Author’s Note: This Friday Flash is set in the universe of my web serial Animal Kingdom. Previous entries also set in this universe can be found here (scroll down to the bottom of the page).
“Pain relief? Yeah, I might be able to whip up something that could work.” With a cordless phone pressed against her ear, Vanessa leaned over a counter in her small book store. She reached over the cash register for a notebook, one of many she always kept within arm’s reach, and scribbled down a few notes. “I can have it ready by tomorrow afternoon. Can you come by then?”
After a time was set, the question of payment came up. Vanessa said, “Usually I charge about twenty bucks, but I can offer you a discount CC.”
As soon as she hung up the phone, she regretted saying that. Business in her store that month was slow, just like it was every month. She could use any money she could get, and CC Carlyle was more than capable of paying whatever price she asked for.
Vanessa sighed. There was no taking back what she said. She just had to cross her fingers and hope to stay afloat based on candle and incense sales alone until October. Anything even remotely occult related sold like hotcakes then. Also, she just knew Max would call her for help the police department with some vampire attacks she’d heard about. She just knew it.
Being a small business owning witch can be tough.
With no customers to tend to, she left the cash register with a sweep of her long black skirts and busied herself organizing a display of candles near the front of the store.
When she saw a man approaching, she assumed he was heading for frozen yogurt place next door right until he walked into her store.
“Please tell me this is Spell. Bound and your name is Vanessa,” he said.
She almost pointed to herself and said, “Me?” She’d never admit it to anyone, but he caught her completely off-guard. More specifically his smile did. The rest of him wasn’t half bad either. He was just her type; tall and wiry with more than a few tattoos.
Smiling back, she answered, “You’re in the right place. What can I do for you…”
“Jackson. My name is Jackson.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a scrap of paper. “I’m looking for a book called La Marque de Sang. Please tell me you have it.”
Vanessa stopped smiling.
“That’s not a good look,” Jackson said. “You don’t have it do you?”
“No, I have a copy. It’s over there. You can’t miss it.” She pointed to a crowded bookshelf in a corner of the store and stomped back to the cash register.
Le Marque de Sang, or The Mark of Blood, was filled with spells pertaining to vampires. Tracking them, trapping them, immobilizing them; everything but killing them basically. If Jackson needed it, then the vampire job Vanessa wanted was long gone.
Who the hell was he? Vanessa knew lots of witches in Atlanta, but she’d never heard of him before. How did he swoop into town and steal her job?
Max couldn’t have hired him. He wouldn’t hire any witch he didn’t know and trust. So who did?
Jackson walked up to her and gingerly placed the book in front of the cash register. “How much?”
“One hundred,” Vanessa answered with no hesitation.
“I’ll take it,” he said. “You could’ve said a thousand honestly. I’ve been looking all over town for this thing. You’re a lifesaver.”
“Just doing my job,” she said. “Do you mind me asking what you need this book for? There are some heavy duty spells in here.”
Jackson shrugged, not meeting her eyes for the first time since he walked into the store. “Just interested in it.”
“Seems to me like you’re interested in those vampire attacks,” she said. “Who are you working for? The police? Vampires? Or someone else entirely?”
He smiled again, but it was a tight lipped smile that did not reach his eyes. “I don’t work for anyone.”
“Oh, come on,” she said. “Witches don’t mess with vampires unless it’s personal or there’s money involved. Judging by your demeanor and how much you just offered me for this book, which you could get online for a lot less if you’re willing to wait a few days by the way, I’m thinking you’re in it for the money. A lot of money. The police pay chump change, so that probably means vampires. They are as old money as old money gets.”
He stared at her for a long moment before bursting into laughter. “She told me to watch out for you and she was right,” he said. “You are definitely a Bertrand girl.” He leaned over the counter towards her, as if to get a better look at such a rare specimen.
Vanessa bristled at the sound of her mother’s maiden name. Her parentage often preceded her, but usually her father was brought up and not the mother she barely remembered. She knew very little about that side of her family except that there were very few of them left and they wanted nothing to do with her.
“I’m a lot of things,” Vanessa said. She swiped his credit card, praying for it to be declined. Unfortunately it was not. She slapped a receipt and a pen onto the counter between them.
“I’m sure you are,” he said. He signed his name with a flourish, and then made sure their hands touched when Vanessa took the receipt from him. “It was nice meeting you Vanessa. Maybe we’ll run into each other again. I would love to pick your brain.”
Vanessa grumbled instead of responding with words.
He flashed a no longer appreciated smile and walked out of the store with his book.
Vanessa looked down at the receipt. He’d scribbled his phone number under his signature.
He would be waiting a very long time for that call.
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