Archives for category: The Garden of Abracadabra

5.19.15.TGOA.CVR.TINY

58

Alastor swings his sword at Kovac’s neck, the blade hissing through the air before the tip makes impact, and, for a horrifying moment, I fear he means to have Kovac’s head.

But no, the tip of the blade catches the golden chain holding the Seal of Solomon, and the amulet flies off Kovac’s throat. A thread of blood spurts from a nick in his neck.

The demons howl and fling themselves at each other, clawing and biting, grasping for the precious Seal.

The Seal effortlessly flies out of the demonic circle like a swift, golden bird. I hear the clatter of metal on the dance floor, somewhere outside the circle beyond us.

The wound in Kovac’s neck hemorrhages into his dress shirt, staining the translucent fabric with bloodred Rorschachs. The Seal can’t heal him now.

My heart sinks. Three of Kovac’s magical weapons are gone. And mine? My hands ache and tremble and I’m disoriented from Alastor’s assault on the dais. As for my powers of concentration, what powers of concentration? What if I whip the shape-morpher off my waist and transform the thing into a coffee cup? A coffee cup that Alastor knocks out of my hands and shatters? Then I’m out of a shape-morphing weapon, that’s what.

I’m biding my time before I try out the shape-morpher. I’ve got to.

We back away from Alastor and whirl around to face him when he appears right behind us. I’m getting a little tired of his tricks, which strike me as–well, juvenile–for an entity thousands of years old. Alastor smirks, enjoying his surprise attacks. Maybe he’s been living in frat-boy hell a little too long.

“Got any more magic?” I whisper to Kovac.

“Yeah, I do.” From the waistband of his trousers, Kovac pulls out a substantial stick of what appears to be aged ivory. From the shape and curve, it’s an animal tusk heavily carved with arcane symbols.

“By the Wand of Ur”–Kovac proclaims, pointing the tusk at Alastor–”magician of the Age of Cavazzacca, you will stand back and let us pass.”

Alastor does his head-flung-back-guffawing bit. “A bone? Now you threaten me with a bone, puny human?”

But the demon stands back.

“What is it?” I whisper.

“Petrified boar’s tusk, circa Mesopotamia, thirty-five hundred years before the Christian era. Or so the curator of the Hearst Museum believes. She loaned it to me for the night. Agatha Easterly. You’ll like each other. Fantastic carvings. Look at that Providential Eye.”

Why am I not surprised that Jack Kovac knows just about every brainy, accomplished woman in Berkeley? But yes, I see the Eye, carved on the ivory curve the color of coffee heavily laced with cream. A Providential Eye used for power long before ancient Egyptian magicians redesigned my amulet and added the equilateral triangle.

“Does the Wand of Ur work?”

“Good question. Let’s find out.” Kovac thrusts the tusk at Alastor. “By the Wand of Ur, you will allow Abby Teller and me to depart from Avichi. Step aside!”

Kovac waves the wand with authority. Bright blue flames leap from the tip, and I feel a sudden heat. Kovac wields the weapon like a blow torch, and the demons step back.

But that’s it. That’s all. The demons don’t break ranks or flee screaming. Now they take a step closer.

“Maybe you need to say a spell in Mesopotamian, Jack.”

“Yeah, sign us both up for Mesopotamian spell-casting next semester.”

You want to go back to college?”

“Only if I can carry your books, schoolgirl.”

Alastor appears to our right, swings his sword, and knocks the Wand of Ur out of Kovac’s grasp. Kovac jumps back before the demon can chop off his hand again, but the wand goes flying, whirring away over the demons’ heads and their grasping hands.

I listen for the clatter of the wand striking the floor but I hear nothing. Can a petrified boar’s tusk survive the impact of the fall? I suspect not. The wand must lie shattered, the aged ivory so brittle the impact made no sound.

“Sorry, Abby,” Kovac mutters. “Now I am all out of weapons.”

“Now what?” I mutter back.

“Now you’re both mine to do with as I please,” crows Alastor, swinging his sword so recklessly that his own minions scatter before the blade. “Two fine human magicians. Two prizes of power. How I shall enjoy devising everlasting tortures for your souls in Avichi.”

A horn blares, deep and brassy.

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

57

“Abby Teller!”

Jack Kovac’s voice grows louder. Clearer. Closer. I twist my head toward the sound like a blind person listening to a seeing-eye guide to salvation. Kovac is sending his power through his modulated tenor, that a vibration of resonant sound bites. Voice magic! Voice magic, of course!

His voice magic pulses in my ears, and my mind clears of Alastor’s muddling enchantment the way a whiff of smelling salts revives you from a swoon. I haven’t realized how darkly enchanted I’ve become, how close to the edge of death, till angry tears leak from the corners of my eyes, trickling across my temples and dampening my hair.

“Abby Teller, listen to me. Are you listening?”

“Yes, I’m listening!” I laugh as fear and confusion dissolve, and the will to live, to survive, to thrive takes the place of those other baneful emotions. “Talk to me, Jack!”

Alastor seizes my chin again, jerks my face toward his. His lips poise over mine, his tongue uncoiling for another lethal kiss.

I wrench my face away, straining in the direction of Kovac’s voice.

Jack Kovac strides into the circle of demons, walking bold and strong. He scoops a handful of some kind of gleaming white sand from his jacket pocket and flings it at the demons’ faces.

The demons step back, flinching.

The Princesses Hoshanna, Briolette, and Elvaun scream and frantically brush white sand off their arms and hands. Too bad they’re not quick enough. Little yellow infected flames burst up from their perfect white skin, and I glimpse the seared flesh of fresh burn wounds. A strip of Elvaun’s skin drips off her cheek like hot candle wax, exposing her raw, gray flesh.

I whip my face away and squeeze my eyes shut as a shower of hard little particles strikes my cheek. My God, what is it? The bonds binding me tighten again. Any tighter, and they will crush my wrists.

“Don’t be afraid, Abby,” Kovac shouts. “Salt won’t harm you.”

Alastor’s face twists with rage. He lifts himself off me and leaps down from the dais, the thud of his massive body reverberating throughout the ballroom. The demon swaggers toward Kovac, freakishly towering over the six-foot man.

Kovac stands his ground, confronting Alastor, cupping a handful of salt.

“You dare intrude upon Avichi, intrude upon the Fullness of the High Harvest with a bag of salt, puny human?”

