Part 15 – Trouble with the curve

One time there was this book called Freakanomics.  It made the claim that the drug trade is the world’s worst pyramid scheme.  This book outlined that the street dealers, who take most of the risk of getting shot by rivals and/or getting sent to prison, make less than minimum wage while the bosses at the top are the ones with shark grottos and solid gold katanas.  Which is why murdering your boss so you can be the new boss is such a popular career move in the drug trade.  I don’t know if this is true but it’s the kind of thing that sounds true when you read it. 

Being part of a black magic cult/criminal conspiracy/gang/whatever is like that.  The noted black magic slogan is “do as thou will” but like most common sayings it should be followed up by “just kidding”.  The root of black magic is domination and control, so anyone who really thought about it would know going in that all this freedom stuff they talk about is a bad bill of sale.  The pitch with black magic is that you can be free of society’s rules and do whatever you want, what you find out later though is that “whatever you want” is whatever the guy higher up the chain than you wants you to want to do.   

The “doctrine” of black magic supposes that the strong must govern the weak, who in turn owe their masters unwavering obedience.  Not exactly the total freedom they promise eh?  Actually maybe an even better comparison is pledging a frat, you know one of the bad ones, “eat a grape out of my asshole and then in a few years it will be your turn to humiliate and dominate someone else”.   

Dale, unlike many of the lowlife scumbags that make up the bottom 90% of black magic groups is starting to understand like he’s got a tiger by the tail.  It was fun at first but now he’s scared shitless most of the time.  His “friends” are looking to screw him over for their own advancement or just for laughs.  He’s seen two of his real friends die and the others, like him, realize that friendship isn’t a good idea and ghost him.  Dale is profoundly unhappy and he clings to the only hope he has – that he can rise through the ranks and be the one dealing out the abuse instead of taking it.  Even though he knows, deep down inside, that if that happens it’s going to make him feel even worse. 

That being said Dale IS an asshole.   When Grace kicks his door down he figures out that pointing his pistol at her isn’t going to be as effect as pointing it at Cassie.  So that’s what he does.  The bad news for him is that it falls apart in his hand, literally just falls to pieces.  Grace was trying to cast her malfunction spell but she’s pushing her limits for one, which makes it hard to concentrate, and she’s a little “buzzed” from touching Andrea’s ring.  Unintended consequences are why you need to be careful with magic.  You never know what might happen.  Grace is able to keep her own surprise from showing as she strides into the room. 

“Cassie would you give Dale and I a moment alone?  Andrea is outside and I know she’d like to see that that you’re okay.” Cassie looks at Dale for a moment and at the pieces of gun on the floor, and then gets up and hurries out “If you see that guy that was with me, Huddie, the old hipster doofus looking mother fucker, and it seems like he’s going to come would you please tell him not to?  Thank you.” 

Dale watches mutely as Grace takes Cassie’s place on the couch across the room from him.  It’s an oddly out of place flora number that looks like it belongs in an assisted living center more than the lair of a wicked sorcerer.   

Grace looks at the copious amount of blood on the carpet and grunts “I got shot in the foot.  Hurts.  Do you know how use magic to heal yourself?” 

Dale is thinking about the knife “hidden” under the couch and his poor odds to getting to it “What do you want?” 

“To raise the dead.  Jesus did that in the Bible.  They don’t make a big deal about that.  Brought a guy back from the dead.  Lazarus was his name.  A friend died and I want to bring her back.  To do that I have to kill other people.  I came here thinking you and your friends would be good candidates.  I don’t think I’m going to do it.  I don’t think there’s any way to make that right.  Even though you and your friends should die.  I don’t know what to do with you.  Huddie wants to kill you all.  He doesn’t see any other way to stop you.  I was thinking maybe I would break all the bones in your hands and feet.  That should stop you from doing magic for a long time.  I want to do the right thing, but it’s hard to know what that is.” 

Dale’s mouth is very dry and he gulps uselessly “I swear I won’t go near Andrea or Cassie again.  I won’t try to get the ring.  I’ve got five grand under my bed, it’s yours.” 

Grace nods absently “I’m sure you’d swear to just about anything.  Too bad you’re a lying piece of shit.  Is there a spell I can learn that will make people do what they promise?  The internet says that’s called a geas.  If that was real it would help me.  You ever hear of gilgul?  It’s a ritual you can do to take away magic from someone forever.  Even if I learn how it takes a ton of power, even more than bringing someone back to life.  That would be the best, if I could rip magic out of people.” 

Dale glances at the doorway to the bedroom “I can help you.  I know the ones who have the real power.  I could tell them that I caught you and . . .” 

“I stabbed a guy in the neck with an awl punch.  Before I knew magic.  I used to think about him a lot.  He probably died, I didn’t stick around to find out.  Another time I smashed another guy in the head with a brick and robbed him.  I needed money and I didn’t want to turn tricks.  That was before too.  I beat a guy in the head with hammer.  He’s the one that killed my friend, the one I want to bring back.  I wasn’t trying to kill him but I wasn’t not trying to kill him.  I hit the guy in the skull with a hammer.  That was after I knew magic.  That one sticks with me.  He didn’t die.  He didn’t die.  I don’t think of myself as a killer.  But I did those things.” 

“This . . . this can work out.  For both of us.  I can help you.  If you take out a couple other guys then I can . . .” 

Grace shakes her head slightly “I’m sorry, you must think that I’m trying to scare you.  I’m not.  I’m just talking out loud.  It’s been a day.” She laughs shortly “I suppose you know that.  I suppose you do.   I just want you to know Dale, if I ever kill you it won’t be for a blood magic ritual, it will be because you’re human garbage and the world is made better by you being gone from it.”   

Part 14 – The third incantation of pickle magic has been lost since the 11th school rectification

The human mind has a real hard on for patterns.  It’s been “proven” many a time given the chance your mind will find patterns where none exist.  Why does this happen?  Maybe because it offers an illusion of control and understanding.  That illusion is helpful because most people don’t handle it well when confronted with the notion that the universe is random and nothing you do effects the outcome of your life much.  That’s a tough pill to swallow.   

This could explain why over the millennia that human people have been practicing magic you’ll find that those practitioners will things like they’ve mastered “all five schools of magic” or that they’ve passed through “the seventh gateway” or unlocked “the third circle” or some other thing involving numbers or levels or something.  It’s a good thing they’re all dead and can’t read this because magic doesn’t work like that.  Or rather it did for them, but only because they decided it did.   

Magic has existed since the dawn of time.  It is present in every person and everything.  Magic connects us all together.  This is starting to sound like the Force from Star Wars, but my point is that all the time magic people have spent trying to categorize magic and study it and understand it has been utterly wasted.  There are only schools of magic if you decide to think about it that way.  There are only circles of magic if you believe in them.   

