Searching For Magic
Chapter 3

Magic fell out of my mind for the next several months. After the theater's repairs were finished, I stayed on to build and paint sets and generally fix anything that didn't require a more specialized professional.

One hot afternoon in July, I was on break with some of the other employees. About five or six of us were outside at the back of the building, which was shaded at that time of day. Several yards away from us, a canal ran parallel to the back of the theater, and behind it was a thick row of trees. A light breeze carried over the scent of the woods and the water.

We talked about different things, and the topic eventually turned to the supernatural. At first it was mostly about haunted theaters and different encounters we'd had in them. Then we got talking about the supernatural in general. Finally, a dark-haired actress named Paula cleared her throat. "I knew somebody who got killed by a cult," she said.

We all looked at Paula.

"This gal I used to know," she said. "I worked with her at the last place I worked. Debbie. She got in with this weird crowd who said they were gonna teach her magic. They sacrificed her in a blood ritual. The cops said it was an accident, but... nah."

The possibility of an unsolved murder had me at full attention. "Wait, what? I mean, what makes you say that?"

"They found her washed up over at the lake we went swimming in sometimes. They said she drowned. She wouldn't have drowned, not by accident," Paula said firmly. "She knew that place like the back of her hand. Best swimmer I ever saw, too."

If I wanted to investigate this, I needed to get more information without sounding insensitive. When you've lost a loved one, how they died isn't really important. What's important is that they did die, and aren't around anymore, and how unfair that is. "I guess that's police for you," I said. "They don't really care. It's not their friends or families."

"You can say that again," Paula said. "I told them Debbie was murdered, but oh no."

I nodded. "Ever thought about going to a private detective or something?" I asked. "I mean - I apologize if this is the wrong time to bring it up, but I know one who'll take cases like yours. Sometimes free of charge." I had a plan here. They knew me as the eccentric guy who painted sets and fixed things. Repositioning myself as a private detective would be hard. But I knew someone they'd never seen: Omar. My boyfriend was just as qualified to call himself a private detective as I was, and he was usually down for this kind of thing.

"I..." She paused. "I'll think about it, yeah." She sighed.

"Think her family might also be interested?" I asked. We might waive the fee for Paula, but if her family would pay, well, that would be nice.

She shook her head. "No. Debbie and her family cut off. They didn't talk. Debbie said that they'd told her that if she ever left home, to never talk to them again." She sighed. "God, shoulda seen them at the funeral. They went on about much they missed their little girl but... it was like they were talking about a little kid who was still playing with dolls, you know?"

I nodded. I knew the kind of people she meant.

"So who's that private detective?" she asked. "I mean - Debbie went through hell. She deserves... something, I guess. Won't bring her back, but at least the creeps who did it can rot in jail."

"Hang on a sec," I said. I pulled my notepad and pencil out of my pocket and wrote down our phone number. "He's my roommate," I said. "Like I said, no charge if you can't afford it." I pulled off the paper and handed it to her.

She took it with a nod. "All right," she said. "Thanks, Adry."

I went home that evening to find Omar in the kitchen, sitting at the worn yellow Formica dining table. He had on jeans, a t-shirt, and an open button-up shirt - usual for his typically casual preferences. He was shucking corn; he'd done about six ears so far while a pile of at least three dozen more sat in a clothes basket with their husks on. I gave him a questioning look.

"Lady next door, daughter gave her a bunch of corn," he said. "But her arthritis was acting up, so I said I'd peel 'em for her and she'd give us some when she did 'em up to freeze."

I nodded and grabbed an ear from the basket, and began pulling off the husks. We shucked in comfortable silence for a few moments until I decided to bring up what Paula told me. "So, one of my co-workers, she knows somebody who was apparently murdered," I said.

Omar looked at me. "What?"

"I told her I knew a private detective," I said, and looked meaningfully into his eyes.

"Ah." He nodded a little. "And by private detective," he said, pointing an ear of corn at me, "You mean me." He grinned, showing his small, but sharply pointed canines.

"I do mean you," I said with a nod. "I gave her our number and told her you're my roommate. Is that okay?" I knew I wasn't forcing him into any seriously awkward position or anything; at worst, Omar would only have to tell her that he couldn't take her case.

