A Sorcerer in Downtown Atlanta Ch. 4
A Sorcerer in Downtown Atlanta
Chapter Four – A New Normal
The next few weeks were quite overwhelming for Dave and Maddie, as well as for Cindy. In spite of all the insane events of the weekend, Cindy was still a freshman at Georgia Tech with professors to please and classes to pass. She was brilliant in her own right, of course, but it was still an adjustment for her with the revelation of her brother’s new girlfriend. Maddie was anxious to begin looking for work, but was unable to do so until her birth certificate arrived. Thus, she spent her days helping with upkeep around Dave’s apartment. He protested that she wasn’t his maid, but she enjoyed helping out regardless, especially since she was otherwise living with him for free. Outside of that, most of her spare time was spent on one of her favorite pastimes: reading.
Dave arguably had the most difficult adjustment of all. After all, he had been flung back in time once already, spending weeks surviving in medieval Camelot and learning sorcery. Now back in his own time with another person in tow, he had to get back into a daily routine, especially with his responsibilities as a teaching assistant. In addition, he had to pick up where he left off on his senior project, lest he squander his chances at a cushy career in government-funded research.
To complicate matters further, Dave took Maddie as his apprentice and began to teach her how to use sorcery. As he had anticipated, she was a natural, maybe as talented as he had been when he had first started. She had an affinity for the element of water, as shown when she had aided Dave in his battle against Igraine, and took to the element very quickly. The others were more challenging, but she began to master them at a similar rate as Dave had in his training. She also found using her aura to be far easier than she had expected. Dave remembered that his difficulty with this came from his tendency to overthink and let his mind race. Maddie, on the other hand, never had this problem, and was able to quiet her mind at will for the most part. Thanks to a constant spell of protection Dave cast on his living room, Maddie was able to practice any time without fear of harming Dave’s home in the process. Still, both wished they had a sorcerer as experienced as Merlin to work with.
Maddie and Cindy continued to develop a sisterly bond and soon became the best of friends. Though Cindy lived in the dorms, she often spent her evenings with Maddie at Dave’s apartment if he was working late. Cindy would explain her assignments and projects as she worked on them, thrilling Maddie to no end, and Maddie would demonstrate the spells and powers she had been working on with Dave. After a week of living in the present, Maddie decided that it was time for her to once again find a church to attend; after all, she hadn’t been able to go at all since meeting Dave and being quarantined in Camelot. As such, Cindy brought Maddie with her to the Sunday service at the Georgia Tech Wesley Foundation. Though Maddie was quite surprised as to the casual nature of worship and music at the contemporary Methodist service, she liked the minister, Stephen Fellows, right away. He was a soft-spoken man with a gentle and kind demeanor, and his sermon was focused on God’s love, rather than fire and brimstone and warnings of an eternity in Hell. From then on, Maddie became a regular attendee of the Wesley Foundation’s services.
As the semester began to draw to a close, Dave and Cindy were consumed by their studies for final exams. Maddie helped wherever she could, finding a great deal of enjoyment in the subjects they were working on. She was most impressed with Cindy and her psychology courses, as Cindy’s strength was one of Dave’s weaknesses: understanding people. At last, the birth certificate for Elise Madison Adams arrived, allowing Maddie to apply for her passport and begin studying for her exam to obtain a learner’s permit. She passed with flying colors, of course, but that brought her to the point that Dave had been dreading. It was time to teach Maddie how to drive…
“And here is the gearshift, the turn signal, and the pedals. Accelerator is on the right, brake on the left,” Maddie said, finishing her identification of the parts of Dave’s Honda Civic.
“Very good,” Dave replied, his voice shaky and nervous.
“Oh, are you ok? You seem a bit out of sorts,” Maddie observed.
“I’ve just… never taught driving before. Sorcery is one thing, but driving? Fucking terrifying!”
She giggled at this. “Don’t worry, I know you’ll be a marvelous teacher. And besides, I do have your memories to aid me!”
“Huh… guess that’s true.”
“Ok, here we go.”
Looking around the empty parking lot they chose to practice in, Maddie shifted into drive and tapped the accelerator.