Kovac, impassive, contemptuous, flings salt at Alastor’s face. “Melt, demon.”

Salt, of course. Why didn’t I think of that? Salt is an ancient remedy for banishing demons and melting slugs in your garden. Will we really defeat Alastor so easily?

Alastor’s perfect white skin ripples and splits. Salt burns steaming red pockmarks on his cheeks and chin.

The demon lunges, seizing the collar of Kovac’s jacket. Every stitch pops open, seams burst, and shreds of leather scatter. Salt spills from pockets ripped apart.

So much for salt.

But Kovac persists, standing his ground in a white dress shirt and the tawny dress trousers. Now he wields a dagger with a blade of dark gold. Tarnished old gold.

“By this weapon of bronze, I command you to cease this ceremony and release Abby Teller. Prince Alastor of Avichi, you are hereby under arrest for attempted rape with supernatural circumstances. I’m taking you into custody.”

You will arrest me, human magician? Take me into custody? In my own realm?”

Alastor snaps his fingers, and a servant scurries into the circle, handing the demon a sword as long and thick as the demon’s brawny arm. I suspect that the silver-colored blade, pocked and rusted, must be tempered iron.

Can tempered iron shatter the primitive bronze dagger? I think so. That is, after all, how the Bronze Age ended and the Iron Age began. On ancient battlefields strewn with soldiers’ blood and bronze swords broken by superior iron blades.

But bronze is a magical metal against Alastor and his kin. So Bonwitch claimed. So Kovac concurred.

Damn, I hope they’re right!

Alastor lunges and slashes the sword, the blade hissing through the air. His sword reaches farther–much farther–than Kovac’s dagger. A confrontation of their weapons has unfair knife-fight written all over it.

“Yes, I will,” Kovac says coolly, skipping nimbly away. “I am Agent Jack Kovac, FBI, Supernatural Crimes, empowered by the Convocation. Drop the sword, Alastor.”

Alastor peers at the blade Kovac wields. “Is that one of mine? The FBI dares to steal a weapon from my own cache? I should have you arrested and summarily punished for theft.”

“Yes, it’s your dagger. I confiscated it from your weapons hall under my legal authority. Do not force me to kill you with it.”

“Such vainglorious boasting. First you’ll arrest me and take me into custody. Now you think you can kill me?”

“I can and I will, if necessary. That’s how I enforce the first boast.”

I enforce the Law in Avichi. And I hereby decree that the punishment for your theft is undeath by ten thousand cuts for all eternity.”

Kovac shrugs. “By the Seal of Solomon which I wear and the Providential Eye which she wears, you will release Abby Teller. Now!”

My Eye of Horus eagerly pulses, and I glimpse an amulet gleaming gold at Kovac’s throat. My breath catches. It’s a six-pointed star comprised of two triangles juxtaposed each upon the other. The downward triangle signifies the Divinity descending to our material world, while the upward triangle signifies the soul of our world ascending to the Divinity. The star itself signifies the union of these two eternal motions.

The Seal of Solomon! High, high magic! Borrowed from Bonwitch? Has to be.

“I think not,” Alastor says. “She’s all mine now. She is my vengeance against humanity.” The demon smirks and experiments with more swipes of his sword. The salt wounds on his face have nearly healed, but steam still curls up from his skin.

Do I sense a slight hesitation in Alastor? I think so. The combined power of the Seal of Solomon and the Providential Eye hold the potential to create powerful magic. Human magic. But can our human magic prevail in the hell of Avichi? The odds are against us, now that we’re in Alastor’s world. Steep odds.

How I want to even those odds! I want to scoop salt off the floor, touch my amulet with my hand of power, and stand by Kovac’s side. Once human magicians banished these demons. Can we vanquish them now?

But I can’t move. I just can’t move, and my hands and fingers feel necrotic. “Jack, he’s bound me with coils of power. If the bastard won’t release me, I’ll release myself with my own power. But you’ve got to coach me. Use your voice magic. Use it now!”

“Abby Teller, listen well,” Kovac commands, and his voice magic calms me, centers me, strengthens me. Empowers me. “Are you listening?”

I wrestle against the bonds, and the malignant power tightens again, feeding off my struggle. I whimper in pain. “I’m listening.”

“His bonds can only bind you by the power of your own fear. His magic can only enchant you by the power of your own confusion. You only want him because he craves you and wants you to crave him.”

The power of my own fear? I’m shivering with my own fear. And confusion? My thoughts are tumbling in confusion, scattered by Alastor’s magic. Do I want him? No, never, but my invisible body is writhing, bobbing in and out of me, lusting for the pleasures the demon has promised.

“Know Thyself!” Kovac shouts. “Who are you? Tell me!”

“I am Abby Teller.”

“The famous Abby Teller.”

“The famous Abby Teller who was thought dead, but is alive. I’m alive! Daughter of Jorge and Alice Teller. Heiress to the Eye of Horus. Superintendent of the Garden of Abracadabra. Student at the Berkeley College of Magical Arts and Crafts. A lover of life, of beauty, of freedom.”

“And what else? What else are you?”

“I AM A MAGICIAN!”

Without pride or self-deception, I celebrate my strengths, acknowledge my weaknesses, welcome my destiny, and await the learning leading me onward on my destined path.

The malignant bonds fall away, vanishing like noxious mist.

Yes! I sit up and rub my hands, coaxing circulation into my fingers. I slide to edge of the dais and jump down. I stride clear around Alastor and his sword, bold and fearless, and stand by Kovac’s side.

“Am I glad to see you, Mr. FBI.”

“Am I glad to see you off your back, my lady magician.” Kovac’s ocean-blues flick at me just once, ironic and steely.

I glance at him. His shirt, his trousers, his boots–every piece of his apparel–have turned translucent the way clothes do in Avichi. I glimpse evidence bags in the front pockets of his trousers, the wipes stained blood-dark.

“You’ve got it? The evidence?”

“Looks like it. More in my back pockets.”

He averts his eyes like the gentleman of his word and trains his gaze on Alastor as any sensible magician facing off with a demon ought to do. But I let my gaze linger and I can’t help but notice–fleetingly! fleetingly!–that Kovac is well-built, long and lean and muscular, with all the lovely attributes a woman wants in a man.

As my eyes skim down the length of him, I also can’t help but notice his left leg. The source of his mysterious pain.

