Don't Hex with Texas

Page 23


That was when I noticed a figure sneaking through the theater. An explosion on the screen revealed the cloaked and hooded wizard, and he was aiming for the tall guy sitting in front of me. I slumped down in my seat, fished a Junior Mint out of my candy box, and flicked it at the base of the tall guy’s neck. He sat up with a start, rubbing his neck, and the wizard hit the floor. The wizard must have been trying a sleeping spell to make it easy to pickpocket the audience. I elbowed Nita hard in the ribs.
“Welcome to the Cobb Inn!” she blurted as she popped back to life. Then she blinked and looked around. “Did I fall asleep?” she whispered to me.
“You picked the movie,” I said with a shrug. She went back to gazing dreamily at Tom on the screen, and I noticed the wizard moving around the theater again. I leaned over to her and whispered, “I’m heading to the bathroom.” She barely nodded in acknowledgment, her eyes stuck on the screen.
I duckwalked to the end of the row, trying to keep my head below the level of the seats while avoiding getting any part of my body other than my feet on the theater floor, which was coated in decades’ worth of spilled soda. When I got to a place where I was safely hidden but still had a straight shot at the other audience members, I started throwing Junior Mints at the sleeping people to wake them up. Soon the theater was full of people sitting up and rubbing their heads. I hadn’t noticed the buildup of magic—probably because any vibrating from my necklace would have been lost in the boom of the sound system—but I felt its absence when the spell apparently ended. Just at that moment, I turned to see the cloaked figure slip out through the emergency exit in the front of the auditorium. I was tempted to follow him, but I knew I wasn’t equipped for taking down a wizard.
Sam was outside in the square, watching for cloaked figures, so I left it to him and went back to my seat.
Once the sleeping spell was gone, I was the one who had to be elbowed back to life at the end of the movie. As the lights came up, someone in the back of the theater shouted, “My wallet!” Then at the front of the theater, someone yelled, “Is this it?” Owner and wallet were soon reunited, although the wallet had been stripped of cash.
“It was probably some kid,” Nita said as we left the theater, still munching our leftover popcorn. “The crime rate has really gone up in the last year or so. Some of the kids have even tried to form a gang.
Not that they know what to do with a gang, but it’s a lot of pranks like that. I remember when you could leave your purse on the seat beside you during a movie and it would be totally safe.”
“Yeah, kids these days.”
The two of us were still giggling about sounding like old-timers when Nita shrieked. “What is it?” I asked.
She didn’t bother answering. Instead, she grabbed the wooden advertising sign from in front of the antiques shop next to the theater and beat it on the ground a few times, all the while shouting, “Take that, and that, and that!” Then she grabbed my arm, shrieked again, and took off running across the square. I had to struggle to keep up with her.
“What is it?” I asked again when she’d slowed down enough to talk.
She pointed shakily toward the sidewalk near the movie theater. “Snake! There! Sidewalk! Dead now!”
“You killed a snake on the sidewalk by the movie theater?” I translated.
She nodded furiously, and I couldn’t help but look for something high to stand on top of. “What kind of snake was it?”
“Dead. If you really want to know, you can go look for yourself, but I don’t think much of the head is left.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” I had a feeling there wouldn’t be anything to find, though. I hadn’t seen a snake at all. I suspected it had been little more than an illusion, but was Nita the target, or was I? I looked up to see Sam sitting on a tree branch nearby, and I felt a lot safer. His job was protecting people against magical threats, and I had a feeling he’d know what to do with a snake, too. “Are you okay?” I asked Nita.
“I need ice cream,” she announced. “Killing snakes makes me hungry.” We got into her car and went to the Dairy Queen for sundaes, then headed back to the courthouse square so I could get my truck and go home. Unfortunately, my truck wasn’t there.
“Boy, you were right about the crime,” I said, staring at the empty parking space. I didn’t care enough about the old truck to be too sad about it being stolen from me, but it was going to be inconvenient.
“Look, there’s something on the curb,” Nita pointed out. A piece of paper sitting on the curb fluttered from under a rock placed on top of it.