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.
Mad Mage #4
The air was damp, heavy with impending rain, causing Tommy’s knee to ache more than usual. He limped slowly to the door of the Mad Mage Café and went inside. The place was unusually quiet. All his warning instincts went on full alert.
The man behind the bar looked up as he came in. “Morning, Tommy. The usual?”
“The usual, Dal.”
“That’s a tall latte with a full shot of clear memory.”
Tommy’s eyes snapped up to meet his. That was definitely not his usual. “I need a favor.”
Daleran Longstride didn’t ask for favors, ever. Tommy swallowed hard then nodded. “Tall latte with a full shot of clear memory it is.” He waited while his friend made up the drink and passed it to him. “Where?”
Tommy nodded then took a long sip from his drink before limping over to sit at the table with the elderly woman. At first glance she could be mistaken for a homeless person. “Mind if I join you?” he asked so softly only she would be able to hear him.
“Sure. You Tommy?”
“Yes Ma’am. What do you need?”
She sighed and sipped at her drink for a moment, as though judging if she should speak or not. “A long time ago I lost something, a trinket of great sentimental value. It’s now being housed in the museum. I’d really like to get it back as discretely as possible.”
“Understood. What does it look like?”
She reached for her drink and her hand brushed against his. An image flashed into his mind for a moment. “Got it?”
“Tonight. I’ll be here tomorrow as usual.”
“Understood.” She rose heavily and turned to go. As she stepped away she stumbled and caught herself against his injured knee. Tommy felt a wave of healing energy wash through the knee. It almost made him laugh out loud with surprise and delight, but he managed to remain silent. “I expect you’ll want that working properly tonight.” With that she walked away, leaning heavily on her cane.
Tommy schooled himself to remain in his seat and finish his drink. At length he rose and carefully limped out and to his car. He was sweating as he drove back to his office and locked himself inside. He had the best knee brace going, but hadn’t been able to afford the surgery to fix the knee. A magical fix was way the hell out of his pay grade.
Inside the office he removed the brace and tested the knee. Slowly he began to smile then a wild laugh of pure glee escaped his lips. The knee was perfect. God damn, who the hell was that woman? Even a druidic surgeon would have to work on a fix like that over two or three sessions. Cripes, she’d done it in a heartbeat. Not a woman to piss off.
Tommy grabbed his phone and dialed. “Shelly.”
“Shelly, I need you tonight.”
“Oh thank god, my prayers have been answered at last.”
“Just shut up and listen. Do not screw with me on this one. Do it right and we’re square on that favor you owe me.”
“Jesus, Tommy. Yeah, whatever. This won’t get me killed will it?”
“Nope. You might spend a day or two in the pound, but that’s all.”
“I’ll be right there.” Ten minutes later he heard the click of her heels on the floor outside.
* * * * *
It was still raining as the security guard pulled up and parked, cursing that the lot was full of cars. With his coat over his head he ran to the door of the museum and unlocked it. As he whipped it open a small dog raced past him into the building, setting off all the alarms. Swearing like a madman he gave chase.
A shadowy figure slipped in behind him and disappeared into the shadows.
The day shift guard came running, gun drawn. “What the hell?”
“Shut off the fucking alarms, a goddamned dog ran past be before I could get them shut off.”
“A dog ran in and tripped the alarms. Shut ‘em off and call off the cops while I catch that goddamned mutt.”
The second man shut off the alarms then went to help find the dog. While the alarms were screaming the shadowy figure slipped something from a display case, then, as they chased the dog, slipped out the door again.
Eventually they caught the dog and tossed it out the door. It raced away, around the block and hopped into the back seat of Tommy’s car. “You get it?” asked a girl’s voice as she pulled on her clothes.
“Got it,” he replied as he passed her a hundred-dollar bill.
“Wow, square up the favor and a hundred? Must be some haul.”
“No idea, and I don’t care. Client’s request.”
“Yeah, works for me. Just drop me off at my place, Tommy.”
* * * * *
Next morning the old lady was sitting at the same table, gazing out the window as Tommy jogged across the parking lot and breezed through the door. “Morning, Dal.”
Daleran met his eyes and Tommy nodded. “Morning, Tommy. The usual?”
“That’s a tall latte with a half shot of caution.”