Just below the bottom of his left thigh bone, Kovac comes equipped with a prosthesis. A slim curve of opaque gray material, an elegant knee joint hinged and bolted out of steel, a swoop of a calf and an ankle, and a sleek hoof that fits his left boot with more economy than his flesh-and-blood squeezed in his right.

I gasp. “Jack, what is it?”

“It’s called a Cheetah leg. Carbon-fiber. Don’t worry about it. An Olympic Games contender races on two of ‘em. The Committee wants to disqualify him. Seems his Cheetahs are springier than human legs. He’s got an unfair advantage.”

“But. . . .how?”

“Later, Abby.”

Alastor circles us, brandishing his sword, and Kovac and I turn to face him. Always face your demons.

“But the aura, that. . . .angry red aura?”

“You’ve noticed that?”

“Only when you’re in Mr. Hyde mode.”

“It’s my phantom limb syndrome. Comes and goes. Don’t worry about that, either.”

Don’t worry? Who’s worried? Alastor appears behind us, lunges. He swings his sword and knocks the dagger out of Kovac’s grasp by the simple expedient of cutting off Kovac’s hand.

Blood gouts from his severed wrist, and I scream. I seize Kovac’s forearm, grip him tightly with my right hand, touch my amulet with my left, hoping to staunch the wound, praying he doesn’t bleed to death right here, right now. Is this how he lost his leg? Got his scar? In a duel with a demon?

Kovac groans, the agony in his voice magic sending agony through me.

A beam of golden light shoots out of the Seal of Solomon at Kovac’s throat and catches his dismembered hand, cupping it, lifting it. The beam of light presses the hand to Kovac’s hemorrhaging wrist, pressing that faithful servant of every human being to the arm of its master.

As I watch, the severance melds into a vicious wound. The wound knits into a scarlet healing and the healing fades to a dull purple scar. The scar fades to a faint white line barely visible among Kovac’s curly red-gold wrist hairs.

I peer at his wrist, openmouthed with amazement. The wound has healed and his hand of power is restored. Miracle! High, high magic!

But what about the dagger?

The dagger crashes to the floor and spins away, sliding between the riding boots of a demon with spit-yellow hair. I lose sight of it as the dagger spins across the parquetry. Spinning away out of Kovac’s reach. Out of my reach.

But at least out of the reach of the demons. At least that.

I crouch beside Kovac, wary, watching Alastor and his sword. The demon disappears and reappears behind us in the blink of an eye. I glance now and then at the other demons standing around us, growling and snarling and grinning.

Grinning.

They’re not about to kill us. Not yet, not yet. They’re creatures with cravings as compulsive as the souls they’ve trapped in their hell, and they crave something.

They crave something more.

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

5.19.15.TGOA.CVR.TINY56

I back away, searching desperately for a way to the Garden of Abracadabra. But the shimmer of the mirror momentarily blinds my eyes.

Alastor seizes my shoulder in a bone-crushing grip. “Here’s how I work in Avichi.”

He spins me around, whiplashing my neck, and seizes my flailing hands. He forces my wrists together behind my back and binds them–with cords of rope or cords of power, I can’t tell, though the bands of freezing cold around my pulse points tell me it’s got to be power. “I promised to make you my Queen on the Fullness of the High Harvest. I shall keep my promise.”

“Thanks, but no thanks.”

“Oh yes, Mistress.” His voice rumbles in my ear, sending an unwanted thrill through me. “I would have gladly given you the most supreme pleasure in all the worlds tonight, but you have betrayed me. Foolish, foolish little woman. Now I shall give you everything, the supreme pleasure and the supreme pain. Would you like that?”

“I said no! Release me! Release me now!”

I call upon my power, but I feel enervated and unstrung, and I can’t raise my shield of magical protection. Avichi has swallowed me, humanity doesn’t rule here, and all bets are off.

Alastor seizes me by the nape of my neck. He lifts me clear off my feet and viciously shakes me. I choke, nearly strangling, my teeth rattling in my jaw, hanged by his hands the way Bayemon had nearly hanged Professor Vortex. “You cannot command me here, Abby Teller. You’re all mine, now.”

The demon sets me on my feet and shoves me ahead of him, clutching my neck. He pushes me toward a dais–a huge, round platform in the middle of the dance floor. Luxurious silks drape the dais, silks of such a mutable luster, I can’t tell their true color.

I would have thought the dais beautiful if I didn’t know, with certainty thudding in my heart, that this is a sacrificial altar. The altar on which Alastor means to make me his Queen.

The dais is no taller than my waist, and Alastor prods me against it, bending me over the edge. He unbinds my wrists and spins me around to face him, whiplashing my neck a second time.

I spit at him and punch his face and chest, but he’s as hard as stone, and I recoil, my fists bursting with pain. I jab my knee the way “Street Smarts for Women” taught me, aiming for his groin, so huge and vulnerable in those foppish leggings.

Not a good move.

Supernaturally swift, Alastor hooks his hand behind my knee and shoves me by the back of my thigh onto the dais.

I land flat on my back and kick at his belly with my high heel. He seizes my ankle and thrusts my leg open so forcefully, I can feel my thigh bone grind in the socket of my hip.

He thrusts himself between my thighs and bends over me. I plant punches on his face, aiming for his eyes, but he seizes my thrashing fists and thrusts my arms up over my head, binding my wrists again.

With one frantic glance up, I see coils of black smoke writhing around my wrists. Cords of power, what else. I twist my hands, struggling to slip free, but every movement tightens the coils till my wrists ache. Deprived of circulation, my hands and my fingers grow numb with alarming swiftness.

Alastor raises his hand, and the orchestra falls utterly silent. The dancers cease their frenzied whirling and fall silent, too. The ballroom of Avichi is abruptly transformed from the shrieking bombast of a frenzied party into a deep, dreadful silence. The silence of eternity. The silence at the darkest end of the Universe. The tortured silence of undeath that never ends.

The Princesses Hoshanna, Bridolette, and Elvaun join Bayemon and others of the much-too-beautiful men and women in a circle around the dais, watching me and Alastor with famished snarls. Predators eager to feed.

Feed on what? What do they hunger for?

Alastor seizes my chin and presses his mouth over mine. The first innocent raspberry touch of his lips instantly dissolves my fury, my resistance, and, finally, my refusal. His kiss dissolves everything with one luscious touch. He presses against the length of me, a huge heavy beast pulsing with unimaginable power. The tattoo inking his torso links its power with the tiny tattoo on my shoulder, and his tatt and mine beat together in an irresistible rhythm.

