. Most of the threads I found were what I'd expected. Normal, common threads, most of which were knotted. A few of the threads had stronger warding, no doubt belonging to the people who were smart enough to not dismiss magic as 'that gypsy stuff' and rich enough to get properly warded. I peered at them only long enough to ensure they didn't have traces of gypsy magic on them before moving on.

 

Then I found Genevieve. I was surprised that her thread wasn't knotted, though we'll get to that in a moment. I felt the raw power imbued within the thread, so powerful that merely touching it made me see the woman within my mind's eye. Usually it's just an impression, but in this case I could see her clearly, her form as golden as the power of the thread itself. Whatever the book was, it had made her so powerful she had an ethereal form. It nearly made me fly from the thread in surprise, but the memory of a certain number made me push forward.

 

The thread was connected to the book's thread. That didn't surprise me. I began to inspect the book's thread, which promptly began making my mind hurt. I felt the impressions of things that Ought Not Be, magical resonances I knew to be ethereal. I kept searching, pressing past the thread's attempt to fold my mind into an origami swan. Just as I began to find the information I was looking for, I discovered why Genevieve's thread wasn't knotted.

 

I saw her ethereal form turn, and look directly at me. I hoped for a moment that it was just a random happenstance, but by now I should really know better than to hope for things.

 

“Naughty naughty, Samantha.” Her words echoed inside my head, sending fiery sparks through my brain. Billy informed me later that mortal mind wasn't designed to have direct contact with ethereal beings, but at that moment all I could think about was whether I could dump a bucket of water into my brain. “You're always messing with our plans. You'll have to be...”

 

I didn't wait for her to finish telling me what I'd have to be. I stopped searching the threads, letting my consciousness zip back to my own body. I felt myself panting, sucking in breath for all I was worth. I felt sweat dripping from my face, no doubt ruining my make up. I was far beyond caring. I had deduced only two things from my short time inspecting the book's thread. One was that the book had taken full control of Genevieve. The other was that I had to find a way to destroy the thing.

 

I was distracted by the sound of the door opening. I looked up, into the face of a security guard. He seemed confused, his eyes darting from my candles, to my clothes, and then to my naked body. Luckily for me, whatever security company this place used had shitty magical defenses. Not a single one of his threads appeared knotted.

 

“...Aren't you Mr. Sanya's date?” The guard's voice was as confused as his face. That he was talking instead of trying to arrest me told me that they weren't very well trained, either. The question gave me enough time to take a good look at him, and figure out how to get out of the situation. I gave him a sheepish smile.

 

“What can I say? Mr. Sanya likes it a little dirty.” I quickly reached out, and grabbed the thread of the stun gun he had clipped to his belt. I tugged on it, making the internal equipment go haywire. The result caused exactly what I wanted, as the guard found himself dealing with twenty thousand volts of electricity pouring from a box clipped directly to his hip. He spasmed and jolted, before dropping to the ground.

 

I quickly blew out my candles before grabbing the guard by the wrist. Within moments, I had the man restrained with his own handcuffs and sitting with his own sock shoved and bound into his mouth to keep him from yelling.

 

“Sorry, nothing personal. I'll buy you dinner after I save everyone at that party. Deal?” The guard didn't respond to my offer, which I felt was a little rude.

 

* * *

 

I made my way into the ballroom as quickly as my heels would let me, the weight of the guard's pepper spray and second pair of handcuffs making me feel a little better. I'd even managed to enchant the pepper spray before I'd disconnected. I'd say I hoped it would be enough, but that would be a lie. I was beginning to learn better than to hope things.

 

The lights were dim when I stepped in, but I'd been lucky to have been in a dark janitor's closet just minutes before. My eyes adjusted quickly, and I began to scan the crowd for my client. That was thankfully simple, since he was one of the few people not currently gathered around Genevieve. She had found a table to set up, and was currently speaking with several patrons. I couldn't make out the conversation from the distance, but it didn't take a genius to deduce that she was telling fortunes.

 

I moved across the room, directly to Kero. His response was to wrap his arm around my waist and pull me in close. I liked a man who didn't have to be told how to con a room. Using the nearness, I nuzzled against his cheek in order to whisper in his ear.

 

“I need to get that book away from her, and I need to destroy it. It's connected to her thread, and giving her an ethereal form. Also, I'm pretty sure she's on to me.” I glanced as casually as I could towards Genevieve, but the gypsy woman seemed to be focused on her current task.

 

“I'm paying you good money not to slip up like that...” Kero began. I wasn't even remotely in the mood to deal with that kind of language.

 

“It wasn't a slip up.” I spoke through clenched teeth, trying not to let my annoyance show on my face. “That woman has an ethereal presence.”

 

“...Humans don't have ethereal presences, Berg.” He kept his own voice a whisper, and I could see his eyes darting about carefully to make sure no one was getting close enough to listen in.

 

“And that's why that book needs to be destroyed. Quickly. You willing to be a sacrificial lamb?” I giggled after I spoke, just in case anyone was keeping an eye on us.

