First draft excerpt from Gifts of the Mother

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We headed outside and Zeb handed me a piece of chalk. I knelt down and reached out as far as I could before spinning around slowly in a circle to draw a bigger circle on the driveway, maybe three feet or so in diameter.

It wasn't good enough for Zeb. He pointed to a place where the line crossed what had likely been a bubble in the cement when it was poured. "See that? 's no good. The circle's broke afore ya start!"

"Can it be repaired?" I asked, drawing over the gap with the chalk to the point where there was a continuous line of chalk, just a little bit thinner in that place because of the bubble.

"Yeah, that'll prob'ly work," he admitted, "The important thing is it's gotta be con-tin-was, 's IF you din't pick up yer chalk while drawin' the line. Now le's all look for other holes." Julie and I looked around the line of the circle; it didn't appear there were any other gaps like the first.

"Okay, now, stand inside, put yer drop o' blood on th' circle, 'n' will it to pertect."

I didn't have anything to draw blood handy, and I didn't want to scratch to get one, but it was a summer afternoon, over ninety still and I was in a suit. I'd developed a sheen of sweat; I ran my hand over my face and came away with enough it would probably drip off if I let it, leaned over to almost touch the circle and willed the protection as the drop fell.

I felt it right away, a feeling almost like static electricity. I didn't need to hear Zeb's "Hot damn! Jes' 's strong as yer light 'n' shield! Yer gonna be a helluva sorc'erer when ya get some 'sperience!"

"Okay, so how do I stop it?"

"Jes' step outta the circle! 'T'ill ground out. But don' step on it or smear it, yer wife's gonna use it, too!"

Julie carefully stepped into the same circle, powered it in the same way I had. It worked just as well too, judging by her smile and Zeb's interjection of "Her too! Jes' 's strong! Jumpin' Jee-ho-sa-phat, I wanna see what 's like when you two learn enough ta work together!"

And that was about the time our two favorite detectives drove up. Whitehall and Ramirez. They'd probably been by earlier, asked one of the aforementioned neighbors who thought I was a murderer to call if I came home.

"Mark Jackson, Julie Ingmar, we need you to come downtown and answer some questions."

"Whyever for?" Zeb asked, "The answers 'r' going to be the same right here."

"Detective Whitehall, Detective Ramirez," I said, "RaDonna Adedeji called me this morning to say there'd been an attack on my old office, and told me you were looking for me. At the time, I'd been looking at a property in Pasadena we're considering buying for nearly two hours, with three other people, two of them the entire time. We also met two tenants of the property during that time."

They looked at Julie, "I was in a boring office meeting that should have been an e-mail," Julie said, "But Mr. Silver likes to show off, and he pays my salary."

"What are you doing here?" Ramirez eyed the circle suspiciously.

"'m teachin' 'em to play a game I know." I hadn't known Zeb could be sarcastic, much less that he was good at it.

"Right. Who were these people whom you were with?" Detective Whitehall asked.

"Karen Alder, Jerome Butler, and Rose Houseman, an architect Ms. Alder recommended." I followed with their phone numbers. "The tenants are Harriet and Amanda, I don't know their last names, but they are tenants at the address. The listing agent set up the showing with my agent, Zhou Li." I gave them Zhou's number as well. I wasn't certain of the listing agent, and better the listing agent speak to Zhou or Karen anyway.

He looked at Julie, "Everyone in my office was there except Liz, who was in court."

"Ya heered 'em, they could'na done it!" Zeb almost screamed, "Go 'way and leave us alone!"

For a miracle, they did. Both detectives turned around and returned to their car without another word, got in, and Ramirez drove them off.

"Did you do that?" I asked Zeb.

"Durned tootin'! That one is a right nasty piece o' work! Li'l bit o' mind magic ne'er hurt no one, long's it's the truth! Yer getting married tomorry, right? Ain't got time fer him to be persecutin' his private little war!"

Oh hell. "What's likely to happen when it wears off?"

I'd meant the question for Zeb, but Julie answered, "Well, I'd expect them to be hesitant enough about admitting they were charmed to call the people we named and verify our alibi first, and that's if they didn't do it before Zeb's spell wears off. Then knowing we weren't there, they won't be in a good position to come bother us again without some sort of evidence laying it at our feet. Since we didn't do it, that will be hard."

"What if they don't have any other leads?"

"Zeb's right about Ramirez. He may try to manufacture something. But that's a worry for another day."

Copyright 2022 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on May 23, 2022 7:00 AM.

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