Don't Hex with Texas
“Sam!” I cried out and ran to hug him. I had to bend a little because gargoyles aren’t generally that big, and he folded his wings around me in a hug. I realized then that I’d never touched him before. He had an odd texture, simultaneously rocky and leathery. “I’m glad they sent you,” I said when we broke apart.
“Hey, wouldn’t have missed it for the world, doll. Besides, who’d you expect them to send other than their top gumshoe?”
“I’m glad they sent the best.”
“What appears to be the deal?”
I explained quickly about the things Mom had seen and what I’d observed. When I finished, Sam nodded. “Okay, looks like I’ll be staking out the square here for a while, get an idea what the perp’s up to, and then I can figure out what to do about it.”
“Sounds like a plan. I’ve also found something I want to check out.” I told him about the magazine ad.
He made a whistling sound, like the wind blowing across the top of a Coke bottle. “That’s not good.
You think that’s what our local wizard is up to?”
“Could be. There’s a Web address, so I’ll go look it up, and I’ll keep you posted on what I find. Want me to stop by on any particular schedule?”
“Nah, don’t worry about it. I’m officially on the case, so you can stand down. I’ll find you if I need you. This place ain’t a tenth the size of Manhattan, and I can find you there.” Actually, the incorporated landmass of the town wasn’t too much smaller than Manhattan Island, but I knew what he meant.
“Okay, then. Let me know if you need anything. Oh, and remember that you might have to be careful.
People are more likely to notice little oddities and ask about them here than they are in New York.
News spreads fast. Plus, my mom’s immune, and I think my grandmother might be, too. I have other relatives around, so there’s no telling how far that trait spreads.” It would be ironic if this town turned out to be the nonmagical capital of the world from being the home of more immunes than any other place. That would actually explain a lot about how boring the place was.
“Got it. Now shoo so I can get on with my stakeout.”
Once I got back to the store, it took me awhile before I had time to look up the magic school. We were busy with customers, and then even when the afternoon rush died down, I kept having family members pop into my office. They finally got busy again with their own work, and I pulled the folded-up magazine out of my bag, then typed the Web address into my browser.
It took the site forever to load, which made me wonder how much bandwidth magic required. The initial page looked a lot like the ad, but instead of the contact info in the ad, there was a button to click on if you could see the ad and wanted to know more. I clicked on it, then waited for the next page to load.
When it came up, the Spellworks logo was at the top of the page. My stomach did a backflip before tying itself into a square knot. That company was our enemy, and that meant Phelan Idris was behind whatever was going on in town.
I had to hold my breath while I read so I could concentrate, and moving my computer’s mouse was difficult with my hands shaking. The Web page said that if you could read this site, you had magical powers—which wasn’t entirely accurate, as I very well knew, but I didn’t expect them to explain the concept of magical immunity in their initial “magic is real” paragraph. There had to be something else in the site to weed out people like me. It went on to describe all the benefits of having magical powers, including the usual stuff like wealth, influence over others, and making the world work the way you wanted it to. Of course, there was no mention of learning the proper context for using your power, but then a code of ethics wasn’t something I’d expect to see in a sales pitch, so I didn’t count the ethical lapse against Idris this time.
For an introductory fee of five hundred dollars and then a monthly fee of two hundred dollars, you could learn to use your powers. The site promised that within two months, you could start using magic to more than make up for the amount you spent on the lessons. Lessons would be taught online using streaming video, with message boards for interacting with the instructor and with other students. The rest was the usual “act now” stuff, including info on paying by credit card for automatic monthly payments.
I clicked around on the page, trying to find more information, but everything appeared to be password protected. Oddly, I didn’t see anything to click on in order to sign up for the classes. That must have been their trap to weed out immunes. The “sign up now” button was probably an illusion that I couldn’t see.