I want Alastor at that moment more than I want life itself. More than I want anything in the world. I want more than his kiss, more than his touch. I want his flesh touching my flesh, his power thrusting inside me. I want him thrusting inside me, the real thing all the way.

So I lose everything. Lose my power. Lose my life. Lose my soul.

So what.

So what? That’s the tattoo talking, his malignant magic talking, not me. Not me!

I choose! I choose!

Alastor lifts his mouth from mine, and I whisper, “You’ll never make me your Queen.”

But my invisible body tears loose of her moorings, floating outside me, now above, now below. My invisible body arches her spine, raises her wrists higher, spreads her thighs wider.

“Never, Mistress?” Alastor taunts. “I think you’re about to. You know you want to.”

Before I can summon an infuriated retort, a man’s voice–a wonderfully warm and magical human voice–echoes in my ear, faint and tinny, as if calling from a great distance.

“Abby? Abby Teller?”

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

 

54

I tell Jack Kovac through the speaker’s static to wait for me in the lobby while I take care of one last bit of business. I intend to bring nothing with me to Avichi that Alastor can take away from me, separating me from my life and my human world.

“Hurry, Abby. I’ve got something to show you. Something incredible.”

His voice is tight with strain. It occurs to me the man isn’t just struggling with his mysterious pain, he is also muting the power in his voice. That modulated tenor I sensed from the start, a vibration of resonant sound bites. Why would he do that? Because he doesn’t want to convey his pain to me through his voice. I’m grateful for his consideration, but this is not good. Not good, at all.

God knows we need incredible tonight. I buzz him in and step out my door. Taking only my key to Number One, I lock the locks from floor to lintel, jog to the library, and step inside, wary as always of the pools of light, the pools of darkness, the weird rustling whispers.

The little library is silent and still, haunted only by the odor of book dust. The ledgers of leases are still stacked on the pentagonal table, the bookshelves lying on the floor where I left them. The lockbox is exposed but locked up tight, so it’s all right.

I need to hide my door key to Number One, but where? The luxurious Persian carpet of dark scarlets and blues lies placidly at the pointy poulaines of the suit of armor. Unlike the carpets in Bonwitch’s office, this carpet doesn’t shiver and ripple, striving to fly.

I lift a corner and slide my key deep beneath the heavy wool pile.

That’s when I notice that Sir Little Big Man is holding a deadly-looking hatchet in his left gauntlet, a stout tool with a sturdy hickory handle and a keen, imposing blade fit for splitting cords of wood or an enemy’s skull. The blade gleams, the color of dark gold. Tarnished old gold.

But, wait. Gold doesn’t tarnish. The blade is bronze, it’s got to be. Bronze!

So where did the lance go? Like all the other weapons Sir Little Big Man has held before, I can see no trace of the lance.

“May I?” I pry the hatchet out of Sir Little Big Man’s gauntlet and stagger back.

The hatchet pulses in my hand, morphing into a blunderbuss, a battle ax, a lance, a blunderbuss, the hatchet again. It’s all I can do to hold on, grasping an ever-changing handle or grip. The bucking force of the shape-morpher jolts me across the library, slamming my hips against the edge of the pentagonal table.

How do I force the blasted thing to settle into one shape? The Second Fundamental of Real Magic springs into my mind and Professor Bonwitch whispers in my memory. Mind gleams in every atom of the Universe. Hold the pure form of an object in your mind’s eye. It is only a collection of subatomic particles whirling in the Ether.

Concentrate, Abby Teller! Concentrate!

I close my eyes and hold the pure form of a hatchet in my mind. A tool for cutting wood. A weapon that can kill. The jittery sting of electricity nearly jolts the shape-morpher out of my hand. I open my eyes and find that I’m gripping a serious knife with a silver blade, lethal and solid.

No, no, no! What am I doing wrong? I didn’t connect my power to the specific form of the hatchet I want. The sturdy hickory handle, the keen, imposing blade of bronze. A blade capable of threatening the mighty Prince Alastor.

But my thoughts wander, and the knife morphs into a bull whip with a bronze handle. Wrong again. A bronze whip handle won’t do me any good. Not against Alastor.

Vexed, I coil the whip in the center of the cherry-wood pentagram inlaid in the tabletop. I plant my elbows on the table, prop my chin in my hands. I study the shape-morpher and plan an impromptu strategy. I can’t very well smuggle a knife or a bull whip into Avichi, let alone a hatchet with a bronze blade. Not without attracting Alastor’s attention.

What, then?

A drop of perspiration stings my eye. I need practice!

“All right. Give me a coffee cup.”

With a snap, the whip morphs into a coffee cup. Your classic white porcelain nineteen-fifties-diner coffee cup with a loop for a handle and a chip on the lip.

Now I’m getting somewhere. But excitement causes my thoughts to wander again. The coffee cup promptly morphs into a pair of bronze scissors, a tambourine with bronze disks, a bronze tennis racket, a ballerina’s tutu with a bronze ruff.

“Coffee cup, already!” I shout.

The coffee cup waits, pert and expectant, evidently pleased with itself. But I can’t just stroll into Avichi with a coffee cup, either, or any other of those wild, crazy objects.

What, then?

A ballerina’s tutu? My thoughts drift to my dress. The dress could do with a belt. Something fashionable, yes?

In less than a second, the belt is mine. I slide a slender strip of black leather around my waist, buckle up the bronze buckle, and thread the fancy bronze tip through a black leather loop.

Very, very cool. A bronze belt buckle won’t trip any of Alastor’s alarms. He’ll smirk, thinking I’m an ignorant nitwit human who has no clue that his point of vulnerability is bronze.

Now if only I can transform a fashion accessory into a demon-capturing weapon at just the right moment, I can call this a good night. A very good night.

*   *   *

I stride into the lobby and gasp.

Jack Kovac is leaning against the mailboxes, haggard with exhaustion, the planes and angles of his lean face pinched with pain. Oh, no. He’s leaning on the cane and shivering in spite of the sultry night and the expensive leather jacket he wears with tawny dress trousers and polished leather boots. The angry red aura pulses nastily from his knee to his toe, spitting flickers all around his left leg.