Let’s take Stella for example, RIP Stella.  She called herself a necromancer, she would have referred to necromancy as her tradition of magic.  Necromancy was taught to her by her mother who learned it from her mother and so on all the way back to the American Civil War and Jedidiah Crane making it all up with ideas he tortured and stole from slaves.  Did he invent necromancy?  Yes but also no.  He invented the way that Stella and her mother work magic.  But people have been using magic to do stuff with dead bodies since caveman times, which they would also call necromancy.   

Except that it isn’t because necromancy doesn’t exist.  Maybe this is a better example, think about a baby that grew up to be a doctor.  Ending up as a doctor doesn’t mean you go “ah, this is how life works babies turn into doctors” it’s only how it works if you choose to do it that way.  That baby could have done or been anything, the fact that it ended up as a doctor doesn’t mean anything other than that it chose to do the things that result in being a doctor.   

And here’s the funny thing, the wizards or mages or witches or whatever you want to call magic people, the ones who really get into and know their shit, they know this.  They know that chanting in Latin or waving a wand or dancing under the moonlight only makes magic happen because they’ve convinced themselves that it does.  They know that a “true” mage would be one that could just make stuff happen because they wanted to, without so much as an I Dream of Genie headbutt or Bewitched nose twerk. 

They know it, the only catch is that no one has ever managed to pull it off.  Magic is too hard to learn without crutches and once you get up to speed enough to understand that your crutches are well, crutches, you’re too dependent on them to stop using them.  It’s a realization that’s driven more than one person insane.   

What does this have to do with anything?  I’m getting there.  Dale is not a power user of magic (or anything else) he only knows a couple spells.  Which isn’t too shabby honestly since 99.99999999999999999% of people in the world today and that have ever lived knew zero spells.  He knows how to detect magic, he knows how to create a “spidey-sense” of when someone wants to kick him in the dick (although he would be fine just to assume that’s always true) he knows how to remote view, he knows how to make drugs even more awesome, and he knows how to mess with people’s minds.   

Right now though the only one of these things he can actually pull off is the last one, because he doesn’t have much energy because he sucks at magic and he doesn’t have his black magic buddies around and a bunch of weird robes and candles and some poor junkie to abuse.  But why can he do the mind one without much magic left in him?  Because black magic is “good” at mind fuckery magic and since that’s this “tradition” he call pull that one off even when he’s in a state of low power suckitude.

But that’s what I was saying before, it’s not true, it’s only true because he thinks it is.  Black magic is not good at anything.  Black magic does not exist.  The black magic tradition is “good” at mindfucking people because that’s what they spend their time doing, it’s like saying that people who pursue the basketball tradition are good at basketball.  It’s meaningless.   

Okay, fine I guess but what does this have to do with the story?  Nothing specifically but I thought it was interesting.   

Dale finds himself in a dilly of a pickle.  Instead of going to the hospital after shooting himself in the foot like a dolt, he used his black magic Jedi mind tricks to get EMT and paramedic to swing around, grab Cassie, and take him to his 600 square foot non-tiny home a few miles away.  A tiny home is under 600 square feet as Dale is quick to point out.  It wouldn’t be a bad little place for a single bro if the yard wasn’t completely overgrown.  There’s a bush on the left side of the front door that’s taken over the whole front, you can’t even use that door anymore.    

Dale had just enough magic left in him to send the ambulance crew on their way and not erase their memories so much (that’s very hard) but encourage them not to remember what just happened (which is easier).   

Several problems comprise this pickle.  First, his foot is killing him on account of he shot himself in it like a dolt.  Second, Cassie is being intransigent even though he has a gun.  Which isn’t fair.  When he has magic available it never worked very well on her.  And he tried to magic her into doing all kinds of stuff, believe me he tried.  Third, he’s not sure that he can pull this off without calling for back-up, and he really doesn’t want to do that because he’s a low man on the totem pole in the black magic gang and the whole reason he’s doing this is to move UP the ranks not DOWN.  And he already had to call in favors to get Andrea under control.  If he has to get more help from Skiffle or Marci or Sloppy Moses he’s going to end up with less status!  Completely opposite his intentions.

Speaking of the doughnut shop gang, that’s problem number four – they couldn’t even hang onto Andrea!  That scarface broad just waltzed in there and breezed back out with her and it sounds like they didn’t do shit about it.  Which brings up problem number five.  Andrea isn’t responding to his many texts and calls.  How’s he supposed to threaten her into trading Cassie for the ring if she won’t answer the phone?  And then there’s problem six, the tall chick with the scars was with Huddie.  Fucking Huddie!

 Dale’s best friend in the asshole club, Kibble, was killed by Huddie, and he’s not the only one.  UBM sends people to kill Huddie when he doesn’t trust them or doesn’t like them or just because he’s bored or because he’s high and thinks it’s funny.  Because they don’t come back.  Why is Huddie involved in Dale’s business all of a sudden?

And seventh of all, his foot hurts so bad it’s on the list twice!  He told Cassie to help him bandage it but she won’t.  Even though he has a gun!  So instead he’s sitting in an old office chair just bleeding all over his carpet gritting his teeth and thinking about taking some oxy while Cassie sits on his couch and gives him dirty looks even though he’s the one with the gun and she should be afraid of him.  Dale hates it when women aren’t afraid him.  Especially Cassie.   

Dale’s mind is going a mile a minute, which is actually not incredibly fast now that I think about it, but it’s going nowhere.  How is he supposed to ransom Cassie if Andrea won’t answer?  And if he can’t do that what should he do?   

He doesn’t need to worry though because a moment later Grace busts through his backdoor, the one with the gravel path to the unattached garage, and she doesn’t look scared of him at all.  Is that dramatic irony?  How should I know, what am I, a writer? 

Part 13 – Ungrand theft auto

Grace doesn’t want to yell at Andrea, for a variety of reasons.  She has no problem yelling at Huddie.  Right now any generally.

“Huddie, what the hell did you do to those guys?  Did you kill them?  Those were cops Huddie!  Real cops!” 

Huddie’s response is slurred mumbling that may have been something about raspberry pie. 

Grace hazards a glance back at him even though she’s driving “What is wrong with you, are you fucking drunk?!” 

He’s not drunk, not drunk on booze anyway.  It’s been a good long while since Huddie tried something like a knock-out spell on four people at once and it really took the wind out of his sails.  Grace once described casting a demanding spell as feeling like she ran two marathons back-to-back and our man Huddie is most definitely not in marathon shape.   

Andrea did finally help Grace get Huddie into the stolen Chevy Trax which is quite the worse for wear on account of the high speed collision.   As Grace  pulled out into the street the poor Trax was a-rattlin’ and a clatterin’.  Grace tried to summon a cloud of smoke to cover their escape, obscure the license plate you know, but she’s tapped out.  The magical well has run dry.  For a lot of mages this is a terrifying experience, one that that would avoid at all costs, but Grace is made of sterner stuff.  She made her way through a hell of a lot before she ever knew magic was real, she’ ain’t scurred. 