“Oh? We’re not moving?” she noticed.
“Parking brake,” Dave replied, stifling a laugh.
“I knew that,” Maddie blushed.
“Of course,” he grinned.
After lowering the parking brake, Maddie did as she had done a moment ago and tapped the accelerator. This time, the car lurched forward a bit.
“That’s ok, that’s pretty good,” Dave encouraged her. “Try it again, only this time, think about pressing the accelerator gradually, instead of pushing it all at once. Make it an extension of your foot.”
Heeding his advice, Maddie’s next attempt was smoother and more controlled than before. It took her some time to build up enough confidence to go faster than ten miles per hour, but she never once missed a thing. She noticed everything around her while behind the wheel, and Dave’s instructions were excellent, neither too detailed nor too infrequent. She practiced turning, parking, backing up, and braking for about an hour or so before driving over to a corner of the parking lot for her final test.
“Time for the worst part: parallel parking,” Dave said. “Oh, and just to make things interesting, I’m turning off the back-up camera.”
“That’s not fair!” Maddie protested, slapping him playfully.
“Hey, I had to learn without one! Now, so do you,” Dave shot back, sticking his tongue out at her.
“Fine,” she huffed.
Over the next ninety seconds, Maddie schooled Dave on the finer points of parallel parking. Dave was speechless at how easy it was for her to judge the distance and pull the car in at the proper angles. Hell, she only had to correct once before she was lined up in the exact center of the four cones. As the car rolled to a stop, she slammed the gearshift into park with a satisfied smirk on her face.
“There. That good enough for you?” she asked.
“How the hell did you do that on your first try?!”
“Bullshit!” Dave replied. “Wait… you used your aura to increase your spatial awareness, didn’t you?”
A sly grin began to spread across Maddie’s face. “Maybe.”
“Damn, you’re gonna get your full license in no time,” Dave marveled. “That reminds me, we’ll need a plan for when we go to the DMV to get your full license. Georgia is a little crazy; they require 4 different forms of identification and a way to establish Georgia residency before they’ll give you one.”
“Oh my… even with my learner’s permit, I only have that plus my birth certificate and passport,” Maddie replied.
“Yeah, the other major one they want is your Social Security number. You, of course, don’t have one, and we don’t want to get you one.”
“Why not?” Maddie asked.
“For one, we couldn’t use the one for Elise Madison Adams because it’s attached to a name that would eventually be found as deceased. State records may not easily communicate with each other in her case, but Social Security is under the jurisdiction of the federal government. That’d raise a major red flag. Other than that is the fact that, even if it weren’t tagged as deceased, no Social Security payments have been made throughout her entire life, bringing the IRS down on us big time or raising suspicion if we started making payments all of a sudden. There’s just no real upside to getting you a SSN.”
“But if I should ever be stopped by a police officer, what happens when they inspect my license and find no Social Security number attached to it? Won’t that raise suspicion as well?” Maddie wondered.
“I had a thought about that, but first, let’s see if my plan for actually getting you the license works.”
Kaya Chastain sat alone at her post in the Fulton County DMV, watching the seconds tick by until she was off the clock for the day. All of her coworkers had left for the day, or already had it off due to Music Midtown taking place that evening. Being the new person did her no favors; she always got the short end of the stick on shift assignments. At least it was quiet, she reasoned. Until, of course, half an hour before the end of business, she saw a young man and woman enter and make their way to the desk. The guy seemed unassuming enough, but the girl was breathtaking, sporting red hair and a sky blue sundress.
“Good afternoon. May I help you?” Kaya asked, the weariness apparent in her voice.
“Yes, hello,” the girl replied. “I’m needing to upgrade my learner’s permit to a full driver’s license. I have my paperwork filled out for you already.”
“I’ll take those, thank you. And may I see your learner’s permit?”
“Of course. Here you are.”
Looking the license over, Kaya asked, “Elise Madison Adams, is that right?”
“Yes, it is.”
“And do you have your other forms of identification? I’ll need a birth certificate, passport, proof of Georgia residency, and Social Security card.”