“Jack.” I run to him and fling my arms around his neck and press myself against him, hoping to share the vibrancy of my body, share my heat. I savor that perfect-fit feeling for the second time today. A perfect fit–except for his pain. His pain pierces me now in septic little needle-stabs. I hate this! How can I shield him from his pain? How can I heal him, break his curse or whatever it is that plagues him? There must be a way. Real Magic must show me the way.

“Sorry I took so long, Jack.”

“I’m happy to wait for you, Abby,” he says and gently but firmly pushes me away.

As I ponder if there’s any further meaning behind Kovac’s words, Tesla barges in the door, wheeling his bicycle and grinning ear-to-ear. Such a smile I’ve never seen on the forlorn beanpole before. He nods hello at Kovac and retrieves his mail. “Did Esmeralda pick Senor up at the pound last night?”

“A man in a dog cage, just like Maureen said on the answering machine. Not a pretty sight.” I don’t want to spoil the electronics wizard’s cheer since he so seldom has any, but I feel obliged to break the bad news. “Tesla? You think you’re cursed? I think Senor is really cursed. And Esmeralda? She’s really, really cursed.”

“Outstanding!” Tesla crows as if I’ve told him he’s won the grand prize.

“That’s outstanding?”

“Yeah! We’ve all got curses to break. We’ve got something in common. Wow!” He lowers his voice confidentially. “Abby, when can we talk again?”

“Maybe tomorrow night.” When will I return from the High Harvest? I just don’t know. “Maybe the night after.”

“Whenever!” Tesla pumps his fist up in a gesture of victory. He vaults up the staircase, tossing his bike from hand to hand as if the steel frame and rubber wheels are as light as a beach ball. “Hey, mister,” he calls down to Kovac. “Abby Teller is the best super the Garden of Abracadabra has ever had.”

“She’s more than that.” Kovac watches the beanpole leap effortlessly up the stairs. Envy clouds his ocean-blues.

I have no doubt there was a time when lean, muscular Kovac could leap effortlessly up stairs, carrying just about anything. A bicycle, a bazooka, two bags of groceries, or a willing woman. But not anymore.

“Jack, this is crazy. You can’t go to Avichi. Go home and take it easy. I’ll manage without you, really I will.”

“Not a chance.” He steps away from me, still leaning on the cane, but steadier, stronger, his power pulsing all around him. He draws himself up and he could almost pass for the awesomely dapper Kovac I’d admired when I gave my statement at his office. Almost. “We’ve got a plan. I intend to stick to my part.”

I’m suspicious of this sudden show of strength. Jack Kovac is a magician possessed of such subtle powers, I still have no idea of everything he’s capable of. But a show of power without physical strength–the hardware to back him up–won’t help him much. Kovac taught me that lesson himself.

He’s determined, I can see that. And that will have to do.

“You’ve got something incredible to show me?”

“I sure do.” He pulls an envelope from an inside pocket of his jacket. “Took her team hours, but Doc Eve found them. When you’re right, you’re right, Abby.”

I open the envelope and spill photos in the palm of my hand. Skulls and crossbones, daggers dripping blood, and, in the midst of all that ink, the trident tattoo. One photo, two photos, three, the side arms unmistakably slanting up from the main shaft.

Just like Alastor’s. Just like mine.

“On all three?” I mean Brand and the girls.

“On all three.”

I’m not that surprised, but I am a little shocked. Between the bespelled women of Avichi and Brand and the girls, I have to wonder again what the trident tattoo portends for me.

Nothing good. My skin crawls. Nothing good at all.

“Damn it, Jack, why do we have to go to Avichi and sneak around, scraping up DNA evidence? Aren’t these tattoos enough to get us a proper search warrant? Or an arrest warrant? Compel Alastor into the human world where humanity rules? Not by a calling forth in a magic circle, but in person, in the flesh, with a legal document enforced by the Convocation?”

Kovac snorts. “Don’t you think I tried to get a warrant tonight? What have I got? Brand and the girls wore the same tattoo as you. You got the tattoo in a hell. And you saw the same tattoo through the translucent clothes of a demon who rules that hell. So what.”

“The judge doesn’t understand about demons and hells?”

“You wouldn’t believe how the pissant judges in this jurisdiction slobber all over themselves to protect the so-called rights of demons and vampires in the human world. Even the judges who understand about demons and hells. Especially those judges.”

I consider the similarities between Scorpio Rising and Alastor, in spite of this new evidence. “So Brand and the girls could have gotten their tattoos at Zebra on the Av before they set foot in the penthouse. We’ve got no witness who actually saw Brand and the girls at a Revel. And the bodies were found in Tilden Park, miles away from the Garden of Abracadabra. Etcetera and ad nauseam. Insufficient cause?”

“Bingo. Kinda makes you sick, doesn’t it?”

My heart sinks. “So we’ve got to go?”

“Doll, you don’t. But I do.”

“Of course I’ve got to go. I’m going with you, Jack.”

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

5.19.15.TGOA.CVR.TINY

53

Maybe wearing all black is edgy and slimming and sophisticated or maybe wearing all black is depressing and drains your face of color. But if wearing all black means serious business, then there’s only one dress for tonight’s Revel. My black silk mourning dress with the matching jacket.

Dressed and bejeweled, I clear my email on the iMac and play back messages on the answering machine. Mr. Excelsior in Forty-two is complaining that the Sinclairs in Forty-one are making an unholy racket. I don’t like the sound of that. What stripe of supernatural entities are the Sinclairs? I scribble a note on a Post-it to speak with them. One Edith Tibblesome in Thirty is plagued with a kitchen sink slinkie. Excellent. An opportunity to prove my prowess as the super by dealing with a sink slinkie. What will I need? Liquid Plumber and a dowsing rod? A collection agency is looking for Stanley Bentley. Seems poor old Stanley stiffed Uncle Visa.

As I’m working, the tattoo suddenly throbs, sending lustful shivers through me. Alien power coils beneath the skin of my shoulder. A finger of dark pleasure probes me, arousing and painful at the same time. Alastor, Alastor, Alastor!

No! I want no part of his dark enchantment. A terrible question occurs to me: will the tattoo bind me to him as long as I live? As long as he lives? Am I doomed to become one of the bespelled women in their perfumed hell?

‘Tis forever, Alastor said of the tattoo. ‘Tis forever.

Filled with foreboding, I shut the iMac down, reset the answering machine, and turn out most of the lights. I press my Eye of Horus with my left hand, touch doors and windows with my right hand gripping my house keys, and manifest glowing castle walls topped with nasty curls of concertina wire. What else? Gargoyles? Gargoyles, it is, and stone monsters crouch amid the curls of wire.

