I’m continuing my personal WEP tradition to write interconnected stories for the year’s WEP challenges, which I started in 2017. This year, I decided to write a series of stories happening now, in Vancouver, Canada, … BUT with magic woven into the fabric of everyday life. All stories will feature the same magician, Monette, a young paper mage. Here is the first of the stories, my answer to the WEP February challenge.
Monette opened Spellingra, the ancient talking grimoire she had inherited from her great aunt, and reverently caressed the yellowed pages. Then she poured her woes into the book. “I knew it wasn’t the first time he cheated on me,” she concluded half an hour later. It still hurt to say the words, even two weeks after the debacle with her boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend. The pain should’ve dulled by now, but it hadn’t. “I yelled, and he yelled, and we exchanged ugly insults, and then I packed up and left. And slammed the door. I had to leave Toronto.”
Spellingra riffled its pages, radiating faint magic and strong disapproval. “Good.” The voice, more like a hiss, emerged from the center of the binding, where sparkles danced. “Don’t expect pity from me,” the book grumbled. “You haven’t opened me for a year. I always knew your paramour was a rat, but you wouldn’t believe me.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Monette sighed. “You were right. I’m sorry.” She should’ve trusted the book. Spellingra had never betrayed her, unlike her cheating rat of an ex. “I’ll keep you open from now on,” she promised. “I even bought a special stand for you. I’ll need your help. I’m going to start my own magic agency here, in Vancouver.”
Of course, unlike that of her ex, a spectacularly powerful magician, her magic was small – she was merely a paper mage – but she was going to call her agency Small Magics and charge low fees. And hope for the best.
“Will you help?” she asked.
In reply, one of the fluttering pages, the only empty one in the entire book, sprang upright.
“Thank you, darling.” Monette positioned one of her fingers at the top of the standing page and slid it quickly along the sharp edge. She winced at the sting of the paper cut and smeared her welling blood on the page. The blood sizzled and disappeared, leaving the page as pristine as before. Friendship reestablished.
Two days later, Monette got her first client, Susan, the owner of the coffee shop Van Gogh Muffins. With the mural of Van Gogh’s famous painting Café Terrace adorning the back wall, the little café looked smart and cozy. The muffins smelled delicious, and patrons crowded the small space, but Susan was clearly distraught.
“Someone is stealing my food,” she complained. “I tried the police, but they can’t find any evidence. The door is never forced, but the food disappears all the same. Every time I buy supplies – flour, butter, coffee, milk, you name it – about a quarter vanishes a few days later. No schedule, no pattern. I didn’t even notice at first, just realized my spending hiked. I’ll lose my business, if this doesn’t stop soon. I think some nasty magic is at work, but I can’t afford a big magic agency. Maybe you can do something, Monette?”
“I’ll try, Susan,” Monette said. “How long has this been going on?”
“Several months. I think.”
“Are you sure none of your employees is the culprit?”
“No,” Susan said firmly. “I only have two, and they’re not thieves.”
“Okay. Let’s see if I can spot any magical traces.”
Monette stalked through the spotless kitchen, touched the bins and the jugs, but no magical particles wafted around, no magical echo reverberated.
“When do you next buy supplies?” she asked.
“I got some yesterday. Sugar. Milk. Cinnamon.”
“Point me to the containers.” Monette settled at the desk in Susan’s office and pulled out a sheet of sticky paper and her set of acrylic paints. She painted a dozen tiny eyes, no bigger than a nail on her pinkie, cut them out, and blew her magic at them. She felt Spellingra in the back of her mind, adding strength to her magic, and her lips curved with satisfaction. “Watch for intruders who don’t belong,” she murmured to the eyes. “Follow them. Stick to their doors.” Then she attached the eyes to the bins of newly bought groceries and to the fridge handle.
“Yes. When you notice some of the food gone, call me.”
Susan phoned three days later. “At night, damn it. Always at night,” she fretted.
“We’ll find them,” Monette said. “My little eye spies will lead us to the thieves.”
But when she came into the shop, all her ensorcelled eyes were still there, only they migrated. Now they all clustered around one corner of the kitchen ceiling. Monette stared.
“Who lives upstairs?” she asked finally.
Susan’s eyes followed Monette’s to peer at the corner of her kitchen ceiling. “My ex,” she said in a soft voice, devoid of expression. “When we parted last year, the bugger wanted to keep the apartment. I wanted the café. And now he steals from me?” Her eyes turned steely.
“I don’t see any trap doors,” Monette said. “And no magic but my own. How does he get in or out?”
“There is a hidden trap door there. I forgot about it,” Susan said in the same silky voice. She switched her attention back to Monette. “I hope you’re licensed, and your testimony will stand in the court of law.”
“Of course,” Monette said. “I have a diploma from the New York School of Magic and a North American license.”
“I’ll destroy the cad!” Susan vowed, her eyes flashing dangerously. “Write your report, Monette. Thank you. You saved my life.”
Monette wrote her report. She should’ve employed a bevy of her magic eyes on her own ex, she thought wryly. Then, she might’ve known about his perfidy beforehand. Maybe… Thinking of her lying ex ignited a new idea.
“Do you want some needles, Susan, to swarm your ex, if he attempts to come again? I can paint long needles and stick them around the trap door,” she volunteered.
“Yes! Rusty nails!” Susan said vengefully. “The swine!”
“Rusty nails it is.” Monette laughed and pulled out her paints and paper again.