As they escape Andrea is concerned that Grace is going to get in an accident.  Andrea is also concerned that their smashed-up Trax is drawing a lot of attention from other drivers, what with the honking and the shouting and the waving.  Andrea doesn’t say anything about these concerns.  She does express another concern as she looks into the backseat where Huddie is sprawled like a strung-out junkie. 

“I think maybe he had a stroke.” 

Grace is predictably unsympathetic “He’s fine.  We don’t have a lot of time, your boyfriend Dale is an asshole and he’s after that ring around your neck.  I don’t know why he hasn’t taken it from you already but things are clearly escalating now.  That may be my fault and I’m sorry for that but right now you need to decide what you want to do.  Dale has friends, they have power, they want that ring, and they’re willing to commit murder.  I’d say you should get Cassie and run but I’ll help you with whatever you want to do.” 

Andrea’s look is one of complete bewilderment “Why would Dale want my sister’s wedding ring?” 

“Oh shit, do you not know?  The ring is magic.  Magic is real.  Did I say that before?  Didn’t you see what happened back there?  Huddie knocked those cops out with a spell, at least I hope he just knocked them out, maybe he gave them all a heart attack.  Your sister and her husband got mixed up with some other magic people like Dale and it got them both killed, which is why I think you should run.  I know this is a lot to take in so let me show you.  Can I touch the ring for a second?  I won’t try to take it but I need to touch it.” 

Andrea’s hand goes to the ring hanging on her chest “Touch the ring?” 

“Yeah, my reserves are used up, I can’t do any magic right now but the ring should . . . JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!!!” 

That last bit is when Grace’s reaches across and touches the ring, resulting in a shock like she grabbed an electric fence.  There’s a spark as Grace snatches her hand back which briefly ignites Andrea’s shirt.

Andrea desperately beats down the flames on her chest as Grace struggles to keep control of the vehicle coughing wildly, the sudden blast of pain taking her breath away.  Eventually Grace hocks and spits out the window. 

“Jesus, I think my heart stopped for a second there.  I guess that’s why Dale hasn’t stolen it yet.  Not what I intended but there you go, magic, it’s a thing and you’re up to your alabaster tits in it even if you don’t know it.  Which is why I recommend running for your fucking life.  But it’s your decision, I don’t want to decide for you.  As I said I got your back here.  Whatever you want to do.” 

Andrea’s struggles to keep from sounding plaintive and doesn’t entirely succeed “I don’t know what’s going on.” 

Grace nods “Yeah, it’s a lot to take in, give yourself a minute to think.  Like I said we don’t have a ton of time here, we need to do something, so don’t take too much time.” 

Huddie manages to push himself upright and leans/falls forward with his head into the front seat “There’s nothing to decide, it’s been decided, it’s war now.” 

Grace manages to resist the urge to elbow him in the face “That’s one theory.” 

Part 12 – Helping

Before Grace can get “What the fuck are you doing?!” shouted out of her mouth Huddie is springing through the door of the stolen Trax, he’s damn spry for a 170-year-old fella.  Once out he’s on the run doing some wuxia arm waving accompanying words that sound like an Italian composer discussing his newest composition.  When Huddie’s magic hits them Big Pudge and the Squarehead twins collapse to the ground. 

Unfortunately for everyone the little police woman who looks like she’s in her mid-40s but is actually young doesn’t do any such thing.  She sways slightly like someone bumped into her but she doesn’t go down.  She was pretty freaked out when someone slammed into her cruiser and everyone else collapsing to the ground like puppets with cut strings doesn’t help her to be less freaked out.  Having no idea what’s going on she does exactly what they told her NOT to do in the academy when you don’t know what’s going on – she draws her service weapon.   

Grace waves, casting her malfunction spell as she walks right past the officer to finally get her chance to ask Huddie what the hell he’s doing.  Huddie responds to this query by taking a step in Grace’s direction and then doubling over like he got kicked in the gut, followed by face-planting into the pavement and busting himself open.  He’s left laying slumped in the “inch-worm” position with his ass in the air. 

Grace drags Huddie halfway up off the ground while waving for Andrea to help her help him.  The one remaining conscious law enforcement professional holsters her weapon and radios for back-up with wide eyes. 

Andrea is not in a helping mood, she has had enough.  First Dale won’t give her any more stuff and then Cassie, who’s always causing problems and it not even her real daughter, is outside yelling and then there’s a fireball and then Dale manhandles her and then his friends show up and take her to a coffee house like maybe they’re going to kidnap her or something and then Grace shows up and then then the cops and then his other guy and it’s all just too much.  She just wanted to get high and work on her vision board.  She never wanted any of this.   

So Andrea doesn’t help Grace with Huddie.  What Andrea does is she runs.  She has no plan on where she’s running to but it’s fight or flight time and Andrea has never been a fighter.  Before she met Dale she was in good shape.  She used to run four miles every day before AND after work.  In college she rowed double sculls and she told herself, somewhat smugly and judgily, that she would never be “one of those athletes” that lets themselves go after college.  But was hard to stay motivated to work out once Dale arrived on the scene.  For some reason.   

So Andrea doesn’t make it ten feet before Grace catches her.  Grace tries to grab her by the back of the shirt but she gets a hold of the wedding ring necklace instead – the chain of which  is more or less unbreakable due to the magic involved.  Getting yanked backwards by a tiny metal collar isn’t fun, and even less fun is when Andrea’s legs fly out from under her Looney Toons style and she falls on her ass.   

Grace lets go of the neck chain and shifts to trying to help Andrea up “Oh shit, sorry, I didn’t mean . . . don’t run off on me, we need to . . . oh Jesus fuck!” 

That last bit is when the tiny officer sprays her in the face with mace.   

Grace spins around drunkenly and can’t help but wipe her eyes “Oh you bitch, you dirty bitch!” 

The littlest officer grabs Grace by the wrist, intending to try the old spin and cuff move, which does work in a lot of situations, despite differences in size and strength.  There are tricks to getting control of someone bigger than you (within reason) and cuffing them, you learn that what you need to do is twist and lean, use leverage, not strength.   

Often times this works well because your average person isn’t used to pain.  Or just the experience of being grabbed in earnest.  But as one of the academy instructors whose twice had to put the bracelets on NFL linemen tells cadets, there are exceptions that technique can’t overcome.  Some people are used to getting hit, and they are used to having someone put hands on them.  So used to it that it doesn’t mean shit to them. 

This instructor would relate a story where one of those NFL linemen he placed under arrest moments before was hit in the heat with a piece of rebar and didn’t back off a step.  Which isn’t to say he wasn’t hurt, because he was, but he didn’t care.  In those cases no leverage trick is going to make up the difference.   