Kovac said Vincent Santini doesn’t possess much power and hasn’t committed crime using his puny magic. Good enough. But if Santini tries to burgle my home while I’m gone, I defy him to worm his way through a kick-ass door-and-window warding like this.

I search for my magicat. In the kitchen, I’ve left out bowls filled with spring water, milk, tuna salad, and chunks of white cheddar cheese. I find Alana curled up and snoring in high little exhalations in her favorite spot on the bed. Purple starbursts of her magic glimmer all around her.

“I’ll be back, little missy,” I whisper and kiss the top of her silky white head.

But my heart clenches. What if I don’t come back? Who can I trust with Alana? I don’t think the magicat could survive another internment in the animal shelter.

I call Professor Bonwitch and leave a detailed message on his answering machine. I tell him about Alana, about her trust documents, what she needs to eat and drink if I’m detained in Avichi. How she’ll need a new guardian if I don’t return at all, a human guardian who will understand her power. I beg him to stop by tomorrow morning to check up on my magicat if he doesn’t hear from Kovac and me, stop by and feed her before he starts organizing a rescue party. I leave Twitch’s number and my authorization for the custodial man to enter my apartment and let Isaac Bonwitch in.

Now I visualize Twitch and the professor entering Number One and finding my guns lying on my desktop. Bonwitch now knows I go armed, but Twitch doesn’t. What would the custodial man think of me, his superintendent? Nothing good. I stow the Beretta and the Ferdinand in the bottom left-hand drawer of the desk.

I check my wristwatch. Eleven forty-five in the P.M., exactly.

The intercom buzzes, and I run to answer it.

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

 

52

We walk down Hillegass, Kovac and I, to where we’ve parked our cars along the curb. The world seems a less substantial place, a gauze of light behind which lie mysterious realms. We walk slowly, Kovac dragging his left foot. We walk in silence.

I sense the tension between us. He’s got something on his mind. But what?

Mint-green parking tickets festoon both our windshields.

“Well, hell. This is the first parking ticket I’ve ever gotten in my life.” I pluck the ticket from beneath the wiper and read the codes on the back setting out penalties for each type of offense. “Fifty dollars! That’s highway robbery.”

Kovac pockets the offending document. “Think of it as supporting a good civic cause.” He walks back and edges himself between me and my car door, leaning up against my Mustang as I stand on the curb beneath the fading September sun. A breeze with a hint of winter stirs his red-gold hair as he gazes at me.

I meet his appraising gaze with appraisals of my own.

“How’s the tatt?”

“It’s good. I’m seriously thinking I’ll tattoo my whole body.“

The corners of his mouth curve up, but only slightly. He reaches out and presses his fingertips to my forehead. “You don’t feel feverish, so that’s good.” He looks me over. “And your aura is clear of the enchantment. At least for now.”

“I’m ready to rock ‘n’ roll, Jack. And ready for the Revel.” I’m more worried about him and his pain than me. “Listen, you don’t have to go to Avichi. I’ll manage by myself.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You’re the one who doesn’t have to go. Who shouldn’t go. You’re not getting paid to place your life on the line. I am.”

“So pay me. Hire me as a consultant, like you keep hinting.”

“Not afraid to ask?”

“Ask and you shall receive. Real Magic.”

“So it is. I’ll draw up a contract tomorrow. As for tonight, are you sure I can’t talk you out of it?”

“We’ve got a plan, Jack. I intend to stick to my part. Alastor is my tenant. His apartment is the portal to Avichi. I’ve got to solve these murders for the Garden of Abracadabra.”

“Fair enough.” But he doesn’t sound very convinced. “Alastor is the one who enchanted you?”

“He touched me. He danced with me. He kissed me. He enchanted me. But, hey, that’s all.”

I expect Kovac to shout, “That’s all?” and scold me for playing fast and loose with what I suspected to be a supernatural entity. But he only nods, pensive and somber. “Do you have feelings for him?”

“My feelings have changed.”

Kovac nods and smiles his mirthless smile at my evasiveness, then conceals his eyes behind his sunglasses. “You said the mirror opens at midnight?”

“That’s right. Shall we make our appearance then? I don’t want to fraternize with Alastor any longer than I absolutely have to.”

“I’m glad you suggested that because I would have insisted. Midnight, it is. I’ll stop by at a quarter to. I’m sure you’ve got things to do after I’ve kept you occupied all day.”

His brusque tone implies he’s got things to do, too.

“A quarter to, it is.”

He starts to move away, but I’m not about to let him go that easily. I seize his waist and pull him to me. His arms wrap around my shoulders like they’ve always wanted to be there. Like they were always meant to be there. I rest my forehead against his cheek, and I’m struck again by the rightness of him. How we fit, even though he’s on duty and owes me an official responsibility. How we shouldn’t be doing this, according to his rules.

Around Kovac, I don’t have to feel ashamed of my true nature. I don’t have to keep my power a secret. I don’t have to feel that something is missing in my life. I don’t have to feel all alone.

Those are the rules I believe in.

It’s one of those breathless moments when you feel your destiny steering in a brand-new direction. A good direction. A direction filled with promise.

He’s respectful with his power, as always. No, he’s not Brand. Certainly not Alastor. And not mundane Daniel, either. Kovac holds himself in reserve, but I feel his power flowing all around me, comforting and thrilling and disconcerting all at the same time.

I pull away. “Thanks, Jack, I needed that. Moral support is good after calling forth a demon.”

“That was not moral support, my lady magician.”

He opens the car door, and I slide in the driver’s seat. Courteous Kovac. Chivalry isn’t dead after all, apparently. He watches me drive down Hillegass. At the corner of Derby, I glance in the rearview mirror, and he’s still standing on the sidewalk, still watching me.

My feelings. He wanted to know about my feelings.

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

5.19.15.TGOA.CVR.TINY

51

We pay an encore visit to the infirmary. Vortex staggers between Kovac and me, his arms slung over our shoulders. Vicious purple bruises dapple his plump white neck, and he’s still breathing in ragged gasps. Faculty and students passing by in the halls turn and stare at us, whispering, wide-eyed with alarm.

