Don't Hex with Texas

Page 17


I checked over my shoulder one more time before launching into the whole story about the wizard on the courthouse square. “And now the family thinks Mom is crazy. I can’t let her be medicated or locked away when I know that what she’s seeing is real. Are there even supposed to be wizards in this area?”
“There are none I’ve heard of. I shall have to check with the regulatory body to see if one has registered. I do, however, find it very suspicious that one has appeared in your hometown at this time.”
“Do you think Idris and his gang figured out where I am and followed me to stir things up? That was exactly what I was trying to prevent by leaving New York, you know.”
“We don’t yet have enough information to know, but we should at least investigate. Given our ongoing problems with rogue magic, I would prefer to be safe rather than sorry.”
“Thank you. I had a feeling this was something you’d want to hear about. So far, this guy doesn’t seem to be doing anything all that dangerous other than stirring up Mom and maybe bilking the courthouse workers out of a dollar or two. I guess I’m mostly worried because his spells look awfully familiar, like the type of spells Idris has been trying to sell. At the very least, it might tell us if he’s going after a national market.”
Idris had once worked for MSI but was fired for spending too much time developing ethically questionable spells. He’d then gone into business for himself marketing those same spells out of back-alley shops, and we’d managed to put a stop to that by making sure he couldn’t sell anything he’d developed as an MSI employee. He’d made a comeback with some serious financial backing, this time selling a wider variety of spells, but still focusing on the kind of magic MSI avoided, like using magic to influence others for personal gain.
“I will send someone to investigate as soon as possible,” Merlin said.
“Great!” And then because I couldn’t resist, I added, “And how are things going otherwise? Any new developments?”
“Mr. Idris is being his usual elusive self. We have had no new encounters since you left, which has made it difficult to make much headway.”
“Maybe all I need to do is stay out of town and you won’t have any trouble at all,” I grumbled.
“I hardly think that is the case. He and the people he apparently answers to have likely been working on something new that will surprise and confound us, as always.”
“Oh. Well, keep up the good work.”
After I got off the phone with Merlin, I got online to check airline schedules, just out of curiosity. If whoever Merlin sent took half an hour or so to wrap things up at the office, he could be home within an hour. He might need half an hour to pack, and then it could take at least an hour to get to LaGuardia at this time of day. That is, if he used normal transportation. Magical folk had other means of travel at their disposal, things like teleporting or using flying carpets, but I decided to estimate on the safe side. I looked for flights within a couple of hours of that time and saw that there were several options throughout the evening. They arrived at the Dallas–Fort Worth airport very late at night, and then it was about a two-hour drive to get here.
I forced myself to stop creating a mental itinerary before I drove myself crazy. I had no idea how big an emergency they considered this to be. Nobody was going to rush straight to the airport and hop a plane just because I’d called with a report of odd things going on in a small, out-of-the-way town.
Besides, I doubted it would be the person I most wanted them to send. Why would they send one of their top guys to check on a little bit of amateur wizardry in a backwater like this? Owen would be in New York, heading up the overall efforts, not running off to Texas to put out minor fires. They probably had specialists for dealing with new wizards in unexpected places. And did I really want to see him, anyway?
Well, yeah, I did want to see him. I got a flutter in my chest just thinking about it. The question was, would seeing him be a good idea? I was able to feel noble and stoic for my brave decision to walk away from a man I was falling in love with in order to further the greater good. If I saw him again, it might not be so easy to be noble. There was also always the chance that he didn’t want to see me. I had no idea what he thought about what I’d done, whether he understood or was angry. So I guess that made Owen both the person I most and least wanted to see.
I held my breath all morning at the store the next day, and I nearly jumped out of my skin every time I heard the front door open. It was entirely possible that whomever Merlin had sent could be here by now. But each time, it was only a customer. I spent more time in the front of the store than I usually liked to; I was far too edgy to stay in my office.