Mad Mage Cafe
Tommy Cotton sighed as pulled into the cafe parking lot. The Mad Mage was always popular, but this day seemed busier than usual. Great, some asshat had parked in the handicapped slot. The gift shop next door had open spaces so, reluctantly, Tommy went over and parked his car.
Muttering under his breath as he went, Tommy limped across to the cafe. On the way past the handicapped slot he flicked his fingers at the offending car. Nothing happened, the damn car had to be shielded. So, a rich asshat. Those shields were expensive.
The line up was long, but he finally reached the counter. “Hey, Tommy, you’re early today. The usual?” the tall balding man behind the counter began to fix up Tommy’s favorite.
“Yeah, the usual, Dal. I’ve got an interview with the M. cops this morning.”
“Maybe a full shot?”
“No, they’ll clue in to that, just the regular.”
The man grinned as he worked. “That’s a tall latte with a half shot of caution, coming right up.”
Tommy paid the man and moved on. The place was full, so he’d have to share a table. Not paying much attention he sat with a teenage girl, muttering an apology. “Sorry the place’s full.”
“’S okay,” she replied and he looked up.
Tommy’s jaw dropped and he was instantly in lust. The girl was exquisite, absolute perfection, a god-created beauty with the voice of an angel. “I’m Stacy,” she said, what’s your name?” Poor Tommy was stuck for an answer.
Daleran Longstride had been behind that bar for more years than he’d care to count, and he’d seen that look on a man’s face far too many times before. “Uh-oh,” he hissed as he caught sight of Tommy. In a heartbeat he was beside the man, roughly shaking him by the shoulder.
Startled by the man’s sudden attack on his shoulder, Tommy shook off the trance and looked up. “What the hell’s wrong with you, Dal?”
“Get a grip, boy, take a hard look at her.”
Tommy’s eyes snapped back to the girl. This time he saw through the glamour. She was about sixteen, braces on her teeth, a zit on her forehead, and make up pasted on way too thick. “Jesus, girl, what the hell are you on anyway?” he asked.
“Nothing,” she replied sulkily.
“I gave you a single shot of allure,” said Dal. “I’m betting you added two more you bought on the street.”
“Three,” she admitted. “Please don’t call the M.cops.”
“Why shouldn’t we? You want to do it, Tommy or will I?” The girl’s eyes flew wide with fear.
“Take it easy, Dal.” Tommy was looking closely at her now. “Look, kid, you’re young, and in a hurry to grow up. I get that. But I can see what you can’t see.”
“In a few years you’ll be a real heart breaker. You don’t need the damned allure, what you need is a double shot of patience. Now, the school is only two blocks away. Let Dal give you something to clear that crap out of your system then beat feet for school. We’ll say you were never here.” she nodded slowly.
Dal mixed her a shot and she tossed it down. Everyone in the room felt it as the allure dissipated in the air. She set down the glass and fled. Dal passed something else to Tommy. “Here, mix this into your latte.”
Tommy eyed it suspiciously. “What is it, Dal?”
“A shot of focus. Jesus, Tommy, a kid on allure caught you napping. You can’t afford to get blindsided like that.”
“Yeah, you’re right about that, Dal. Thanks.”
Dal gave him a friendly slap on the shoulder then returned to his place behind the bar. Tommy mixed in the shot then took a long pull from the cup. As he looked up he saw a man in an expensive suit approaching the offending car in the handicapped slot. He watched until the man used his remote to deactivate the shield. Grinning, Tommy snapped his fingers and both front tires on the car blew out.
“That’ll teach ya, Asshat,” he muttered as he returned his attention to his latte.
Mad Mage #2
Daleran Longstride stood behind the counter polishing a glass. The Mad Mage was quiet this particular morning. Dal had seen many mornings like this over the years, and secretly he preferred them this way.
“Ten to nine,” he mused. “If Tommy is still out of jail he should be in for his morning pick-me-up soon.”
Right on cue Tommy’s old car rolled into the parking lot and settled into the handicapped slot. Dal grinned as he watched his friend struggle out of the car and limp through the door. “Morning, Tommy, the usual?”
“The usual, Dal, thanks.”
“I see you’re still out of jail.”
“Yeah, still got the damned leg clamp on though, the bastards. My knee is already shot. My own leg brace with a tracer should have been enough.”