Grace breaks the officer’s grip instinctually.  She hates being grabbed.  Her instinctual next move is to get position on her assailant and choke them but she stops this maneuver because she doesn’t want to assault a police officer, who is just doing her job after all.   

“Don’t do that again!” Grace commands blindly in the general direction of where she thinks the officer is. 

Taking a deep breath Grace manages to calm herself enough to dredge up the last of her magical reserves to cast a cleansing spell and remove the burning liquid from her eyes well enough to see.  Although not to see well.  See that the officer is considering going for her baton.   

Grace shakes her head “Don’t do that, just wait for back-up please.” 

The officer darts a glance at her fallen partner and the other two officers “What did you do to them?” 

Grace is annoyed because she didn’t do anything, Huddie did clearly, but she ignores this question and waves for Andrea to help her with Huddie where she dropped him moaning in a heap “Andrea please help me, I don’t want to yell at you but we need to get out of here now.” 

Interlude – What measure a man?

Richard Forde was born March 16, 1828 in Ireland.  He doesn’t remember exactly where, he hasn’t been home for a long time and his memory isn’t what it once was.  After failing to gain entry to Trinity College of Medicine in 1846 he moved to London to attend law school, quitting sometime during his second year to pursue a career of sending drunken letters to family and friends.  Somehow this didn’t pan out financially and Richard entered the Royal Navy in 1850, serving aboard HMS Fox.   

Richard fulfilled his duties without distinction through to the blockade of the mouth of the Yangon River and the instigation of the Second Anglo-Burmese War.  He was reported missing after the storming of Rangoon on April 14th, 1852, although not much missed by any of his crewmates if you catch my drift. 

Richard would reappear in 1872 in Gulgong.  Where was he in the intervening 20 years?  Learning magic of course.  After deciding that he wasn’t having much fun in the Navy and wandering away (which is treason technically) Richard drifted over to China where thanks to Opium War 1 he was able to become fast pals with a British fellow who was making bank off selling opium and various other immoral bullshit by the name of Henry “Hank” Smithparke.   An Irishman and an Englishman?  Truly friendship is the real magic.

One day Richard said to his pal Hank (paraphrasing) “I know why I get blackout drunk all the time, I have no prospects, but you’re rich as balls from selling opium and other nasty things, why do you do it with me?”  Hank told his friend Rich that he did it because a wizard killed his wife and he really liked his wife, maybe even loved her, and he was sad about it.  At the time Rich was drunk enough want to hear more about that and Hank was drunk enough to tell it but not so drunk that he couldn’t speak – it was the perfect storm.   

Richard explained that a few years back the Buddhists came to his opium factory and said that his workers were going missing because they were being killed by an evil monster.  An evil monster attracted on account of a pool of negative energy emanating from said factory. Probably because of all the opium.  Regardless of why it seemed, they said, that a shuten-doji or gaki was haunting the neighborhood and they wanted to look for it.  Hank told them (paraphrasing) “go nuts buddy” thinking it was all superstitious mumbo-jumbo and not caring what they did.

Seeing an evil spirit be bound in human form and then banished to the netherworld by a quintet of Buddhists monster hunters is the kind of thing that will sober you up real quick.  See this was back when people still could believe in that kind of stuff if it was in front of your face whereas nowadays you see something like that you assume you have a brain tumor and go to the hospital.  Which to be fair you probably do.   

So Hank was all like, whoa, how do I learn to do THAT?  The one Buddhists guy who survived the ordeal said that his order normally they doesn’t support the teaching of foreign devils this kind of thing, but his personal philosophy was that the more people know the better on account of there seemed to be a lot more evil going around.  So Hank became an apprentice and started learning the magic of detecting presence of negative ki in the world, sensing the taint of evil spirits, and ways to combat them. 

Self-improvement is usually admirable, but this particular curriculum didn’t go over great with a sorcerer who used those evil spirits to prop up his own rival opium trade so that’s where the wife murdering came in, at which point Hank said “nuts to this, I’m going to get drunk” and gave up on his training. 

Hearing this, Rich thought it quite the tale and said to his pal Hank (paraphrasing) “what if we both stopped being miserable hope to die drunks and wasting our lives and instead we gave this magic thing another shot, do some good in the world” and Hank thought about it for a moment and then said “Sure”. 

They muddled through magic training as best they could on their own since the Buddhists weren’t talking anymore (on account of most of them were dead) with the occasional help of the best mentor they managed to scrounge up – a backwoods con artist/smuggler from Virginia who was there posing as a missionary.  He had picked up a few spells here and there and was willing to teach what he knew for cheap whiskey and cheaper women.

All magicked up and fresh out of opium money Rich and Hank headed to Gulgong to get in on the gold rush because everyone knows that if you want to be a magician protecting the earth you need a lot of money.  They didn’t come up with much gold despite their best efforts, but they did thwart (and by thwart I mean murder) a fellow magician who was posing as a “dingo spirit” to butcher people and steal their claims.  They also busted up a circle of witches that weren’t doing anything evil at all but they were women in the 1870s.  So.  You know. 

Once the Gulgong boomtown was all boomed out and an unpleasant necromancer had moved to town (fighting evil is all well and good but discretion is the better part or valor and so forth) Rich and Hank, still cash poor but magically delicious, decided that America was the place to make their fortune/stop evil.   

Florida America was a happening spot in the 1880s.  At first everyone was getting rich on citrus fruit, then two hard freezes wiped out the central Florida citrus industry – with the exception of Rich and Hank whose trees had a little bit of help from sweet lady magic.  With everyone else out of business they were poised to make a killing until Hank was killed himself for real by Jacques Daviel, who happens to be an apprentice of one Raymond Pine.   

Richard fled the Sunshine State and kept right on fleeing until he hit Chicago, where he decided to rebrand himself as Huddie Mooringsport.  While the craze was on the wan nationally, Huddie found that middle-class Chicago women were still bananas for spiritualism and he quickly installed himself as the numero uno spiritualist in the windy city by virtue of the fact that he was only mostly full of crap instead of entirely.  Take that Bangs Sisters! 

Things were going great for Huddie until the early 1920s when a Frenchman magician who had been a surgeon during the Great War decided that he had seen enough of what humanity was about and it was time to end it all.  To quote Mr. Roe himself –  

“The world disgusts me.  People are treacherous, crude and cruel.  The natural world is no better. When you’ve seen it all there’s really nothing left to feel but loathing.”  

In order to gather the power he needed to cast his “kill all humans” spell Roe needed a lot of magical energy, and what better way to get it than the ritual blood sacrifice of other magicians?  A very short and very ugly shadow war was fought in Chicago, with Roe ultimately being defeated in no small part due to the intervention of none other than the visiting couple of Royale Fantastique and Bessie Love.   

Huddie was haunted by what he had seen and done during this conflict, feeling that if he had taken his magical studies more seriously and not been such a ding-dong he could have stopped Roe before he murdered most of the magic users in the Midwest.  When you’re a hundred years old you tend to get maudlin.   