Tommy grinned and thanked him as he passed over the drink. Taking his morning treat, Tommy walked over to sit at the table with the old woman. “Oops, looks like you dropped your tissue, Ma’am,” he said as he passed her a rumpled tissue.
Her eyes danced with delight as she felt the hard object inside. A quick glance inside the tissue and her smile broadened. “I get the right one?” he asked softly.
“You did. What’s your fee?”
“I’ve already been paid,” he grinned as he flexed his knee and smiled. She rose and left the table, patting him on the shoulder as she walked past. She smiled and winked at Daleran as she walked out.
Mad Mage #5
Tommy Cotton took his morning latte (with a half shot of caution) over to an empty table where he could see the window. Taking a long sip, he sighed as he took note of the unmarked police car across the street. “Do you honestly think I wouldn’t recognize you, Tarleigh? Moron.”
Grinning to himself, Tommy took his time with the latte, keeping an eye on the man in the car trying not to be noticed. Finally, Tommy got up and went to the counter for another coffee, straight this time. Too much caution and he might start getting paranoid. He returned to his seat and watched the man in the car watching him.
“That Tarleigh out there?” asked Dalaran Longstride, as he cleared away the mugs from the adjoining table.
“Yep, that’s him, the city’s finest,” grinned Tommy.
“Wonder what he’s up to?”
“Whatever it is it can’t be good, and I just know I’m not going to like it.”
“Got a plan?”
“He’s been swilling coffee since I got here. You’ve got the only public washroom on the block. When he breaks down and comes in, I’ll slip away.”
“You might want to visit the head yourself, you know, don’t want to get caught in your own trap.”
Tommy rose and walked away. “Good point.” He was soon back with another coffee but wasn’t drinking it. He grinned as he saw the big policeman squirming in his seat. Ten minutes later the cop got out of the car and approached the café, keeping his face averted. As he entered the washroom, Tommy Cotton bolted through the door and drove away.
Two blocks later Tommy’s jaw dropped as he saw a beautiful woman riding a unicorn down the street. She turned onto a side street, and, slack jawed, Tommy followed. She had stopped and was waiting for him. He parked and got out of the car.
She shook back her golden hair and flashed him a devastating smile. It took him a minute to realize she’d spoken. “Sorry, what was that?”
“I said, look back, watch the street.”
Puzzled, he looked back to see Tarleigh drive by. “You seem to have grown a tail since we last met, Tommy.”
“We’ve met before?”
“That we have.”
Poor Tommy was getting lost in those eyes and the sweet music of her voice. This woman was exceptional, and he was struggling a bit, not something he was accustomed to. She started away, and he called out to her. “Hey, what’s your name, pretty lady?”
“You can call me Zenni,” she replied then the unicorn raced away with her clinging to its back. Her silvery laughter lingered in the, air and his mind, as she sped away and vanished around another building.
Tommy shook off the spell and got back in his car. “Damn, I wonder just how much allure she was using.” He fished out a small amulet from his pocket, a highly illegal amulet, and stared at it. “Nothing. Damn, she was completely real. Wow. Shake it off, Tommy, focus. You’ve got work to do if you want to eat next week. Get moving.”
He pulled away from the curb, checked his GPS, then set out once again. Twenty minutes later he pulled up at the gate of a house in the upscale side of the city. Tommy hit the button on the intercom.
“Who is there?”
“Tommy Cotton, I have an appointment.”
“Enter. Someone will meet you at the front door.”
As the car rolled up to the door Tommy gave a long soft whistle. “Tommy, my old son, we’re working well above our usual pay grade here. Slick your hair back and smile pretty.” An elegantly dressed woman met him at the door and led him to the study. She introduced her husband, then indicated Tommy should sit.
“All the servants have been given the day off, we can speak freely,” said the man as Tommy took his seat.
Alarm bells rang in his mind, and his daily dose of caution surged. “Okay. You folks called and asked for a private meeting. What can I do for you?”
“Well, Mr. Cotton, we need help, and you have a certain reputation for being able to deal with cases that are, shall we say, somewhat in the gray area of the legal definitions.”
“Hiram, please. Mr. Cotton, we’re being terrorized, and we believe it may not be by natural means. We think we have a poltergeist.”
