Last time on Jane Crow, Agent Chivas, Jane’s partner, returned with news from the autopsy. The victim had died from drowning on his own blood… from wounds that didn’t disturb the skin! Directed to look for information on something called the Unwounding Knife, Jane decided that she had one lead to follow up on first… one dangerous lead…
I went off the grid, both Bureau and Coven.
Where I was going, I didn’t want either of my bosses to find me.
Charissa, for all her phony now-I’m-nice hippy-dippy crap, had made a good point. I needed some deep insight into how Cyzinsky’s destiny-screwing prophecy bubblegum cards worked. Fortunately, I knew someone who I could call on for help. Unfortunately, the last time I had seen him, he had been trying to kill me.
I turned off my phone and left it on the bedside table and I removed all my jewelry in case Vassey had enchanted something during one of our meetings. Instead of any of my usual outfits or glamours I put on an old black Joan Jett concert tee and a skirt Aunt Cat had given me for Yule one year that I usually found too hippie to wear. I wasn’t going to take any chances.
I headed down to the bus stop and got on the third bus that arrived. I got out on its third stop and walked three blocks back. On the corner, I turned left three times (as opposed to turning right; there was a level of intent needed for the spell) and counted to the third door on the opposite side of the street. Walking up the rowhouse’s steps, I rang the third buzzer three times. I hadn’t noticed an old intercom speaker wired above the mailboxes, but there was one there when it buzzed to life.
“Who is it?” a raspy voice asked.
“A petitioner,” I answered. I wasn’t to give my name until the third time I was asked, but I also knew better than to lie in this situation.
“No, seriously, who is it?”
“One who walks two paths,” I said. Normally I hate riddle games and fancy verbal rigmarole, but it’s pretty de rigeur in the witching community. If you can’t answer a question without answering it, you were likely to find yourself in deep shit sooner or later.
“Will you just tell me your damn name please?” the intercom voice pleaded.
“I’m Jane Crow,” I finally answered.
“Oh. You’re early.”
“Yeah. I didn’t expect you for another half an hour. Hang on, I’m still hiding my porn for your visit.”
“How long is that going to take?” I asked. I already sensed that, at least from down here, I could get away with a little rudeness.
“Seven and a half minutes.”
“Thanks,” the voice said. It added “Lousy blank spots,” before realizing it had left the intercom on. A loud poppy click indicated that my seven and a half minute wait had begun.
Twelve minutes later, the intercom sparked back to life. “Okay, it’s good. Come on up.”
Before I could say anything, the wooden rowhouse door in front of me was replaced by a metal door covered in surfer, pro-marijuana and taco restaurant stickers. I grabbed the anachronistically ornate handle and turned it. The door opened, but not into the stairwell I could see through the glass panes on either side of the door, which still showed me the inside of the rowhouse. Through the door, however, was the messiest apartment I had ever seen.
On a scale of one to ten where one is Felix Unger and ten is Oscar the Grouch, this room’s inhabitant was a thirteen. I was glad I didn’t have the second sight, because I was afraid this mess leaked onto the spiritual plane. Four of my five natural senses were recoiling at it, and if I stepped any further in or–goddess forbid–touched anything, my last sense would make it unanimous and I might never get the information I needed.
Sitting on a stained bean bag chair in the eye of the mess was a chubby black man in his thirties with long greasy curly black hair and an unkempt beard. He wore a Hawaiian shirt unbuttoned over his hairy chest and pot belly and a pair of drawstring sweat shorts. From one meaty hand hung a pair of beer cans still held in their plastic yoke.
“Yo,” he said, not looking up.
The greatest diviner in the invisible world popped open a beer and chugged it. His other hand raised, sans remote, and the television that had been showing an episode of some cartoon called “Future Cat” shut off. Finally, like he had done enough dismissive things in my presence to let me know how little worth his time I was, he turned to me. His eyes were black, with gray smouldering pupils. I was in the presence of one of the most powerful practitioners of magic in both the seen and unseen worlds.
This was the ronin Tex Catlipoca, the Smoking Mirror.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.