Huddie came out of his funk in the 1950s to join up with a band of minor mages to combat the scourge of communist wizards working to destroy truth, justice and the American way.  He fell right back into that funk when the sixties rolled around and it became clear that this literal witch-hunt was an excuse for violent misogynists to commit murder.  This new funk coincided with the cult boom of the 60s and Huddie was in the right frame of mind of capitalize, getting in on the free love let’s all get high movement with his own showstopping cult recruitment tactic of being able to do actual magic. 

Things were going so well that a decade and change later, with a bunch of dedicated followers under his belt and cult compound and everything Huddie thought that maybe he could do some real good in the world, you know, with magic.  And maybe he could have if another more powerful and more violent magic guy hadn’t decided that it was a good idea for their two cults to merge.  Huddie disagreed and that’s when the more powerful and violent thing came into play.  Hostile takeover you know?  It was the style at the time.  Reaganomics and so forth.

This new group would go on to be very successful in the Midwest and be the same one that Grace listened to a book about, with the blood magic and the fake Norse stuff and the sexual abuse.  This is just like a flashback on Lost, all kinds of things are being connected in ways that will probably never be mentioned again.  That’s called not paying off. 

Huddie survived the merger and decided that it would a good idea to spend the 80’s on a coke and booze binge, naturally ending up back in Florida – the home of cocaine even though it comes from Colombia.  In his more hopeful moments Huddie tricked himself into thinking that he was there to avenge Hank.  In his low moments he admitted that he was waiting for Raymind Pine to kill him since he couldn’t manage to do it himself.   

Neither of those things happened.  After hitting rock bottom eight or twelve times Huddie got clean in the 90s and fell into a routine of going to the store once a week and not doing much else.  On his 170th birthday he started dipping his toe back into the magic realm here and there, working on new spells and documenting some of the old ones.  For who?  He wasn’t sure, but he started get nostalgic in the way you do after 17 decades. 

When 2012 rolled around and the world didn’t end Huddie managed to resurrect a little bit of optimism.  He really thought the Mayans had it pegged and it was going to be the end.  Since the world still existed he started getting more involved with the local magic community, such as it is, and began using his skills to find missing persons and lost pets.  He started to feel good for the first time in a long time.   

A few years later that goodwill vanished when UBM first send a couple of goons to kill him.  His black magic group depends on missing persons for fuel and didn’t take kindly to them being found and brought home safely to not be missing.  If they had sent some real hardass killers that first time Huddie would have died for sure, but UMB was just trying to feel him out and sent a couple twerps and Huddie had enough magic in his old silk hat to win that first battle.   

Opportunity missed.  Huddie spent the next few years learning everything he could about combat magic and learned an even more important skill – not giving a damn about killing.  Not good for the soul, but great for surviving violent confrontations.  At first Huddie was all gung-ho to take on UBM and his whole crew, but he eventually figured out that there were always going to be more low-level black magic peons no matter how many he fried and the “inner circle” were too well insulated to be gotten.  Not gotten without probably dying himself anyway and Huddie wasn’t there anymore.

Over the last few years a magical cold war malaise has overtaken Huddie.  Every now and the he frees one of their victims.  Every now and then they send a couple sacrificial lambs to try and kill him.  And in the end what’s accomplished?  Nothing.  Status quo. 

And then along came Grace.   

Part 11 – Sound of da police

Grace doesn’t know how many miles she’s driven since she started wrestling and occasionally saving the world.  Why would she?  But I do because I am the Narrator!  Well, I don’t know exactly because who would keep precise of track on something like that, only a crazy person.  But I know that it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 380,000 miles.   

You drive that much and you’re going to get pulled over by the authorities a time or two.  That’s just how it works.  The ratio goes up though if you drive a crappy car, which Grace did for 97% of those 380,000 miles.  Because as we all know people that drive nice cars would never be up to anything nefarious.  The ratio also goes up if you’re a woman.  No one knows why.  Just kidding, we all know.   

In those interactions Grace has never had a problem.  Why would she?  She’s not doing nothing to nobody.  But all those previous encounters had something in common – at those times Grace was not driving a stolen car containing three loaded unlicensed handguns, a semiautomatic rifle, a ballistics vest, and several bags of marijuana.  Grace thought she was pretty clever to steal the bad guy’s car to get away but she didn’t consider that they might call the cops on her.   

When she sees the flashing lights Grace consider for a moment having Andrea take the wheel so she can throw a malfunction spell at the patrol car and keep going.  She ultimately decides that’s a terrible idea since Andrea would probably drive them into the side of the building and because running from the cops generally isn’t a great idea.  She pulls over, and by over, I mean into the parking lot of the Maple Street Biscuit Company. They roll to a stop where she and Andrea are ordered out of the car, drop the keys on the ground, hands on the roof, the whole kit and caboodle.   

The duo that pulls them over is one of those big dudes that looks super soft and probably is, and a hilariously mismatch smaller lady who looks like she’s in her mid-forties but instead is just out of the academy.  The police academy.  Not too intimidating looking but thankfully they’re joined shortly though by two coppy looking dudes – square heads, super frowny, look way tougher than they probably are.  The kind of cops that would be on the take in a movie like Copland but wouldn’t be super into it you know?  They’re just doing it to get along.   

Little Old Cop looks a little afraid of the newcomers, like she’s worried they’re going to turn around and arrest her, but Pop-N-Fresh looks glad that they’re there.  When Squarehead #1 asks “Margaret Edwards” if she knows she’s driving a stolen car refreshingly for him the answer is “yes”. 

Grace explains that her friend Andrea was having some problems with her boyfriend so she came over and . . . before she can explain-lie more Squarehead #2 cuts in with “We need to separate these two” looking at the very frightened and somewhat battered Andrea looking very much like she has no clue what’s happening. 

Grace interjects in the middle of that interjection by saying “Before we do anything else will you let Andrea call her daughter Cassie?  She was back at the apartment we want to make sure she’s okay.”

The initial answer is “she can call at the station” but when Andrea expresses her concern over Cassie’s safety they relent and hand her a phone to make the call.  That’s what puts it over the top more than anything – the fact that Andrea doesn’t have her phone on her.  Why would someone not have their phone unless they were running away from some crazy domestic shit that was going down? 

Andrea reports that there’s no answer.  For a moment Grace considers pretending that she has a tracker app on her phone they can use and then trying to surreptitiously cast her finding spell but decides that seems like a plan with like way too many moving parts to succeed – not to mention the fact that she’s running low on magical energy at the moment.  She’s been tossing around a lot of magic today.   

Instead she explains that there’s already a bunch of officers at Andrea’s apartment and asks if they can contact them to confirm if Cassie is there, and if she’s not there and Dale isn’t there either can they send someone to his apartment to see if her took her there?  The Squareheads agree to this with the clear expectation that the next thing that happens needs to be Grace and Andrea explaining what the fuck is going on because favor time is over.

