This work has been back-burnered for the time being. I need to work out a few issues with it, plus I’ve got too many balls in the air right now anyway as it were.
I belong to a club, an exclusive club. You can’t buy into it. No amount of money will get you membership in this club. No study or application will gain entry. Entrance is only by birth.
Members of the club, like me, have one thing in common. Somewhere along our maternal line one of our ancestors had congress, willingly or not, with a demon and, as a result, bore a female child.
My name is Molly Joyner. I am a witch.
I am not a “Wiccan”, a worshipper of an Earth Mother Goddess, attempting through rituals and spells to harness forces of which I have only an inkling, secure in the belief that the Universe is a friendly, happy place if only we live in harmony with it.
The Universe is not a friendly place. Demons are real. Their blood flows through my veins. It is a source of power. It is also a curse.
Some of my sisters, other members of this club, other witches, work with the demons, spreading their influence in the world. Others oppose them, turning powers spawned of demon blood against their brood.
I stand against the demons. That is why I was in this seedy bar working as a cocktail waitress.
“Here you go, Hun.” As I set the Guiness Extra Stout down, one of the men at the table pulled out a pack of cigarettes. “Sorry, Hun. No smoking here.”
The man looked up, squinting at the brighter lights from the bar behind me. Mid-thirties, with light brown hair. More than a five o’clock shadow, call it an eight thirty shadow. “You’re shitting me?”
I shrugged. “Indiana law. No smoking in places of business. You’ll have to take it outside.”
Swearing softly under his breath, the man stood up. “Watch my drink, Paul.”
Another man, a bit older with dirty blond hair thinning on top, waved a hand. “Yeah, yeah.”
The woman next to the older man scooted closer to him. She peered up at me, her eyes narrowing. “You’re new here?”
I smiled. “Started here today. Carlyle’s, on the south side, closed down so…” I forced myself not to hold my breath as I wondered if she saw through the hint of glamorie.
“Good luck.” Her voice was friendly but her expression anything but. “This place can be rough, but you can make good money.”
She appeared to be a young woman, mid-twenties. Brunette hair swept back from the sides of her face and falling to the middle of her back. Her eyebrows formed high arches above her heavy blue eyeshadow. Bright pink lipstick shaded to deeper red at the edges of her full lips.
That would be her own glamorie, of course. She hid it well. Not a hint of magic showed through.
“Can I get you anything else?”
“Yeah, a martini, shaken not stirred” The woman waved her hand airily.
I forced myself not to roll my eyes and jotted down the order. “Be right back.”
I handed the ticket to Mike at the bar. He looked down at it then back up at me. “We have society here today?”
I shrugged and grinned.
Mike sighed and selected a bottle of gin. I recognized it as the cheapest brand. He measured some into a Cobbler shaker along with some vermouth. After giving the shaker three halfhearted shakes he poured the mix into a martini glass and dropped in an olive, speared on a little plastic sword.
I set the drink on my tray. “Thanks, Mike.”
Back at the table, Paul sat alone scrolling through some text document on his phone. I set the martini down in front of the woman’s place and waited.
Paul grunted and pulled his wallet form his hip pocket. “How much.”
I quoted a price. He set the amount on the table, paused, then dropped an extra one on top of it.
I scooped up the money and tucked it into my apron. “Thank you.”
He grunted and turned back to his phone.
I straightened. Where had she gone? Toward the door? No, not there. I looked to the rear and saw her heading toward the bathrooms. Before she reached them she sidestepped behind one of the privacy walls. I spotted her a moment later, skirting the row of booths toward the front of the bar and the exit.
Turning, I hustled back to the bar and set my tray down. “Mike, I’m taking a short break.”
From where he was drawing a beer, he waved in my direction. I wiped my hands on a bar towel then hustled toward the front door.
Outside, a few people clustered around the entrance to the bar but neither the woman nor the man I sought stood in sight. I chewed on my lower lip for a moment then turned to the left. Overflow parking lay in that direction, running around to the back of the bar. I trotted in that direction and turned the corner.
