Don't Hex with Texas
And she was off. This was a plan she might actually carry out, I thought as I noticed the way her eyes shone. I knew how stifled I felt around here and could only imagine what life must be like for her.
“Let me know what you decide, and I’ll try to swing some time off myself.”
I heard a car drive up in front of the office and whirled to look. It was a relatively new, bland sedan that was probably a rental. My heart started racing. Maybe he’d stopped to secure accommodations and then freshen up before meeting me at the store to get the scoop, and this was the only motel in town. The only other lodgings were in a bed-and-breakfast in an old mansion near the square.
Unfortunately for both Nita and me, the man who got out of the car was neither young and Indian nor Owen. He was just another middle-aged traveling salesman type who must have pissed off someone in his company to get assigned this cruddy territory.
I shook my head at my own silliness. Why was I still getting excited to see a rental car when I was fairly certain it wasn’t going to be Owen? Deep down inside, I supposed I still hoped that he’d insist on being the one to come investigate because he wanted to see me as much as I wanted to see him.
Nita didn’t have a monopoly on romantic fantasies, it appeared.
While she checked the salesman in, I arranged our lunches on the desk behind the counter, then picked up one of the many magazines she kept in a nearby basket and flipped through it. It was one of those regional tourist magazines they put in hotel rooms, with a few articles about local attractions, a calendar of events, and a lot of ads. The articles were the same in almost every issue, so I went straight to the ads, hoping to find something interesting to do in there. What I saw was more than interesting. It was downright weird.
On the page full of ads for area private schools, there was one that said, “Can you read this?” Since I could, I kept reading.
If you’re one of the few, select people who can read this ad, you may have special abilities! With theright training to develop your natural talents, fame and fortune are practically inevitable!
It reminded me of those ads that said if you could draw a turtle cartoon, you could get training to illustrate children’s books. Except this ad didn’t ask for anything other than the ability to read it. I leaned closer to the page so my necklace practically touched it, and then I felt the faint vibration from a very weak spell. The ability they were looking for was magic, I was sure. The ad must have been veiled so that only people with magic powers—or the complete lack thereof—could read it. I had a feeling I knew where our local wizard must have come from. Someone around here was training people to use magic.
Nita sent the customer off on his way to his room, then we settled down for lunch. I left the magazine open on the desk, the ad clearly visible. “What do you think of that?” I asked, pointing in the general direction of the ad in question.
She leaned over and squinted at the page. “‘Miss Rochester’s Academy for Young Ladies,’” she read.
“‘Training girls in social deportment for a refined way of life.’ You have got to be kidding. I am so glad my mom never saw anything like this when I was in high school. If she thought she could have shipped me off to a private school to teach me to be demure, she would have.”
If Nita couldn’t see it, the ad must have been veiled, and this also meant that Nita was neither magical nor magically immune. “It sounds kind of Victorian, doesn’t it?” I said. I finished my lunch, then made excuses about getting back to the store. “Mind if I take this?” I asked, picking up the magazine.
“Why? You think you need to learn social graces?”
“No, there’s an article I thought Teddy would be interested in.”
“Sure, take it,” she said with a wave. “I get a stack of them every month. The idea is to give them away.”
Once I got into investigation mode, it was hard to stop myself, so on my way back to the store, I detoured by the courthouse square to see if anything was going on. It appeared to be the kind of day that put the “sleepy” into “sleepy little town.” Not much of anything was stirring, especially not a robed wizard. The statues remained reassuringly still.
Then I took another look at the roof. There were gargoyles on part of the courthouse, but I didn’t recall ever seeing any on this side. I tensed as a gargoyle unfurled its wings and soared down to ground level. That was certainly something I’d never seen the courthouse gargoyles do. It was, however, something I’d seen gargoyles do often enough in New York, particularly this one.