Sure. I believe him. Don’t you?
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Spectralight: Created Magic – by Jason
Seated in the den of pungent mix of cigarette smoke, strong perfume, alcohol, and other substances he couldn’t identify, Cedrick clenched his lips together and wished his nostrils could do the same. He pulled his dark trenchcoat taut. The stage speakers finished off their latest tune and switched to a new mix of soft beats and guitar strings.
Santana’s “Black Magic Woman.” Not a favorite, but not bad.
A pair of patrons rose and scooted their table deeper into a wall shadow. A bald man pulled out a black suitcase and opened it. The remaining trio with him huddled around, blinding Cedrick to the contents. Other pairings or troikas disappeared behind dark curtains along the walls.
Close by, a gaunt young man propped a small case, trinkets and bracelets dangling forth. A teenage girl’s spaced out eyes darted back and forth. She then pointed to a four-pointed star. She took it. The amulet glowed green, and olive-colored gridlines traveled up her hand. Her mouth dropped open, then curled in a smile.
The market’s open, Cedrick thought. Time to join the crowd.
His target was at the bar, just finishing pouring a drink for a young blonde. Cedrick winced. She had to be in junior high, which made her way too young for a seedy dive like this. Of course, even he shouldn’t make the cut, but being seventeen was closer to adulthood than say, thirteen.
Giggling, the girl staggered off. Cedrick pulled out a stool and sat. “Thought it was against the law to pour drinks for minors.”
The man tilted his head. The hoop earring on his right ear shook. “Is that supposed to be funny? You know where you are?”
“Don’t get excited. Thought I’d kayfabe it a little. It’s like showing ID.”
“You don’t watch wrestling? You know, putting on an act?”
“You must be Boy Scout.” The man narrowed his hazel eyes. “Look, don’t get cute. This place is crawling with enough weirdos. Now what do you got?”
Cedrick reached into his coat and pulled out a wallet-sized case. He thumbed the forward latch, popping it open like a clam revealing a pearl. In this case, the “pearl” was a small glass vial that held a mass of dancing green pinpricks of light.
The prospective buyer nearly froze in place. “Where did you get this?”
“I thought we didn’t ask questions here.” Cedrick couldn’t hide a smile.
“Don’t toy with me. This is twelve kils of spectralight. Nobody’s ever passed through here with more than six!”
“Well, my name’s not Nobody.”
Cedrick’s buyer stood up, his hairy palms pressed into the counter. “If you don’t watch the mouth and give me a straight answer, I’m gonna—”
A shadow crossed over both of them. The buyer stopped in place. “White Knight,” he said softly.
“Shankar,” the newcomer replied in a soft, vaguely European accent. “Charming locale. They don’t even card you at the door.”
Cedrick pushed the adjacent stool out. White Knight took it and sat. Their buyer, Shankar, slowly sat down. “You didn’t say he was showing up.”
“I believe it’s the tradition of white knights to suddenly appear to one’s rescue,” White Knight replied, “I thought I would ‘kayfabe it.’”
Shankar shifted in his seat. “You two are friends?”
“You got it,” Cedrick said.
Shankar stiffened. “That really changes everything, doesn’t it? Okay, what’s the story? Twelve kils of spectralight will get you almost anything.”
“An existence device that Mister X picked up last week.” White Knight sat straight up, letting the yellow glow of the ceiling lights shine across his white coat and blond hair. “And a meeting with Mister X in person.”
The man’s skin turned pale. “That would be worth more than twelve kils.”
White Knight waved his right hand, then curled in his fingers. He opened his hand and pulled out a second, identical vial to Cedrick’s. “You have it.”
Shankar’s gaze fell to the glowing green glass in White Knight’s hand. He then sprang from his stool, his leg kicking it down. His eyes darted to a dark, tight doorframe next to the bar. “Follow me and say nothing.”
The girl leaned against the desk, her short skirt pressing the wood. Graybird paced alongside the wall curtain. “So if I understand this…” He stopped. “You know a girl who knows a girl. That’s what you’ve got? You’d better offer up some more assurance. Mister X does not appreciate those who waste his time.”
Smirking, Marcie Baldacci reached over and pulled aside the curtain, unveiling a view of the stage and barroom below, behind a glass window. “See that girl?” Her purple-painted fingernail pointed at a teenage girl fishing wires into a loudspeaker. “She goes to Addison’s, and she’s desperate for cash. All you gotta do is tell her there’s some good money in it and she’ll do whatever you say.”
“And your friend swears on this?”
“Iola knows her like this.” Marcie twisted her middle and forefingers together.
Baldacci’s target tripped over her leather boots, nearly sending her off the stage. With her spiky black hair, tight, ill-fitting leather black dress, it all might indicate a desperate soul, but with her face turned away, Graybird couldn’t read her expression. One could tell a lot through looking at someone’s eyes.
However, before he could voice any further concern, his smartphone vibrated. He pulled it out and read the text. His eyes widened.
Things had just changed in a drastic way and he had no time for games.
He reached for the brown leather case on the table. “All right.” He jammed it into Marcie’s hands. “Mister X puts his trust in your…capable hands. But see to it that they are capable.”
“Cool.” She licked her tongue across her garishly painted lips. “Are you gonna download my money?”
“When Mister X’s property is placed in your friend-of-a-friend’s hands, you’ll get the rest.”
“But I need—”
“Get out!” He pointed to the rear door behind his desk.
Graybird’s roar shook Marcie’s legs. “Okay, okay. Chill!” She bolted, nearly tripping, out the door.
Graybird pivoted to the front door. He quickly dialed up and texted his man downstairs. The speaker system, playing ELO’s “Strange Magic,” abruptly stopped. After a few seconds of silence, the speakers ejected the loud guitar strings of Firehouse’s “All She Wrote.”
Message sent. Patrons packed up suitcases. Talismans were shoved into bags or purses. Back rooms emptied their customers.
He then texted his man behind the front door. Graybird didn’t know what to expect, but no one, no one, ever requested to see Mister X.
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