“Yes, here is my birth certificate and passport,” Maddie said, pulling them out of her purse.
“Very good. And the proof of residency and Social Security card?” Seeing the girl hesitate at this, almost as if she was searching for an answer, Kay continued, “Ma’am, Georgia is very strict on this. All the forms of identification I mentioned are required to obtain a valid driver’s license. If you don’t have everything you need, you’ll have to come back once you do.”
“You see… Georgia residency and Social Security isn’t really possible for me to prove at this point in time. I grew up in foster care, bounced around to different homes and orphanages, and I just got out of a really bad situation. Ran away in the middle of the night. It’s only because I met my boyfriend here that I have a permanent address, to be honest. Otherwise, I might be out on the street.”
“So, you haven’t been able to obtain your SSN?”
“No,” Maddie replied. “My last foster family kept as much of my personal information from me as they could in an attempt to control me.”
Kaya felt for the girl, but still doubted her story was entirely true. Thankfully, her work protocols protected her, tying her hands in such a way that she could pass blame onto her bosses.
“I’m very sorry to hear that, ma’am, but I cannot process a Georgia driver’s license without all proper documentation,” Kaya said. “Believe me, I wish I could, but my boss would kill me.”
At this point, the young man stepped beside Maddie and said, “I understand you’re just trying to do your job, but-”
“Sir, the young lady is perfectly capable of speaking for herself,” Kaya interrupted in annoyance at his intervention.
Kaya cocked her eyebrow at seeing the pair share a glance, almost as if they were communicating silently. She could have even sworn she saw the girl give a slight nod. A moment later, the young man looked her in the eyes and spoke in a calm yet persuasive voice.
“You have already seen the proper documentation you need.”
For an instant, Kaya was both confused and incensed at being given such a command. However, these feelings melted away a moment later as if they had never existed. She heard the young man’s words as the most convincing and logical thing she had ever heard in her life. Blinking twice, Kaya replied, “I apologize, sir. I’ve already seen the proper documentation I need.”
He laid a hand on her computer monitor and said, “Everything you need for her profile is already in your system.”
At this, Kaya examined the message blinking on the screen. Every field for Elise Madison Adams was properly filled out and ready for processing. All that was left was for her to take the written exam. Kaya again replied, “I see that everything we need to process your license is already in our system. Miss Adams, if you’ll take a seat at one of those computers along the wall and follow the instructions on the screen. Once you’ve completed the assessment, we’ll finalize your license.”
“Thank you, Kaya. You’ve been so helpful,” Maddie said with a grin.
“It was my pleasure,” she replied, feeling more cheerful than she had all day.
Thanks to Dave’s instruction in driving, Maddie aced the test with no issues whatsoever, achieving a perfect score. She was practically bouncing with giddiness as she returned to the front desk. All that remained was to take a new picture and print out her license. Maddie was, of course, quite photogenic, managing a driver’s license picture that would have made even a Victoria’s Secret supermodel jealous.
“And here is your new Class C Georgia Driver’s License. This paper copy will certify you until your permanent one arrives by mail in a few weeks,” Kaya said.
“Oh, thank you so much. I’m so excited!” Maddie replied with an elated smile.
“Thanks for your help, Kaya. You’ve been wonderful,” Dave agreed.
“Of course. Y’all have a great evening!”
As the couple exited the building, Kaya locked the door behind them and began her closing duties. She powered down all the computers and equipment for the weekend and made sure to lock all the drawers and cabinets that contained sensitive information. Every so often, she sighed at the thought of all the fun her coworkers were probably having this evening. But for her, an evening alone with her cat was in store. Not that she particularly minded; being around people stressed her out to no end.
“Gotta love the closing shift. Nice and quiet,” Kaya muttered to herself. “I’m just glad nobody came in this afternoon…”
“Dave, that was amazing! How did you do that?” Maddie asked.