As she spoke a vase leaped across the room at Tommy’s head. He caught it easily and set it on the coffee table. “What you need is an exorcist, not a detective.”
“There are only three in the city, all have failed. The police have proved to be less than successful as well,” sighed the man. Tommy just grinned. “Mr. Cotton, a personal friend, an attorney, suggested we call you. Can you help us?”
“We can pay whatever fee you require, Mr. Cotton.”
“I have no doubt. What I meant is, I may have to use methods that skate along some of those gray areas.”
“Frankly, sir, I don’t care what the hell you do as long as you make it stop.”
Tommy nodded slowly, caught the ash tray that sailed towards him, then pulled something from his pocket, glanced at it and grinned. “Not a poltergeist, something more mundane, and yet nastier.” He dropped the object back into his pocket and fished out something else. Holding it like a bloodhound before him, he began to move slowly through the house.
“What are you doing?” asked the woman.
“Following a trail,” he replied. “Somebody doesn’t like you folks, and they’re using some pretty strong illegals to make sure you know it. Honestly, I expected this to lead me outside and away from the house.”
“Ma’am, whoever is doing this is in the house right now.” They’d just climbed the stairs to the second floor. “Third door on the left, I’d say.”
“That’s our son’s room.”
Before she could say more Tommy threw a shoulder against the door and burst it open. A teenage boy was trying to climb out the window. Tommy caught him by the leg and dragged him back. “All right, kid, you’ve dumped a ton of harassment around this house. Where’d you get it?”
To their horror, Tommy grabbed the boy’s nose and pinned him against the wall, holding a small vial against his lips. “You gotta breathe sometime. As soon as you open your gob you’ll get a taste of disclosure. Then we’ll get answers.” The boy gasped for air and Tommy squirted the liquid into his mouth, then released him and stepped back. “Now, where’d you get the harassment?”
“Dealer over in Orangeville.”
“What’s his name, where do I find him?”
The boy had his hands over his mouth but couldn’t stop himself. “Calls himself Pogo, he hangs out at a place called Danny’s.”
“That must have cost you a bundle.”
“Okay, now for the big one. Why did you do a thing like this to your family?”
“Because I hate them,” he screamed. “They control everything I do, I can’t do anything I want to do. I wanted them to know what it’s like to have someone at you all the time. I …”
“Okay, that’s enough. I expect you folks will want to deal with this in-house, right?”
“Absolutely right, Mr. Cotton. Come with me back to the study and I’ll write you a cheque.” He turned to face his son. “I’ll deal with you later.”
Tommy drove back downtown and deposited his cheque. The client had been generous, and Tommy was feeling good. He looked up to see the glorious blonde on the unicorn waiting beside his car. She had a look of mischief on her exquisite features.
“Hi, Zenni, good to see you again.”
She smiled and tossed him something. He caught it and gave her a puzzled look. “Spray that around your car, office, and apartment.”
“What is it?”
“Confuse. It’s pure goods, the M-cops can’t detect it. Be careful, don’t get any on you.”
“Thanks, I think. What’s up?”
“It’ll help you get rid of that tail.” She was looking past his shoulder. Tarleigh and a female cop were walking toward him.
Tommy looked back, but she was already leaving. “Hey, Zenni. Where do I know you from?”
“I fixed your knee for you a couple of weeks ago.” With a merry laugh she turned and raced away.
“Looks like you blew that, Cotton.”
“Blew what, Tarleigh.”
“Your chances with the girl on the racing bike.”
“Girl on a racing bike?”
“Yeah, the blonde in the red racing tights, riding the racing bike. She just rode away.”
“Oh, her. Yeah, wouldn’t even give me her name.”
“Can’t blame her for that.”
“So, who’s your new partner?”
“Another rookie. I get all the goddamn babysitting jobs.”
“Looks to me like you lucked out this time,” grinned Tommy as he passed the woman a slip of paper.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“The name and location of a major dealer of illegal magics,” he replied as he turned to her. Orangetown’s still in your jurisdiction, right? So go catch a bad guy and get this baboon of my ass.” He got into his car and drove away.
“Zenni fixed my knee? Oh man, this woman is way out of my league. I’m definitely going up to a full shot of caution in the morning latte.”