 

“...That really depends on what you're planning to do.” Kero sounded not at all happy at the idea of being offered up sacrificially. I didn't blame him, though given what I knew about the book and Genevieve, I gave it even odds that the gypsy didn't actually care about his industry secrets.

 

“Go get your fortune told.” I kept speaking before Kero could argue. “The gypsy didn't knot her threads. I don't think she even knows how. The book is working through her, but it's its own separate entity. It's loud, and it's messy, and I might need to use half your pay to hire a fancy lawyer, but if I can pull a spellboy I can separate the two of them. At that point it won't matter what kind of curse she tries to lay on you.” In truth, the lawyer part was unlikely. What I was about to do was likely criminal, but the chance of the people at the party being willing to testify that they were caught up in 'that gypsy stuff' in a public and legal way was low. I hoped.

 

“I'm putting a lot of faith in you here, Berg,” Kero didn't sound any more happy upon hearing my plan. “If that book is powerful enough to give a human an ethereal presence, what makes you think you can even spellboy the thing?” It was a fair question.

 

“Because I don't have to control the book's thread. I just have to rip hers.” I hoped. That was two things I'd hoped for in a short amount of time, however, so I knew logically it wouldn't be as easy as that. Still, it was the plan I had, and given that Genevieve knew I was on to her, I had a short window in which to do something.

 

We probably could have kept arguing for a while, but Kero's decision was made for him. Joplin managed to find us, and announced her arrival with a judgmental clearing of her throat. I pulled away from Kero, giving the woman an innocent look. If she took note of it, she gave no sign. Her entire attention was focused on my client.

 

“Well, Kero, going to stand back for fear of what the future holds yet again? I'm certain Genevieve's talents will find you a wealth of information suited to your needs.” She smirked smugly, giving every indication that she knew something Kero didn't. I found myself wondering what Genevieve had told the woman already, and why the woman thought using a demon book would benefit her.

 

“You know what, Joplin? Sure. Let's take care of this once and for all.” Kero pulled away from me, but not before giving me a quick kiss on the cheek. “You stay here, sweetie. I'm going to get this silly gypsy stuff done with so Joplin will leave the adults alone.”

 

I gave Kero a broad smile as he and Joplin began moving towards the fortune telling table. I watched him sit down, and I watched Genevieve flip the book open. With luck, any curse she put on him would fall apart once she was disconnected from the book, but that wasn't my problem. I began to gently feel for the threads, getting a sense for what was immediately around me. The threads burned, but I'd expected that. Pulling a spellboy always burnt.

 

Lucky for me, the gypsy' s thread was strong enough to be readily obvious. I reached out, grabbing it firmly in my palm. The moment I touched it I could feel my mind bending uncomfortably, and I had to suppress a gurgle of pain. Besides, had the bending of my mind been the only upsetting thing that occurred when I touched the thread, I'd have been thrilled.

 

Genevieve stopped speaking to Kero, and immediately flipped her book to a different page. I ignored her, intent on tugging on her thread. It was far thicker than I'd originally thought, and put up more of a resistance than I'd wanted. Genevieve spoke quickly, her words rising above the curious murmur of the crowd. As she spoke the last syllable of her incantation, the entire room became pitch black. Gasps and cries of shock and surprise echoed around the room, but I was focused on the thread.

 

“Crude, Berg. I'd heard you were better than that.” The words once again sent burning sparks through my brain, and this time I failed to suppress a cry of pain. I didn't stop trying to rip the thread, however. Kero's magical number gave me strength.

 

The only light in the room came from the book, which was why I could see the pages flip by themselves. They stopped flipping after a moment, and Genevieve once more began to incant. Now would have been a perfect time for me to succeed in ripping the thread, except for one problem. The pain inside my mind combined with the thickness of the thread was giving me a hell of a time.

 

The last word of Genevieve's incantation caused every life thread in the room to knot itself at once. Every thread except mine, that is. I didn't know if I was spared on purpose, or because holding onto the book's thread gave me temporary immunity. What I did know was that I was the only person not currently in a coma. I could hear the thumping sounds of people falling, the breaking of glasses as they hit the floor, but it was a distant noise. My entire world was a swirling maelstrom of visions and understandings that my brain was not intended to have.

 

“And so, I shall be the one to claim Berg,” the gypsy's voice shot through my mind like a hot metal spike. I was dimly aware of Genevieve and the book moving towards me in the physical world, which served the purpose of making me more aware of the physical, burning pain shooting through my body. I knew I'd have to let go of the thread soon. The fact that my clothes had yet to burn off was a miracle in and of itself.

 

“Funny. They assured me you'd survive until the lake.” Genevieve moved closer to me, and that was when the beginnings of a plan began to form. I just had to buy myself a few moments’ time.

 

“I don't...know what you're talking about,” I was in pain, physical and mental, and I had only one shot. I couldn't afford to miss. I needed her closer. It helped that I really didn't have any idea what she was yammering on about. I might have considered it more, but my current situation left me dismissing it as gibberish.