After a few radio calls and call calls they confirm that Dale was taken from the scene in an ambulance on account of he shot himself in the foot and that Cassie is nowhere to be found.  At that point their plan is to trundle Grace and Andrea into separate cars and get them back to the stationhouse.  But that plan quickly changes when another stolen car, this one a 2015 Chevy Trax, jumps the curb and slams into one of the police cruisers.  Behind the wheel is none other than the man they call Huddie. 

Fucking Huddie. 

Part 10 – Kiss the snake

Calling men with guns cowards typically is not a wise idea.  If they’re not cowards it doesn’t help certainly, but if they are cowards calling them out on it might give them the gumption they need to put their cowardice on hold long enough to shoot you down.  There’s probably a small selection of men with guns who can be cowed by being called cowards (hey, that’s where that comes from!) but unless you know that for sure that’s what they are going in its probably not worth the risk of throwing out the C-word.  Very risky.

Nevertheless no one shoots Grace.  Not Baby, not Barry Bonds, not Kid Greasy, not Officer Nasty, not Fake Cop #2, none of the bunch.  Thirty percent of the reason is confusion.  When Grace showed up at Andrea’s apartment and Huddie tried to fry him and he shot himself in the foot he panicked and called “his” crew to grab Andrea said crew thought they’d have time to figure the rest out later.  Before they could figure out anything here comes Grace right on their asses.  They don’t know if shooting her is a good idea or not.

Thirty percent is cowardice.  The idea of all bullies being cowards is a myth, but it’s one of those myths that are kind of true, like smiling makes you feel happier.  Grace has an outsized rep with this particular clade of dark magic jerkasses, in particular the tale of her confrontation with them during the California blackouts has been greatly exaggerated.  You and I know that it was Sanaa that killed Meat not Grace, but that’s not how they tell it.  Grace has become something of a very localized boogey-woman for this group.  What if you shoot and the bullet bounces right off and then she rips your heart out and eats it?  That would suck.

Thirty percent of the reason is that even with black magic at your disposal there’s no guaranty that you can blow someone away extemporaneously and get away with it.  People like to complain about police efficacy but they take murder pretty seriously.  And the last ten percent is that most people, even black magic jerkasses, have to work themselves up to a cold blooded murder.  Even if you’ve done it before.  Especially if you’ve done it before sometimes. 

Grace takes a few steps forward and reaches out her hand to Andrea “Come on now, let’s go.”

Baby sets his gun down and exchanges a glance with Barry Bonds before looking back to Grace “We don’t need to shoot you to stop you.”

Grace looks around and snorts “You sure about that?  Who wants to take the first swing?” Grace guides Andrea behind her and walks them both backwards towards the door “How about you Officer Nasty?  You want to get this party started?  Huh?  How about you Big Head?  You want a little?”

Grace and Andrea stumble back into the actual storeroom for doughnut stuff where the kid in the apron is waiting for them – waiting in this case to scramble aside when Grace tells him to move the fuck out of the way.  The black magic quartet trails behind them as they head out the front door doing their best to look menacing and dark magicky while having no clue what to do. 

For a moment Grace is just as confused herself once they get out in the parking lot since she ran here and what’s she going to do, pick up Andrea in her arms like a baby and run away with her?  Since she just saw Huddie do it she tries the reverse of her malfunction spell on the fake cops Corolla and to her surprise it works – it starts right up.  She and Andrea get in and Grace smoothly pulls out into traffic – say one thing for Grace, she always respects the rules of the road, even in a tough situation.

Grace spares a glance at her passenger “Are you alright over there?  Did they give you something, like drug you, or mess with your head with their magic?”

Andrea shakes her head “No . . . I don’t think so.”

Grace nods, mostly to herself “Alright, good.  I’ll find someplace to stop, I don’t know where Cassie went so I’ll find a place to stop here in a minute and cast my finding spell.  Then we can figure out what to do next.  You know what Dale was behind all this right?  In your sober moments you have to know that he’s a dick.”

Andrea looks like she’s considering jumping from the moving car “Um . . . who are you?”

“Oh shit, sorry, I figured you knew.”  Grace extends her hand cross body awkwardly “I’m Grace, we talked on the phone once.  Magic is real, you know that right?  You know the whole deal with Cassie and the murders?  I know your sister wasn’t big on trusting people with information but she had to have told you the basics.”

Andrea looks at Grace’s offered hand like she’s holding out a venomous snake and asking her to kiss it on the head “I don’t know what’s happening.”

Grace blows you a breath “Whoo, okay, let’s start at the beginning.”

Part 9 – Freeze

Some animals have this mechanism in their brain that tells them how close a predator has to be before it can get them.  How far away they are calculated by how fast they are and so on.  The reason for this (they think) is so that the animal can keep eating until the last very second before running away.  Is it really worth the risk for an extra half a second of food access?  It must so because it’s a thing.  They think.

It’s speculated that this instinct is why animals freeze when you drive at them real fast.  A wolf runs about thirty miles an hour.  The speediest wolf around who’s really putting his paws to the dirt could maybe go forty miles an hour.  That’s pretty fast.  But, and I don’t mean to shock you, cars can go much faster than forty miles an hour.  For instance former wrestler and noteworthy asshole Lex Luger was once pulled over for going one hundred and sixty seven miles an hour because he was late for a tanning appointment.  Suck on that wolves.

The idea is that when you coming flying down the road as sixty plus miles per hour at a possum that brain mechanism tries to figure out when it’s danger time and instead it freezes up and crashes like Windows Vista because the speed of the car is beyond what the programming can handle, it’s not a speed that exists in nature.  The car is going faster than even a superfast wolf so the possum just sits there and dies because its brain is throwing an input error message. 

Does that mean that a Thompson’s gazelle, the primary prey species of the pretty fast cheetah animal, would not freeze when an SUV comes barreling at it going sixty mphs?  There’s only one way to find out, and the government denied my grant on the grounds that driving cars at high rates of speed at imported antelopes was illegal and immoral and stupid. 

This fun fact is preamble this question – when Grace tells Andrea to come with her why does she freeze?  Is it because bullets are even faster than cars?

Grace walks past Barry Bonds, mostly confident that her prediction is correct and he won’t shoot her, but also wishing that Huddie hadn’t stolen her car so she could have thrown on her bulletproof serial killer raincoat before heading out on this mission.  Kid Greasy finally manages to get to his feet and stands gawking behind her as she pushes open the door to the backroom of Black Hole Doughnuts. The first back room I mean.  The one that just has bulk coffee cups and cardboard boxes with those little plastic window and cleaning supplies and stuff that should be in the back room of a doughnut joint. 