Bonwitch strides before us, talking urgently on his cell phone to the custodial staff. He barks instructions on how, exactly, they need to clean up the circle of blood and sanctify the Ceremonies Chamber. “Yes, yes, you heard me. I said syrup of garlic, ground acorns from a Quercus Coccinea, and eucalyptus oil. And post a flaming notice that no one, I mean no one, is to use the chamber for any ceremony till Vortex and I have certified it’s sanctified. You follow?”

Kovac and I help Vortex lie down on a cot under Bartholomew’s watchful eye.

“You didn’t have to do what you did, Abby,” Vortex says in a strangled voice. “Punching a demon in the eye!”

“Agreed,” Kovac says, scowling at me.

“Yeah, but that’s what scuba divers do when a shark attacks,” I say. “Punch him in the eye. In the snout works, too, but that’s getting a little too close to the teeth for me. Trust me, Damian, it was the right thing to do.”

“But you shouldn’t have,” Vortex says. “Now Bayemon has got even more reason to despise you.”

“I’m not afraid of Bayemon.”

“You should be.”

Now Bartholomew turns his attention to me, cleansing the wounds the demon gave me with an antiseptic anesthetic of his own invention that stings but not too much, then crisscrossing everything with bandages.

Bonwitch steps up beside Kovac and me. “We need some fresh air. And we need to clear the air. Will the two of you join me in the courtyard?”

It’s a request with only one answer.

*   *   *

I am well and truly vexed as I stride out to the teakwood benches on the courtyard patio. Some long-haired demon is scheming to steal my soul? Steal my human power? Steal my magic? With sex? For sex? Excuse me. For a hell of eternally unsatisfied lust in a harem of miserably bespelled women.

I am the superintendent of the Garden of Abracadabra. Alastor is my tenant. Has he no respect? Has he no shame?

Bonwitch, Kovac, and I help ourselves to iced tea and lime wedges, and I spill the whole story. The second Revel. Crossing through the mirror into Avichi. The ballroom from here to eternity. The weapons hall and the heap of bloody spears and arrows. Spears and arrows capable of inflicting precise puncture wounds. A lot of wounds.

Almost the whole story. I leave out Alastor’s kiss. I still leave out how I happened to have seen Alastor’s tattoo.

“I saw specialized little hells leading off the ballroom. Gluttons gorging on disgusting food and unable to stop eating. Smokers lighting up one after another and choking and hacking with no satisfaction. Women deformed by the fashions of their day who lust for Alastor and refuse to leave him, though he ignores them. Sadists watching butchers slaughter animals, pleading for more torture.” I shudder. “The animals were some stripe of human shapeshifters.”

Kovac bangs his tumbler down on the teakwood table and pushes it away. Not a tea-drinker, I guess. He looks at me with another set of new eyes. Intense new eyes. I’m not at all sure how to read this new intensity. “Do not ever go gallivanting off into an infernal realm without telling me first, Abby.”

“I went. I went twice. It’s my life, Jack.”

“You really should have told us,” Bonwitch chides.

I shrug and borrow another page from Kovac’s playbook. “I’m telling you now.”

Kovac throws his hands up, exasperated.

“Things are difficult to see there. They shift and change, appear and disappear like in a dream. I’m not sure who were the living humans, who the shapeshifters, who the human souls. Who were the other entities. Except for Alastor and his kin, of course. You can’t miss them.” I sip my tea. I wasn’t a tea-drinker, either, till I met Isaac Bonwitch. “When I go back there tonight, I’ll find the weapons hall and–”

“You are not going back there tonight,” Kovac says.

“I’ve got an invite. It’s the Fullness of the High Harvest.”

“What if you run into Bayemon?” Bonwitch says.

“Bayemon won’t dare threaten me. His boss wants to make me his glorious Queen.”

“What the hell does that mean?” Kovac says.

“Actually, I’m not sure.”

“Uh-huh. I will not allow this demon to steal your power or your soul.”

“You want this demon stealing other people’s souls?”

“Of course not.”

“How many people disappear from the world every year, Jack? Unsolved disappearances?”

“Too many.”

“Way too many. Didn’t you tell me that San Quentin comes equipped with special prison cells for holding demons like Alastor? Walls constructed of certain metals or stone, depending on the entity’s vulnerability? Procedures to prosecute him in our human courts of law? Procedures to execute him if he’s convicted of murder?”

“Yes, to all of that. And you’re still not going.”

“Abby,” Bonwitch says, “I must agree with Jack. It’s not wise for you to go to Avichi tonight. Especially if the demons are celebrating some kind of festival with you in mind. For us, it’s the autumnal equinox. A celebration of the harvest, yes, but also a celebration of death.”

“Wise or unwise, I’ve got to go. What is that blood and guts on those spears and arrows? Is it from animals? What if it’s human blood and guts? I’ve got to collect that evidence tonight before the demons claim their trophies and the master of the weapons hall tidies up.”

Kovac is shaking his head. But I can tell from the way he rubs his thumb along his jaw where the scar meets bone, the man is cogitating. And he’s starting to relent. “What do you propose to do?”

“I’ll go to Avichi when the mirror opens, collect the evidence, and then get the hell out of there. Simple. If I wipe a bloody surface with, say, a Kleenex, can your people at the lab work with that?”

“Of course. They can work wonders with DNA analysis.”

“Excellent. Alastor won’t care about a Kleenex in my pocket. If we get lucky, and the blood is human, we’ve got a case against the demon. And if we get really lucky, and there’s any blood from Brand and the girls, we’ve solved Tilden Park, right?”

Kovac eyes me. He’s interested. He’s more than interested.

“You and Supernatural Crimes and your demon-catching experts can take it from there.” I bang my tumbler down, feeling triumphant. “It’s a plan. An excellent plan.”

“If I can’t talk you out of it,” Kovac says, “I’m going with you.”

“You’re not invited.”

“I’ll go as your guest.”

“There’s a doorman. He’s got a guest list. He checks.”

“How much bigger is this doorman than me?”

I have to laugh and take my time appraising Kovac the way he’s forever appraising me. “I’d say he’s about half your size.”

“The doorman will not be a problem.”

“There’s another problem, Jack. A really, really serious problem.” I don’t quite know how to break this last hot news flash.

“I’m listening.”

“Ah. Um. When you cross through the mirror into the ballroom, everything turns into a Sir Patton painting. Or a Richard Dodd.”