 

“Don't worry about it,” the gypsy seemed perfectly willing to get closer. She stepped closer and closer, until she was close enough that I could see the ethereal glow in her eyes. “Let's just say I'm about to close the book on your destiny.”

 

She didn't move her lips to speak, which was an odd thing for me to notice as my mind tried to simultaneously shut down and claw itself out of my skull. My body moved almost on its own, and to this day I'm not entirely certain I had informed it of my plan. As Genevieve began to incant once more, I released the book's thread. My hand shot into my purse, and pulled free the pepper spray I had enchanted. With no hesitation, I fired.

 

The light from the activated electricity thread I'd swiped from the taser lit the room as bright as day. Genevieve's eyes went wide with surprise, but she was too close to do anything other than get hit. The shock made her body spasm and twitch, and she screamed in pain. More importantly, she dropped the book.

 

I moved without thinking, reaching down with a hand that moved far more quickly than it had any right. My mind and my body still weren't on speaking terms, which was probably a good thing because I'd have spent time asking my hand how the hell it had done that. As Genevieve began to stir, I reached into my purse and produced my lighter. Before the gypsy could stop me, I flicked it open and set flame to page.

 

Genevieve shrieked in anguish as the book became a giant ball of fire. I dropped it quickly, not particularly wanting to get roasted any more than I already had that night. I watched Genevieve fall back to the floor in a crumpled heap as the book burnt away into ash, and I could feel the threads in the room beginning to right themselves without the book's command.

 

Then? I dropped to the ground and passed out.

 

* * *

 

By the time I woke up, my mind and my body were back on speaking terms. They were tense terms, given that my body was still in pain and my mind still had an odd strain of gibberish running around somewhere in the back, but they were at least speaking terms. I was vaguely aware of someone talking to me, but it took me a few more moments before I realized I should probably figure out what they were saying.

 

“Can you hear me, ma'am? Someone needs to get a syringe ready, this woman looks like she's got some acute ethereal saturation. Ma'am, can you hear me?”

 

“I'm awake. I swear. I think.” My voice sounded far away to my ears, but the act of speaking gave me something to focus on. I took a breath and tried again. “Yeah. Definitely awake now.” I attempted to open my eyes, but that was done for me when the medic checking me over grabbed my eyelids and forced them open. He stared down at me with an inspecting gaze, clearly looking for something specific.

 

“...Oh yeah. You're saturated, alright. We may need to get you to the MCU,” he spoke with a business like tone. I'm sure he had my best interests in mind, but I wasn't particularly inclined to go to the magical care unit. The cops tended to investigate anyone who'd dealt with magic heavy enough to wind up there, and I didn't feel like explaining to them what happened. I reached up to push his hand away, and forced myself to sit up.

 

“No, I'm fine. Really.” Another thought occurred to me as I took in my surroundings. The cops had already arrived, and most of the party goers were up and about. The room seemed far more empty than it should have been, which I took to mean that some of the party goers had gotten out of there while the getting was good. “Kero. I was here with Mister Sanya...”

 

“Samantha!” Kero's cry came almost on cue. I looked towards the sound of his voice, to see him moving through the crowd quickly. He stepped past the medics, and knelt down next to me. “Are you alright?”

 

“Mister Sanya, this woman would be well served by getting to the MCU...” the medic sounded concerned, but Kero cut him off.

 

“I'll take full control of any medical responsibilities, sir. Thank you, you've done a wonderful job.” Even I could hear the firm dismissal in Kero's voice, and I wasn't entirely certain my brain and my body were the ones I'd started out with when I'd gotten to the party. The medic scowled, but took the hint and moved on.

 

“How long have I been out?” I asked once we were in the clear.

 

“About fifteen minutes longer than everyone else. They were more worried about Joplin's pet gypsy than you, and had limited manpower. What did you do to her?” He sounded more curious than upset, though I could hardly blame him.

 

“Lightening bolt to the face.” I realized, logically, that I should probably feel a little bad about it. I didn't, but I probably should have. “The book is toast, right?”

 

“Only if that pile of scorched ashes in between the two of you was the book.” I nodded, which brought a smile to his face. “Well, Berg. A little messier than I might have liked, but you got rid of Joplin's pet gypsy. I presume you prefer cash?”

 

“Cash, and a limo ride back to my office.” After a moment's thought, I felt the need to amend my request. “A fully stocked limo ride back to my office.”

 

“I'll have the limo here in ten minutes.” He stood to his feet, pulling a cell phone out of his pocket. Fancy rich people and their fancy rich people toys. If he hadn't been in the process of giving me obscene amounts of money, I might have been jealous. As it was, I only wanted to go home and soak in the tub for many hours. I had never taken part in such a massive, painful clusterfuck in my life, let alone one that I knew from the start would be a massive, painful clusterfuck.

 

At least this time I'd actually get paid.


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2011-10-03 21:28:02
Great story. Really like the characters and the humor. Cheers!

2011-10-01 07:37:23
Great series! Keep it coming.




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