It’s when she passes through that, which is too small to really work well as a storage area, into the larger room behind it that things get interesting.  This room has several boxes of iPhones in a stack on top of larger boxes of smart TVs, which is odd for a doughnut place.  There’s a small skid loader which would be very much out of place in even the largest of doughnut shacks – nobody is moving that many doughnuts.  Is that weirder than the hockey bag filled with firearms, burner phones, and banned Argentine health supplements?  You be the judge of that.

In the room also is a woman named Andrea who’s scared out of her mind.  She looks more than little like Katherine LaNasa, the woman who played Will Ferrell’s character Cam Brady’s wife in The Campaign – which was pretty close to being a good movie.  She’s scared for a plethora of reasons, but chief amongst them is that she’s not alone.  There’s too men with her dressed in police costumes.

Once she sees them up close Grace is disappointed in herself that she didn’t realize they were fake before, one of them didn’t even bother to take the “Officer Nasty” nametag off.  In her mind Grace really gives it to the real cops for not noticing these buffoons, but what she doesn’t realize is that they used some of that old black magic as well – it’s much easier to enspell someone to think a cheap cop stripper outfit is a real uniform that it is something that looks nothing like it, let’s say orange hot pants and a half tank.

There’s a third man as well.  Grace has met him twice before but she never caught his name.  You know him as “Baby”, the skinny dude who looks like a model they used in videos to warn people about the dangers of drugs or rock music or D&D back in the 1980s.  I’ll call his look swamp trash Marilyn Manson.  Or some other more current reference.  Who’s the current freaky fake-Satanist music act that’s hot with the group at school of two kids that like to burn shit and the girl that needs attention? 

Baby is actually more scared than Andrea is when he sees Grace.  He was already on edge because they grabbed Andrea with no plan and he doesn’t know what to do.  And when Grace walks in?  Of all people?  He’s scared because he thinks she knows more than she does, why else would she be there?  But he’s more scared on account of that time she knocked him out cold, an attack which caused not only muscle damage but cervical dislocation.  Damage that hasn’t been treated (actually that’s not true, Jack Daniels and unsubscribed pain pills are a treatment of a sort) because violent criminal assholes aren’t great at going to the doctor and black magic isn’t great at healing. 

Despite this fear Baby manages to keep his cool.  In fact he’s going to say something “cool” about Grace being a bad penny but she beats him to the punch.

Grace points at Baby “Shut up you.” She extends her other hand to beckon Andrea “Come on, come with me, let’s get out of here.  These men are cowards Andrea, they won’t shoot you.”

Andrea doesn’t move.  Probably not because of predator attack radius brain calculations though, probably because of human brain stuff.

Part 8 – Prudence overturns a dustbin and faces stern consequences

Eventually Grace and Cassie head back to Andrea’s apartment.  You can’t just hang around at a coffee shop forever after all.  This isn’t Friends.  Zoom!  Take that Marta Kaufman and David Crane.  You may have hundreds of millions of dollars but I burned you good.   

The plan, such as it is, consists of speaking to Andrea.  Grace assumes that if Dale causes trouble she’ll just smack him around.  Actually probably what she would do is just stomp on the foot he was dumb enough to shoot himself in.  Cassie hopes that Dale is there and that he does try something because she wants to see Grace kick his ass.  But like with magic you know, like Grace does some Infinity Gauntlet shit and turns him to dust because she also wants to see some magic.  At this point she doesn’t know what Grace generally just busts people up the old-fashioned way.

It’s not a great plan by any means but the good news is that when they get back to Cassie’s block the plan never swings into action because there are several police cruisers there with the police officers that came in them milling around.  That will happen when there’s a big pillar of flame in the middle of the street and then a car accident.  And shouting, and gunshots.  There are neighborhoods where that might go by under the notice of the authorities but this isn’t one of them.   

“Fucking Huddie” Grace remarks as she and Cassie stand at the end of the street intermittently bathed in blue and red lights from the squad car’s flashing lights. 

“Who’s Huddie?” Cassie asks as she pulls at her torn leggings. 

“A two-hundred-year-old moron.” Grace glances into the intersection where her car is smashed up real nice “Who stole my car and then crashed it.” 

Cassie’s snaps her head around in awe “Two hundred years?  Do witches live forever?” 

“Yes.  Maybe.  No.  I don’t know.  He’s not a witch, that’s . . . something else.  I think only women can be  witches maybe.  Look, I need to get out of here, what . . . “ 

Cassie points to Andrea, who’s being bundled into a car by two officers “Those guys aren’t cops.” 

Grace peers into the misty night “What?” 

Cassie gestures more urgently “Those aren’t police uniforms, they’re dressed as cops but those aren’t real uniforms.” 

Grace frowns “How can you tell, I can barely see them.” 

“I work at a costume store, I’m telling you those are fake uniforms!  That’s not even a cop car, that’s a Corolla!” 

Grace thinks to herself, police detectives drive unmarked cars don’t they?  A detective could drive w Corolla.  And maybe the guys in uniforms are just putting Andrea into a detective’s car?  She thinks that there are probably plenty of other explanations other than a fake cop abduction.  But there’s no harm in finding out right?  Okay, there’s potentially a lot of harm but since when does that stop Grace? 

“What am I supposed to do?” Cassie yells after Grace as she cuts around the corner. 

“Call the real cops!” 

“They’re already here!” Cassie protests are Grace disappears into the night.   

Tailing a Corolla, even through city streets, on foot is not a winning proposition generally.  Good thing Grace is magic huh?  A finding spell means she knows where the car is even when she can’t see it.  She’s gotten pretty good at that.  A spell she learned from 42561 makes her quick as a cat and strong as a bigger cat, meaning that she can Run Lola Run herself all across the land.  Technically she doesn’t need to keep up with the Corolla because of the other spell I just mentioned but since a woman may have been abducted by two fake police officers she deems itprudent to keep them where she can see them.   

Prudence pays off (is that a show on the BBC?  Prudence Pays Off?  If not, it should be) when the Corolla turns, not into a police station, but into Black Hole Doughnuts. Setting aside any jokes about cops and doughnuts, what really changes the narrative is when one of the guys in maybe fake uniforms pulls Andrea out of the backseat by the arm and is clearly giving her instructions on the fine art of shutting the hell up.   

At this point Grace considers doing what she told Cassie to do, calling the real cops, but she worries that in that case she probably won’t figure out what’s going on.  And Grace is sick of magic stuff going down and then never finding out what the hell it was about.  So she doesn’t call.  Does that make her decision selfish and by extension make her a horrible person for potentially endangering Andrea’s life in the pursuit of this knowledge? Perhaps.   

