Authors: Keith Hartman,Eric Dunn
Unfortunately, I hadn't done my homework on the concierge. I didn't even know what sign of the zodiac she'd been born under. I was gonna have to read her on the fly. The suit was black, but she'd accessorized it with a metallic chain belt and lots of bright jewelry, all flash and sharp edges. I didn't see an earth soul making such a deliberate cry for attention. And I'd also heard her laugh. It was a sarcastic chuckle, not the musical laugh of a water soul. That left air and fire. And her manner seemed too direct for air. When we'd first met, she'd walked straight up to me, without any of the subconscious little meanderings that air souls can't help. And while we talked, she'd kept her eyes fixed on me, never letting them waver. I looked back into her eyes, and saw a certain flash.
OK. I'd play this one as fire.
I clenched my teeth until my face started to flush, locked my eyes on her, took a deep breath, and let it out in a long, venomous hiss.
"His MOTHER? Is that what that gold digging whore who married his father is calling herself these days? Well, isn't that just great! Why don't you ask her where she was during the nine months that I carried Brian! Huh? How about during the seven months that I breastfed him! Or what about all the years when I bathed him and changed his diapers and nursed him through chicken pox and raised that boy! Where was she during all of that, huh?! Oh, that's right. She would have been in about the sixth grade! Probably in a perky little cheerleader's outfit, plotting ways to land herself a rich husband. 'Oh, Dr. Davis, would you give me an exam? It hurts right here. Oh, Dr. Davis, you have such a nice bedside manner. Oh, Dr. Davis, why don't you divorce that tired old prune of a wife and marry me!'"
The concierge took a step back.
"Uh... why don't you let me show you where your son's unit is, ma'am?"
I swallowed hard, trying to control my rage. It had taken on a life of its own. Method acting and all, you know.
"Yes. That would be very helpful of you."
She grabbed one of my bags, and nearly pulled her arm out of the socket trying to lift it. She smiled awkwardly, and then dragged it over to the elevator. I followed her with the other suitcase.
We took the elevator up to the second floor, then wheeled the bags down the hall to Davis's condo. Breathing heavily, I examined the keypad on his front door. I wrinkled up my forehead in concentration.
"Let's see. Brian gave me a code to get in."
I punched in the four digit code 5876. It was rejected by the door with a nasty buzz.
"Oh. Maybe I got the digits mixed up. It's probably..." I punched in 6785. Again, the nasty buzz.
I clenched my teeth.
"Confound it. Maybe the code was..."
I was reaching for the keypad a third time when the concierge finally intervened. Good thing, too. Most of these doors are programmed to call their owners if someone punches in three wrong numbers in a row.
"Why don't I just use my pass code," she suggested.
She punched something in that met with the door's approval. It chimed contentedly and opened with a click.
"Thank you," I said. I dragged one of the suitcases inside. She helped me with the other, and then beat a hasty retreat down the hall. I heard her muttering something under her breath as I closed the door.
I was in.
I took a deep breath and looked around. Davis's apartment was pretty much the way I remembered it. Like some designer had swallowed
The Oxford Book of English Poetry
and then thrown up all over the living room. It was the pseudo-Romantic look that was in with the yuppie crowd. A big stone fireplace with a fake fire. Thick velvet drapes. Little gargoyle faces staring out of the crown molding. Silver candelabras everywhere. And gold leaf on everything that would hold still for it. I can't believe that I ever thought this place was cool.
OK. Enough with the decorating critique. Time to get down to work. I put on a pair of surgical gloves, then got out a hanky and opened the front door long enough to wipe my prints off the key pad. Not that I really expected Davis to get the police involved. No, he had too many dirty little secrets to hide, and he would never risk the press getting their hands on this story. Still, it never hurts to play it safe.
Next thing was to get the hot tub going. I went out on the balcony and turned it on, setting the temperature up as high as it would go. It would take it a few minutes to get to a good boil. In the meantime, I got my tools out of the suitcase and went upstairs to work on his bedroom.
Like everything else in his home, Davis's sanctum sanctorum was overdone. Dark green walls with gold leafed crown molding, and a mural on the ceiling depicting little naked angels. The bed was one of those popular replicas, a big four poster with a canopy and thick velvet drapes that you can pull closed to keep out mosquitoes or nosy servants or rebelling peasants. I did envy him the desk, which was an antique hardwood rolltop. He told me it had once belonged to Ronald Reagan, or someone like that.
It took me a couple of minutes to find the heating vent, which was on a floorboard between the bed and the armoire, and another couple to remove the cover with my electric screwdriver. That done, I went back to my suitcase for the fish.
At the market that morning, I had been faced with a real dilemma: tilapia or salmon? I couldn't decide which would get smellier faster. Then I'd gotten a whiff of some halibut that was already starting to turn, and that settled it.
I extracted the fish from its bag and slid it into the heating vent. Then I replaced the cover, adding a drop of crazy glue to each of the screws before tightening them into place. It really was poetic justice. Any woman walking into this bedroom should be able to smell that there is something rotten going on.
Next up was the kitchen. Davis had one of those monster cooking areas that is pretty much just for show. Oh, there are a lot of shiny pots and pans hanging around, but if you look in the refrigerator you'll find nothing but stacks of pre-made meals from the Russian place down the street. I think that the only piece of equipment in the whole kitchen that Davis actually knows how to operate is the microwave. Well, that and the kitchen table. And then only for recreational purposes.
I went back to my suitcase for the chalk and my soldering iron, and then set to work on that table. It proved to be a little trickier than I'd expected. If you've never tried to trace an outline of your own butt and back on a table while you're lying on it... well, it's harder than you'd think. Fortunately, my aikido classes keep me pretty flexible, and I managed to trace a reasonably good silhouette of myself, which I then burned into the wooden table top with my soldering iron.