“You cost the mayor a lot of money, Tommy. I think he’s bitter.”
“I surely do,” chuckled Dal as he passed over Tommy’s drink. “Tall latte with a half shot of caution.”
Tommy thanked him and settled in at a table by the window where he could watch the world go by. The hum of soft voices floated through the room and he grinned as he overheard two women at a nearby table.
“I’m telling you, that’s him, that’s Tommy Cotton, the private detective who caught that crooked politician last year.”
“No, girl, the cops say he was in on the scam too. That’s how he got shot in the knee, trying to escape. That’s why they keep that leg brace on him.”
“That doesn’t mean anything. Remember Betty from accounting? She slapped that cop for grabbing her ass and spent the next six months in a leg clamp.”
“I know, right? My roommate’s cousin is a cop. The things he brags about getting away with, I tell you …”
Tommy let his attention wander to the window and the world outside. A few minutes later a woman in expensive clothes came in, bought a latte then leaned across the counter to speak softly to Dal who nodded towards Tommy. Tommy sighed as he heard her approaching.
She sat gracefully and set her drink on the table, a business card beside. Without looking directly at Tommy she slid the card across the table beside his mug. She turned and gazed out the window.
He picked up the card and glanced at it. Gail Mercer, attorney at Law. On the back was only two words in a flowing feminine script. “Help me!” He glanced up at Dal and quirked an eyebrow at him. Dal gave him the nod.
With a sigh Tommy wrote something on his own card. He rose to leave, and as he picked up his mug he set the card beside her drink. As he limped towards the door she picked up the card. It had only an address in the older part of town on it. On the back he written, “Two o’clock?” she made eye contact and nodded as he walked past the window.
Two o’clock rolled around and she arrived right on time. “Come in and sit down, Ms. Mercer. Tell me how I can help.”
“My daughter’s missing. The police are incompetent, as I’m sure you’re already aware, and are no help at all.” he grinned and nodded. “Melody didn’t come home from school yesterday, and I can’t find her. Will you help me? I’ll pay whatever fee you want.”
Tommy gazed at the picture of the pretty teenager. “Tell me a story, Ms. Mercer.”
She sighed deeply and studied her hands in her lap. “Melody’s pissed because I moved her to a public school.”
“Let me guess, private school, lots of money, plenty of magic drinks floating around. What’s her favorite, allure, prowess, photo memory for grades?”
“Allure,” she sighed. “I’ve already tried all of her old friends as well as her pusher. Nobody’s seen her. Please …”
“All right, come on,” he replied as he rose slowly from the chair and reached for his cane.
“I’m wearing a leg clamp, I won’t dare touch her. You’ll have to grab her.”
“Oh, right. Okay. Do you think you know where she might be?” she asked as she followed him out to his old car.
“Nope, but I bet I know somebody who does.”
She was surprised when he drove to the public school near the Mad Mage cafe. It was just starting to let out for the day. “I told you, she didn’t come home yesterday and she didn’t show up here today either.”
“I know. We’re looking for someone else right now. Ah, there she is.” it was the girl from the cafe the day before. He pulled the car up beside her and rolled down the window. “Hey there.”
“Bugger off, Perv. Oh, it’s you. Hey man, I’m clean, look at my eyes.”
“Not here to hassle you, girl. I’m looking for somebody else. You know a girl named Melody Mercer?”
“Miss Snotty Bitch Mercer? Oh yeah, I know who she is.”
“Where would she go if she wanted to get blasted for a few days?”
the girl looked both ways before speaking. “Okay, but you didn’t hear this from me. The Green Egg shop, back room.”
“Obliged,” said Tommy as he drove away.
Tommy drove the three blocks then carefully circled the place. It had a large parking lot that was wide open. It looked safe. “Okay, here’s the plan. You get out here and call a cab. I’ll go around the front, show a phony badge, and start a stampede out the back door. You grab your kid and I’ll go back to my office where the M-cops will be waiting to grab me.
“They’ll hassle me for a while, make a few threats, then go home feeling all tough and manly, but they won’t charge me, too much paperwork.”
Unsure about the idea, she got out of the car and called a taxi while he drove away. It didn’t take long. Standing by the back door she heard his voice clearly. “All right, nobody move a muscle. This is a raid.”
the back door burst open and people of all ages in various stages of undress and intoxication came pouring out. She grabbed her daughter by the arm and stuffed her into the taxi which had just arrived.