Instead, Grace walks up to Black Hole Doughnuts just as the greasy pony-tailed teenager in the Black Hole Doughnuts apron turns the sign to CLOSED and locks the door.  Grace tries her malfunction spell on the lock but it doesn’t work because that spell is actually much more effective on complex machines and not so much on a simple deadbolt.  What can malfunction on a deadbolt?  Not much.  She solves that problem by hurling a rock a the glass door like Ken Patera at a McDonald’s restaurant in Waukesha.   Rock > Wizard > Muggle

The hurled rock and shattered glass flying through the air send Greasy Apron ducking and coveringlike a frightened lemur, but the guy behind the counter – who is not wearing an apron but rather an ill-fitting suit jacket over a stained white-collar shirt – reaches under the counter for a shotgun without missing a beat.  His hands look tiny as the points it at Grace, but she’s not sure if that’s because he really has small hands or because his giant melon of a head makes them seem smaller than they really are.  He growls at her to get out. 

Grace glances at the cowering kid on the floor “Yeah, I don’t think so.  You can shoot me right now without causing yourself some problems.  You can’t just shoot people.  This isn’t Arizona.” 

The man with the Barry Bonds Steroid head seems perplexed by this reaction, as well he might since people don’t generally stare down a gun like it’s no big deal, but after a moment a dim glimmer of recognition comes across his billboard of a face.   

“Hey . . . it’s you.  You’re her aren’t you?  You’re that bitch we stomped at the club.” 

Grace nods “Yes, it’s me, that bitch, in the flesh.  I’ve decided I want to join your group after all.  That’s why I’m here.  Where do I sign up?” 

Part 7 – Smile through your fear and sorrow (j/k that’s a terrible idea)

What Cassie can tell Grace about the ring is that it’s the wedding ring of Andrea’s sister.  You guys remember her right?  She was a police detective and she found out about magic and her husband died and she got transfer to work for a fake FBI division to keep her quiet and she had a hard time with that and eventually she killed herself as a sacrifice for a blood magic revenge ritual.  You remember?  It’s one of the three things (any by things I mean horrible deaths) that Grace feels responsible for that will end up destroying her if she doesn’t learn to live with them.  Guess what the other two are and win a free water pick! 

Grace never said the name of the detective because names are a weird thing in magic sometimes and she never knows who might be reading her blog.  But I don’t need to worry about that.  Her name was Mary Warner and what you may not remember (or maybe you do, how would I know?) is that that her downward slide got kicked off when her husband did some undercover work with a cult and found out about magic.   

Oh, I see, the female character can’t have her own arc, it’s all related to her husband, nice writing you patriarchal jerkass!  I think it’s okay, a male character with a dead wife as a motivator is a literature staple so flipping it the other way around is feminism?  Recreating the exact plots that have already been carried out by men is derivative, unoriginal, and lazy, if you want to be a feminist how about an original creative idea?  Can we just move on please? 

Mary’s husband Giulio got a more involved with magic than she realized.  Aside from stealing a magic rock that ultimately drove him insane he also enchanted her wedding ring to warn him/locate her if she was ever badly injured.  And all he had to do to make that happen was kill several horses.  Blood magic, ain’t it grand?  The magic in her ring was keyed to his own wedding ring and when he died (Mary implied to Grace that the Swede had him killed but actually he also took his own life) Mary started wearing his ring as well.  When she died both rings passed to Andrea and she took to wearing them on a necklace from time to time.   

One of those times Dale spotted it and decided that he needed to steal it to gain status with his black magic asshole pals, but here’s a little magic side effect, it can’t be taken and retain its powers, it must be freely given, so he couldn’t just snatch it.  Murder might work but Dale doesn’t have the cajones to find out for sure.  So Instead he’s putting the moves on Andrea.  Normally Andrea wouldn’t be receptive to the attention of a dirtbag like Dale but she’s having a hard time on account of her sister dying horribly and suddenly being in charge of an angry emotionally traumatized teenager.  Dale offered a shoulder to cry on and methamphetamine too.  It’s hard to say which will be more damaging to her in the long term.   

This seems like a lot of trouble for a pair of rings that are basically the world’s worst Apple Watch doesn’t it?  Well, here’s the thing about that.   Giulio didn’t know what he was doing.  Without someone to teach you magic is hard to get even mostly right.  In the olden days when there was enough loose magic in the world that people could occasionally pick it up on their own most of those people died in magical accidents six or seven spells in.  The margin for error is very slender.   

Giulio imbued the rings with way more magic than needed for a simple call/locate spell.  Way way more.  Not because of the horse slaughter but because of the magic rock he stole that drove him insane.  It’s like hooking up a nightlight to a nuclear reactor, it’s not doing much but it’s not because there isn’t a lot of juice there, it’s because it’s a stupid use of the power available.   I think that’s a good analogy.   

Anyway, Cassie doesn’t know all that, she just knows that Dale is after the ring, but now you do! 

Since the ring conversation is a short one Cassie shifts to another topic, namely her life being ruined, a favorite of teens the world over.  Grace’s response of “You’re only seventeen, your life hasn’t even started yet” falls on deaf ears, not because Grace is wrong and Cassie is 18, but because teenagers are notoriously short sighted.  I mean I guess also because Cassie magic murdered several people because she thought God told her to and gave her the means of so doing.  That’s going to take more to work through than a “things get better video”.   

When Cassie asks reasonably/unfairly how she’s supposed to be normal after having her faith destroyed and being a multiple times over murderer all Grace can think to say is “Uh . . . therapy?”  To which Cassie retorts that she used to go to therapy but he therapist wanted to have sex with her so she quit.  That’s not actually true but Cassie has trust issues, especially when it comes to men.  You know, for some reason.  Grace does think to herself that if you want guys not to have sex with you maybe don’t wear fishnets and a boob shirt, but she doesn’t say anything because she knows that’s not cool even though she thought it.   

If you asked Grace she would say that this little heart-to-heart at the Coffee Machine was an unmitigated disaster.  But as usual she’s selling herself short.  Getting a chance to talk about it was helpful for Cassie.  But that’s not all.  Grace thinks she failed because she has no answers, but the point is that she tries, she cares.  Often time there aren’t any answers, what matters is that someone shows up and tries.

When you think of a positive person you think of someone who’s kind of annoying.  Someone with a Dr. Seuss t-shirt and dumb catchphrases and inane aphorisms that don’t help jack shit.   People who say things like –  

  1. Just stay positive
  2. Don’t worry, everything will work out
  3. It’s all part of a bigger plan
  4. Look on the bright side
  5. Only good vibes allowed

Words that are about as helpful to a person struggling as picture of water is to someone on fire.  The people saying those things mean well but they usually cause the person they’re talking to feel more aliened and more disconnected.   

Grace positive person in a different way.  She doesn’t give up.  She keeps going.  She keeps trying.  She doesn’t say anything that magically makes Cassie “better” because there’s nothing you can say that’s going to fix everything.  But she’s there.  She’s showing that she cares.  That she wants Cassie to stop feeling horrible all the time.  Grace will never be a motivational speaker but she does a lot more than she realizes.   

And that’s not nothing.