Hazel whistles a happy little tune. It’s so peaceful being here. This is a place of knowledge. And not just any knowledge — esoteric, eclectic, and arcane. There are plenty of New-Agey bullshit magic that teach about crystals and Reiki healing and love potions and voodoo dolls. An experienced connoisseur glosses over those with a momentary grazing of his wandering eye. Hazel browses expertly. After all, she has taken on the affectation of “Witch.” Which Witch is Which? Witch-hazel? She can cast real spells. Although they rarely have the EXACT book-learned effect or outcome…but they get the job done. It’s sad that spell casting isn’t much of an exact science. How does anyone ever really know what a spell is actually supposed to do when all the little nuances and details change…well, almost every time it’s cast? One day she’d really like to find that out. “Ghosts and Goblins” No. “Make Him Your Slave” No thank you. “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Third Eye” Uh, nothing? Nope. “The Idiot’s Guide to Spell-Casting” Hmm…that one has prom…snap, dust! Whiff! SNEEZE@! No! “The Secrets of Ley Energy — A Primer for the Novice” Okay, that one goes in the cart — just for shit’s and giggles. Hmmm…what else what else what else…lessseeeeeeee… “Fairy Tales and You” Interesting. I’ll take it — on Spirit’s budget. “Small Business Survival Guide” Wait. What’s this doing here? Throw it in the cart. “Santeria Gumbo and the Cajun Mumbo Jumbo” Uh, no thanks! “Think You’re Psychic? You Might Be!” What….ever. “Peace is a Lie, There is Only Passion” Interesting. I’ll take it. “Through Passion I Gain Strength” Whoa, simmer down there killer. You’re mine. “Through Strength I Gain Power” Now we’re talkin’. Is the next one something about great power and great responsibility? Wait, this is a series — there’s 6 books in the series. A Sextet — I feel like that’s mystically significant for…some reason. “Through Power I Gain Victory” Whoa! This dude sounds so serious! “Through Victory my Chains are Broken” easy fella! You’re comin’ home with me. “P.P.E. Shall Free Me” Jesus H fucking Popsicle! I’m pretty sure that stands for “potential psychic energy” but I’ve never heard it used as an acronym. Okay this Sextet is a must-have. Let’s move on — there’s so much more of the store to cover…
“Will that be all miss?”
“Why yes. And I’m unfortunately without much in the way of transportation so I rang my butler who’s on his way to help with the “groceries.” She winked.
“That comes to $8,932 dollars and sixty-three cents.”
“That’s it? Hah! I feel like I should be paying you! Oh — did you ring up this pack of gum?” She hands over a credit chip.
“We don’t sell gum.”
“Odd. I wonder where I…”
“Oh! That’s him now! Tootles!”
“Miss, your card?”
“How frightfully forgetful of me.” Turns to Virgil. “Virgil, would you be a dear and lend your strength to the task? Mmm.”
“Uh, really? This is like…a ton of books.”
Turns to the attendant. “Perception AND Advanced Math — in one man. Am I a lucky woman or what?”
A new voice. “That’s quite a purchase.”
Turns to address the newcomer. “Yes, well I’ve just returned from Antarc…” Breath catches.
Charlie smiles slyly as he sees the recognition hit her. “Cat’s paw got your tongue?”
“I don’t believe it. You’re not…you’re…you…you left…you…”
He nods. “I came back… I didn’t imagine that I’d see you around again. I don’t want this to be awkward…so, here’s my card. I’d love to catch up some time.”
Blush. “No…no way. You don’t get to do that. You don’t get to just show up and hand me a card and play the cute, aloof, injured, brooding cute rock-star, starving artist turned cute book-collector.”
Virgil tries to turn with all those books so that he can see the two of them, but isn’t able to maneuver very well with all that bulk. “Uhhh. Hazel?”
Hiss. “Not now Verge! I’ll explain later.”
Charlie continues. “I’ll let you get going. I just wanted to step out of the back office for a minute and personally thank the ‘cute’ young woman with the impeccable taste in books. Although, at this rate I might have to leave to collect some more.”
Hazel laughs. “It’s good to see you too. You can keep the card. I know where to find you.”
Charlie chuckles. “That’s the girl I remember.”
“Like I said, cute.”
Huff. Pant. Wheeze.
“Hazel are you okay?”
She waves him off with a dismissive hand. “What are you a fucking cyborg?”
“No. Do you want to stop?”
“Verge, you’re carrying thousands of books. Literally. You’re not even breaking a sweat. I’m carrying one bag — and that’s only because half-way home I started to feel badly that I told the attendant you were my manservant and got you to lug all this shit back to the TLHQ. Your only issue was figuring out how to actually “hold” them all. I strapped you up like a mule and you’ve been…so cheerfully, faithfully…dutifully performing…huff I’m about to fucking throw up."
“You told the book store clerk that I was your ‘manservant’?”
“Well butler, but…Verge you’re missing the point. I specifically cast a spell that should have made the book-ton as light as well, I dunno…air? As light as…a very light balloon. A feather perhaps? And now I’m floating along behind you — being towed like a bag of…air! We look like Baby Huey and the Hazel Balloon!”
“I could carry you.”
“Carry me? Are you fucking serious right now? Do you have any idea what I’m like when I’m having my period? Do you really want this to happen? You brought this on yourself! This train is about run right off the fucking tracks!”
“Awww…thanks Virgil. I appreciate all your help.”
“You can leave it to me here. It’ll take me the next month to organize this library — and probably not without a few more trips to other various book stores.”
“That’s a lot of books!”
“A ton actually. And they will help me learn new things that will hopefully help me fight crime better — or, at the very least — become a more proficient Sorceress.”
“A sorceress? I never thought of you like that.”
“Well I guess that’s a little too strong. I’m more of a witch!”
“Lashe! Don’t say that!”
“Hah! I gotcha one.” Chuckle.
“You definitely did…and I left myself wide open. Touche. Hazel 439820983094834, Vigilance 1!”
“Hey! No way that’s accurate!”
“Sorry. Vigilance 2!”
“Look, Verge, I’m all sweaty and nasty from being lugged all the way home and now I’m all dusty and crap. Give me a bit to wash up and change and let me take you out for some “thank you” drinks and a BeefCakeSteak.
“That sounds great! I’m, um, not sweaty at all so just buzz the gym when you’re ready. Gonna try to get a work-out in before we go.” Trundles off.
“A work-out? Really Verge? I’m just taking a quick shower.”
Takes a running start. “You better move your ass Vigilance! I’m gonna be fast! Hustle! Hustle! Let’s go baby! First lap-dance is on me!” Shove!