OK. What next. The hot tub, the bedroom, the kitchen table. Where else did we...? Oh yeah, the couch.
I went out to the living room and drew a chalk outline of the two of us on the velvet cushions of his settee, then filled it in with black spray paint. When I was done, I stepped back and examined my work. I wasn't sure. It had seemed like a good idea when I planned it. But now that I was staring at the thing, it just looked like one of those Rorschach blotches. Well, I could still make out at least three of the legs and a couple arms. Davis was a clever boy; he'd get the point.
That done, I went out and checked on the hot tub, but it still wasn't sufficiently hot for my purposes. No problem. I needed a few minutes to work on his computer, anyway.
I went back to the bedroom and sat down at Davis's desk. His computer was running a screensaver that morphed various old masters paintings into photos of current celebrities. Cute. I found the microphone cable and jacked it into my phone, then started up the mask program again. Knowing Davis, his computer would only respond to its master's voice.
"Good afternoon, Annette," I said.
"Good afternoon, Master Davis. You're home early. Your password please?"
"Of course. It's
In retrospect, I should have been able to guess that one. Instead, I'd spent most of last Sunday night up on the roof of the building across the street, eavesdropping on Davis's and waiting for him to go to his computer and use his password. Silly boy. Someone really should have told him the first rule of dating: never tick off a woman with a rifle mic and free time on her hands.
"Thank you," Annette said, as she unlocked the system for me. The screen saver evaporated, and I got my first look at Davis's files. I will say this for the man: he certainly keeps everything well organized. It made finding what I wanted so much easier. From my surveillance, I knew that Davis was currently dating two other women. A perusal of his recent e-mails turned up a third that I hadn't known about.
Tsk, tsk Brian. If you had just been up front with me about all this, so that I knew where I stood. Maybe we could have worked something out. But no, you had to feed me that whole story about being an old fashioned romantic kind of guy. I can't believe that I actually bought that hokey line about me being your "soulmate". Now we are going to have to do things the hard way. But at least I know why you were only free to see me one night a week.
I dug up his most recent love letter to each of his paramours, and "accidentally" carbon copied them to his other girlfriends. I couldn't wait until this bunch got together and started comparing notes. It seems that our Brian has a system for his romantic correspondence: After the first date, an endearing little note in which he confesses to a bit of chauvinism.
I know it's wrong of me, but I just never expected that such a beautiful woman could also be so intelligent and funny.
After the second date, a slightly steamier note in which he claims that
I don't normally move this fast, but my heart can't seem to help itself.
After the third date, a letter with the phrase,
the sort of woman I've been waiting all my life for.
And then after the fourth date, it gets really corny, and he breaks out the poetry. Byron.
I'm not sure what was more revolting: the fact that he used the exact same material on all his girlfriends, or the fact that I had fallen for it too. Well, what had I expected? The man did say that he believes in recycling.
My work done, I logged off and unplugged my phone from his system. Out on the balcony, the hot tub had finally reached its maximum temperature. Perfect. I unloaded the bags of instant mashed potatoes from my suitcases and carried them out to the porch. I'd managed to squeeze in ten of the jumbo economy bags, the kind they use to feed army troops and such. I figured that would be enough to do the job. The jacuzzi action actually did a nice job of mixing in the first few bags, but finally jammed up and shorted out as the mixture thickened. After that, I got one of Davis' golf clubs out of the closet and finished mixing the stuff by hand.
"Boil, boil, toil and trouble," I muttered to myself, as I stirred. "Fire burn and cauldron bubble."
When the potatoes were done, I was struck by a sudden whim, and got a stick of butter out of the refrigerator. I melted it in the microwave and drizzled it on top. I don't believe in doing anything halfway.
Well that pretty much insured that he wouldn't be reusing any of the places that we'd made love. Which left just one more detail to attend to. A spell. One last little gift for him to remember me by.
Oh, don't worry. I wasn't going to do anything drastic. None of that "change him into a stag and hunt his ass down with a bow" kind of magick that you hear about in the old faerie tales. No. Real witches are all bound by the Threefold Law, and never use our magick to bring harm to others. For whatever negative energy a witch sends out into the world, it will come back at her three times as powerful.
There is, however, one small exception to that rule: A witch is allowed to cause magickal harm, if by so doing she teaches the target of her spell a lesson. And Brian Davis was one man in desperate need of an education.
I got my magick kit out of the suitcase, and took it into the living room to perform the spell. I drew a circle around myself. Once in salt, asking the Earth to witness my pain and lend me her strength. Once in rain water, asking the Lady of the Lake to hear my pleas. Once with a lit match, calling on the Fire which had fueled my passions. And once more with incense, summoning the Wind to breath life into my spell.
As each element lends its gift, the power within the circle builds. The mundane reality of the room grows further away. I stand in a place between the worlds, where the possible kisses the fantastic, where the laws of nature become as malleable as dreams, and where objects are but containers for ideas. Within that space, I weave my spell.
Three candles to light the way. Between them, a parchment, upon which I have copied the first love letter that Brian ever sent me. I turn it over, and draw an open eye on the back. From my kit, I take out a piece of clear quartz, the seer stone that reveals all lies, and a piece of moonstone, full of the power of the feminine. I place them on the drawing of the eye, along with a strand of Brian's hair. And then, very carefully, I fold them up in the parchment as I recite the Charm of Clarity.
Three times I recite the charm, as I fold the parchment and tie it up with string. Once, full of rage for his lies. Once, full of anger for my own believing them. And once, full of the love that I still can't help feeling for him. I let my passions fuel the spell, binding them up in the parchment even as I bind up the stones and the hair.