The next morning As Tommy arrived at the Mad Mage, Dal passed him his usual and an envelope. Tommy went to a table by the window, took a sip from the mug then looked in the envelope. Dal’s grin widened as Tommy gave a soft whistle then tucked the check into his jacket pocket. He hadn’t mentioned a fee and now he was glad he hadn’t.
Mad Mage Cafe
It was an average morning at the Mad Mage Cafe, the sounds of the music barely audible over the hum of voices raised in conversation. Dal loved it. He smiled with contentment as he wiped the counter dry.
A police car pulled up and parked in the handicapped slot. Dal frowned as the big cop climbed out and swaggered to the door. He turned his back as the man entered. Dal waited until the man had cleared his throat for attention twice, then turned to his customer.
“Morning officer. My M license is right here on the wall. I think you’ll find it current and the inspection quite recent. Everything’s in order.”
“Of course it’s in order, Longstride. I don’t know what you’ve got on those fools down at city hall, but you seem to have the only M licensed cafe in the city. Why is that?”
“Couldn’t say, officer.”
“Ah, to hell with it, that’s not why I’m here anyway. I’m looking for Cotton.”
“Oh? Have you tried the fabric shop in the next block?”
“Ha ha, very funny. You know damn well I mean that crooked P.I., Tommy Cotton. He’s here every day at this time.”
“Not today he won’t be,” replied Dal.
“Oh, why not?”
“Somebody parked in his parking slot. Tommy’s crippled by that leg clamp, can’t walk the length of the room hardly.”
“Oh for fuck sake,” snarled the cop as he went back outside and moved his car.
Across the street Tommy sat in his car, swearing as the cop returned to the handicapped slot once again. He’d spotted Tommy’s car in the neighboring parking lot. “Dammit all to hell, Tarleigh, why can you go harass somebody else and let me have my morning coffee in peace.”
Inside the policeman ordered a large coffee with a shot of patience. “Patience? You planning to wait here for Tommy?” asked Dal. “You’ve got better chances of finding him at his office. I could give you directions.”
“Nope, I want to talk to him here.”
“All right, here you go, large coffee with a shot of patience. Enjoy!”
Across the street, Tommy gave up. Still swearing profusely, he got out of his car and limped slowly to the cafe. As he entered, Dal made eye contact and nodded at the policeman. Tommy indicated that he saw him.
“The usual Tommy?”
“Yup, the usual, Dal.”
“Here you go, tall latte with a full shot of caution.”
Tommy raised an eyebrow at him, but Dal gave him a look. Tommy nodded and took a sip. The extra magic potion had a slightly bitter taste, but he could manage. He took another sip then limped over to sit with the big policeman. “Morning, Tarleigh, you’re out slumming early.”
“Ha ha, you’re a riot, Cotton. I really don’t know how you do it. You sure must have something big on somebody with pull downtown.”
“Oh, what’s up?”
“Your time, apparently,” replied the big man as he drained his mug and set it heavily back on the table. “By order of the governor, your sentence is now commuted. You are now free to go about your business as you please.” he knelt, unlocked the leg clamp from Tommy’s knee and removed it.
“Tarleigh, you bastard, you know I can’t walk without a leg brace of some kind. My car is across the street, how the hell am I supposed to get home?”
“Not my problem,” grinned the big cop as he slung the heavy clamp over his shoulder and swaggered out the door.
“Dirty rotten son of a bitch,” mutter Tommy.
Suddenly Dal appeared at his side. “Where is it, Tommy?”
“Office. On the shelf behind the desk.”
Dal closed his eyes for a moment, his lips moving slightly, but making no sound. “Okay, I see it. Come to me.” He opened his hands and Tommy’s custom leg brace was in his hands. “Want me to strap it on for you?”
Dal knelt and carefully strapped the brace onto Tommy’s leg. “There now, take a few steps to make sure I’ve got it right.”
Tommy stood and took a few practice steps. After months of being hampered by that painful clamp, having his own brace back was heaven. He grinned as he realized Dal had done a little something extra to it. “Dal, this is amazing. I owe you one.”
Dal just smiled and nodded. “It’s all good, Tommy.” he patted his friend’s shoulder then returned to his natural place behind the counter. He grinned to himself as he watched Tommy walk back to his car with hardly a trace of a limp.