He nodded. "Sure," he said. "Just so long as you know that you're gonna be the one doing most of the legwork, my gorgeous assistant." He leaned over and kissed my cheek.

"Well, yeah, obviously," I said.

We both shucked corn until the phone rang from the living room. Omar got up and answered it. "Hello? Hi, yeah. I'm Omar Younan, Adry's roommate. Yeah, I'm the private detective. Just... yeah, tell me what happened? Basic details, you can fill me in on the rest later." Omar took down notes on the Steno pad we kept near the phone. "Yeah, I can take the case. When can you come over - does eight work for you? Oh yeah, tonight's fine. Thanks. See ya." He hung the phone up.

By now, I had finished the corn and was occupying myself braiding the silk. I glanced at the clock. It was five thirty now. So I cleaned up the tassels and husks and put them in the trash, and Omar put the shucked corn into the basket and took it back to the neighbor. Then I made dinner - rotini tuna salad. After Omar came back we both ate - him finishing his meal with some blood and an egg yolk. Being a vampire, the actual food I cooked was nothing more than something that tasted good. The blood and yolk contained whatever vital force vampires needed to live.

After washing the dishes, we watched the news on our old black-and-white screen. After it was over, Omar turned off the screen and leaned on my shoulder in silence.

We spent many evenings like this, back around this time. Sometimes we'd talk about things, sometimes not. Tonight, it seemed, was a quiet night. I picked up the Steno pad, flipped to a clean page, and wrote some thoughts and notes down.

That's how we stayed until we heard the knock at our door. Omar got up and opened it. It was Paula. After he introduced himself he led her inside and invited her to sit down in the living room recliner. He got her a glass of water from the kitchen, and sat down on the sofa beside me.

Paula swung her knees and bit her lip - thoughtfully, not nervously. "Okay. So, where do I start?" she asked.

"Tell me about your girl," he said, leaning forward a little. "What was her name? What did she look like?"

I readied the Steno pad while Paula prepared to speak. She leaned back. "Her name's Debbie. Johnson. Um. Let's see. She moved here a few years back, 'cause, you know, problems with her parents. I think she just wanted something nice for herself, that's why she went to those magic classes. Not that I really... believe in that kinda thing, but you know, she seemed to be having a good time, and..." Paula paused and fidgeted. "I should've said something, shouldn't have I? Told her that kind of place was no good."

"You couldn't have known," I said. "You can't expect danger if you don't know to expect danger."

She nodded. "Yeah. All right, so it happened... two years back, in September. It was Lake Kimber." She rubbed her palms over her knees, fingers outstretched.

"She was found at Lake Kimber?" Omar asked. "Were there any strange markings on her, or around the place? Or anything you wouldn't necessarily expect from kids just camping out?"

Paula shook her head. "No, nothing," she said.

"And was anything missing? Clothes, personal items?" Omar asked.

"Nope," Paula said, shaking her head. "Nothing at all, far's I know."

I took notes in the meantime, faintly aware that I'd adopted a kind of stiff, yet unassuming poise that would have been considered very appropriate for a personal secretary, which could have looked somewhat odd with my more countercultural choice in style. I tried to relax a little. While I knew that Paula would likely neither notice nor care, I knew that there would be others who would. I couldn't afford to get careless.

"Do you remember the name of the school Debbie attended?" Omar asked.

"No. Just that it was local," Paula said. "But there can't be too many of those, right?" She looked at us hopefully.

I looked up. "You might be a little surprised," I said. "What about names? Teachers, classmates, anyone?"

"Oh..." Paula's eyebrows furrowed in concentration. "She talked about the teacher a lot. What was her name...? Beatrice, Patricia? I think it was Patricia."

"Do you remember a surname at all?" Omar asked. "Or did she mention the neighborhood her classes were in?"

Paula shook her head. "No."

Omar sighed and leaned back. "Okay, so we have a lady named Patricia, teaching magic, somewhere in Union. We know that much, right?" he asked.

"That's right, Paula said. "Well - oh, no, it can't quite be in Union, no. I remember she was talking about the gas. She complained about how much it cost to drive out there." She sighed. "I'm sorry I couldn't be more helpful."

I shook my head. "Nah, you did good. I think we can work with this."

Next Chapter
Previous Chapter

Back to Articles & Stories