“Ah,” Bonwitch says. “Classic fin-de-siecle illustrations of fairyland. Everyone’s clothes turn translucent.” He arches an eyebrow at Kovac. “You can see through people’s clothes.”

Kovac shrugs. “I will avert my eyes like a gentleman.”

“Will you really?” I say.

“Of course.”

“Hmm!” I can’t promise I’ll avert my eyes. “Well. Because of Avichi’s magic, you can’t carry concealed. Alastor will see your weapon. He saw the Beretta in my handbag and took the bag away.”

“Was he afraid you could use it on him?”

“I don’t think so. He likes to play power games. At the end of the evening, he gave my handbag and the gun back. And he gave me this.” I unbuckle my Ghurka bag and pull out the Ferdinand and the leather pouch. “As protection against the vampires at the Garden of Abracadabra.”

Kovac takes the Ferdinand and whistles. He opens the pouch and spills silver shot in the palm of his hand. He even oohs and aahs over the powder horn.

Gee whiz, gun nuts. “Alastor didn’t seem the least bit afraid of the Beretta or the Ferdinand.”

Kovac leans back and muses. “Not vulnerable to steel or silver, then.”

Isaac Bonwitch looks keenly back and forth between me and Kovac, his emerald eyes snapping. “Abby, Jack, allow me to be of service in this desperate enterprise.”

“Yes, Professor?” Kovac and I say eagerly in unison.

“Cavazzacca, what a revelation.” Bonwitch sets his tumbler down, glowing with excitement. “I’ve studied the Overlord Cavazzacca. Decades worth of study, and there is still much more to learn. Like King Solomon, he was a legendary magician in the ancient days of prehistory. Cavazzacca lived in Illyrium, the legendary tragic lands that are now the Balkan states. A mythical magician possessing unimaginable power. And like King Solomon, he’s difficult to trace in the Yonder because of all the hexes and hoaxes shrouding his records. And wardings, powerful ones. Oh, I always believed King Solomon actually lived and pioneered his ceremonial magic at the dawn of time but, in truth, I never quite believed Cavazzacca actually lived. Till today.”

“Long before the Christ,” I say, echoing Bayemon’s words.

“Long before the Christ,” Bonwitch says. “You made a rash but brilliant move, Abby, reaching for the power of your Eye. Now answer me this. Why did your Eye repel the demon?”

“Because the Eye had power during Cavazzacca’s time?”

“Precisely. At the dawn of civilization, the Utchat was inscribed on numerous bronze tablets and magical bronze weapons. You can see them yourself at the Hearst Museum of Anthropology, right here on campus. The Hearst owns a fine collection of Bronze Age artifacts. Cavazzacca would have carried a Providential Eye in his war against Alastor. You follow?”

Kovac sits up. “So an artifact from the Bronze Age or a weapon made of bronze will serve as a weapon against Alastor?”

“In my considered opinion, yes.” Bonwitch puffs on his pipe and the face on the meerschaum bowl is solemn but no longer scowls. “I propose an amendment to Abby’s plan now that you, Jack, are determined to be a part of it.”

“Let’s hear it, Isaac,” Kovac says.

“Abby, I don’t think Alastor will simply allow you to wander off on your own if he means to make you his Queen. He’ll keep you close. So you must distract Alastor and his lieutenants with your abundant charms.”

“Don’t go too far with the charms,” Kovac says.

“Not too far,” I say with a smile.

“Meanwhile, Jack, you must find that weapons hall as quickly as possible and collect the DNA evidence. Then you must also search for a bronze weapon there. If you can’t bring weapons into Avichi because Alastor will see them, then you must find a weapon in Avichi. A dagger, a spear, doesn’t matter. Only that the killing edge must be bronze. That bronze weapon should ensure safe passage for you and Abby out of Avichi when your work is done. You may even be able to capture the demon, if the chance arises. You follow?”

“I follow,” Kovac says.

But I don’t follow. I’m puzzled. “Isaac, why would Alastor keep a weapon that could defeat him in his own weapons hall?”

“Because evil always contains the means of its own destruction.”

Bonwitch abruptly stands and strolls around the patio. He stops behind me and smooths back my hair. He circles his hands around my neck as if he’s about to throttle me.

I give a little scream.

Kovac springs to his feet.

“It’s all right, I’m not going to harm you.” Bonwitch presses his fingertips at the base of my throat.

I catch my breath as a dart of his power–electric, electrifying—enters my throat, and the vision of my physical eyes soars. Soars! I can see spiky globes of pollen drifting in the air all around us. And I can see tiny ice crystals floating in the stratosphere high above us.

The vision of my mind’s eye soars, too, and a riot of images flashes before my inner vision. Ocean waves pounding on a beach of white sand. Red-hot magma bubbling up in the caldera of a volcano. A sirocco whirling across an African desert, kicking up sand, shimmering with heat. A thick, mottled python slithering through the tangled vines of a rain forest.

“Isaac,” I gasp, “what did you just do to me?”

Bonwitch slumps back in his chair, retrieves his tumbler, and slurps tea, evidently pleased with himself. “You said things can be difficult to see in Avichi, that they shift and change, appear and disappear. I’ve merely given a little boost to your vishudha. That’s your fifth chakram, the whorl of energy at the base of your throat. The boost will help you see more clearly in Avichi.”

“Thank you!” I reconsider our bold, foolish plan. “Won’t you come with us, Isaac? We sure could use your inner warrior.”

“Abby, he can’t,” Kovac says. “We need a magician of Isaac’s power on the outside when we go into Avichi.”

“As much as I’d love to see this hell for myself, I must agree with Jack,” Bonwitch says. “If you two don’t return by sunrise tomorrow, I’ll lead in a rescue team invested with the authority of the Convocation. I’ll recruit every member of the faculty who can help.”

“And call my office, Isaac.” Kovac takes out a business card, scribbles names and numbers on the back.

The enormity of what Jack Kovac and I are setting out to do finally strikes me. Strikes me hard. We’re setting out into an unknown hell to find evidence of supernatural murders. I ponder the logic of it one more time.

“Isaac, do you really believe Alastor will keep a bronze weapon in his arsenal?”

“I’m sure of it. Evil eventually works its own defeat.”

“Is that always true?”

“It’s a Fundamental of Real Magic I’d like to believe.”

His half-hearted answer hardly inspires my confidence. “You’d like to believe? Or you do believe?”

“I believe.”

But the emerald eyes of Isaac Bonwitch are troubled.

********

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Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

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