None of the lights in this part of the parking lot worked. Only the full moon, half veiled by clouds, illuminated the lot. A spark of red light between the dumpster and the back wall of the bar drew my attention.
I curled the fingers of my right hand into a precise gesture and whispered the words of a simple spell, sharpening my eyesight allowing me to see in the shadow.
I saw the woman, Paul’s companion standing in front of the other man who had come in with Paul. She stood facing him, her right hand raised and covering the man’s face. He leaned back against the front wall of the bar, his arms hanging listlessly at his sides. A half-finished cigarette hung between the first two fingers of his right hand. The woman, the witch looked my way. Only now she did not look to be in her mid-twenties. Wrinkles spread in a fan from the corners of her eyes. Others crossed her forehead. Deep lines ran from the sides of her nose to the corners of her mouth. Her hair was no longer blonde, but gray and thinning. To all appearances she was in her sixties.
I raised my hand to my face, feigning an expression of surprise. “Oh, pardon me.”
The witch pointed her left hand in my direction. Dim blue light shone at her fingertips. “You saw nothing. Go back inside.”
I felt the force of her compulsion pressing against me. I took a step back. She turned back to the man. I started to turn, as though to return to the front but keeping close watch on her as I did so. In a moment, her attention returned to the man in front of her. His eyes rolled back, his jaw hung open. He moaned softly and his hips began to twitch.
In that moment, with the witch’s attention fully on the mind she was invading, I struck. I stabbed out with a lance of magic, slipping past the witch’s unconscious defenses and paralyzing her.
Released from her control, the man slumped to the ground disoriented. It would be several seconds before awareness returned to him. Long enough.
“Hey! What’s going on back there?”
I turned my head at the voice. Another man stood about twenty feet away, his left hand upraised in my direction, his right behind his hip.
Swearing softly, I released the witch and stepped back, shifting my attention to the man, freezing him. What had he seen?
The witch turned to face me and stepped back as well. “So. You’re one of us.”
“Not one of you.”
She cast a glance in the direction of the newcomer then back to me. “I’ll leave you to deal with the witnesses. Another time.” She faded back into the shadows and disappeared.
“Son of a…” I looked at the man I held frozen and pushed with a compulsion. “You saw nothing. Go about your business.”
I then turned to the other man at my feet. He looked up at me, his eyes dropping, his face slack.
“You okay?” I held a hand down to him.
He blinked, staring at my hand then turned, ignoring my hand and pushing himself to his feet. “What did that bitch do to me?”
He looked down at the cigarette still in his hand. I nudged him mentally.
“She dosed my…” He spat then tossed the cigarette into the dumpster.
“Are you sure you’re…” I held out a hand to him again.
“Get away from me, whore.”
I raised my hands and stepped back. He staggered back toward the front of the bar.
“What did I just see?”
I jumped at the voice. I looked back over my shoulder. The man I had frozen, that I thought had compelled to leave, stood unmoved, his right hand remaining behind his hip. As I turned to face him and took a step forward. He took two steps back. His hand swept out and forward revealing a small semi-automatic pistol. He brought the pistol around until it was pointed at my sternum.
“Stay where you are?”
I raised my hands up next to my shoulders, showing him my open hands.
“There’s no need for that.” I put another compulsion behind the words.
The barrel of the gun dipped then returned to line.
“What are you?”
I frowned. Not only was this not going like it should, but I was using entirely too much magic. He was not leaving and especially was not forgetting.
“I’m no threat to you.” Another compulsion, pushing the truth of my words.
“How did you?” The gun wavered.
I pressed my advantage. “It’s okay. I’m one of the good guys.”
The gun drooped. “One of the?”
“Wouldn’t you just rather forget all this?”
“This is entirely too crazy to forget.” The gun dropped to his side. “But I’ll give you a chance to explain.”
I sighed and sagged against the wall. With the way he was resisting the compulsions I needed time, time to find a way to preserve the secret. I looked over my shoulder at the bar. Well, the job had merely been a cover, and that blown already.
I looked back to the man. “Would you care to discuss it over coffee?”