“I actually got the idea from one of my favorite films. In Star Wars, the hero could use an ability called a ‘Mind Trick’ to influence those of lesser minds. Now, Kaya in there is far from a lesser mind, but the same principle applies. I wasn’t controlling her, and I hope I never have to control anyone, for that matter, but I did use my aura to probe her mind and cause my words to come across as a powerful suggestion. In this way, the things I said seemed to make more sense than anything she had ever heard in her life. To not follow them would have been illogical under the circumstances.”
“But what of her computer system? How did it allow her to process my license without the necessary documents?”
Dave grinned. “That was something I improvised on the fly. When she pulled up your profile, I somehow felt that I could use my aura to connect to it through the computer. I suppose I could have pushed harder, but I was worried I might overload the machine if I had. Instead, I infused a bit of my aura into the computer, giving me access to the tiny piece of cyberspace it was using at that moment. Your profile in the Georgia DMV is now as legitimate looking as any other, with a permanent protection spell that will prevent anyone who accesses it from questioning its legitimacy. Again, to do so would be illogical.”
“Splendid! Oh, one other thing I was curious about. How did you know the DMV would be completely empty today?”
“I actually drove by earlier today and cast a ward around the building, in essence placing the entire DMV under the Forget-Me-Knob spell for the whole afternoon. Anyone who approached from the outside would immediately think they needed to go elsewhere, ensuring we would be alone. Even now, Kaya won’t remember any details of our visit, not even that we were there. If she sees us again, any memory should only register a moment of déjà vu and would be dismissed just as easily.”
“Incredible,” Maddie marveled. “Would it be possible to use the technique you used on her computer to craft a Social Security number for me?”
“Yes, in theory. But I don’t want to risk discovery by overusing this technique,” Dave explained. “It worked this time exactly as we needed, but this dealt with state records, not federal records. Federal systems are far more sophisticated and carry a greater chance of discovery if everything isn’t perfect. As long as you’re careful and keep a low profile, today’s events should be everything you need to find work and establish your life here.”
Maddie leaned in and kissed Dave for several long seconds. “You take such wonderful care of me, my love.”
“I try,” he said with a grin. “Now, it’s your turn.”
Tossing the car keys to Maddie, Dave replied, “You’re driving.”
“Sounds good to me!”
As they worked their way through Friday rush hour traffic, Maddie began to think of her limited job prospects. She had no formal education, no training to speak of, and could barely prove her identity. Who in their right mind would take a chance on hiring her? Seeing the sullen look on her face, Dave spoke up.
“Hey, you ok?”
“Oh, um… fine.”
“Maddie, you just got your license. You should be happy!”
She replied, “I am. It’s just… I have no idea where to start looking for work. And besides, who would ever want to hire me? It’s not like I have any education that someone would value.”
Nodding, Dave said, “You’re overthinking it. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Start by figuring out what you’re good at. What do you enjoy? What are your hobbies and pastimes?”
“You mean besides riding my boyfriend’s magnificent cock?” she asked with a wry grin.
“Yes, besides that,” Dave chuckled.
“I’d say my favorite activity is reading, to be honest. It always has been.”
“There ya go! That’s your in!”
“How do you mean?”
Dave explained, “Try the local library. They might offer you a position, even if it’s only part-time for the summer. That could be your path to a more permanent job. If nothing else, you’d enjoy the hell out of it.”
“You might be onto something there,” Maddie smiled.
The next day, Maddie walked into the Fulton County Library to make her attempt at finding a job. As she entered the lobby, the silence was deafening, yet she felt completely at ease. Such a place reminded her of the quiet afternoons she and Dave would spend by the lake on the outskirts of Camelot. Shaking herself back to reality, Maddie focused once more on the task at hand. She and Cindy had chosen her outfit with care, settling on the black pencil skirt and white blouse she had first tried on during their original shopping trip. When coupled with the long single braid in her red hair, she appeared to be just the sort of woman a library would want to have around. Taking a deep breath, she approached the aging woman at the desk in the lobby.
“Afternoon. How can I help ya, ‘hun?” the lady asked in a syrupy sweet voice.
“Yes, my name is Maddie, er, Madison Adams. I wanted to inquire about employment opportunities.”
“Well, you’ve got the right gal. I’m Jeannine West, the head librarian.”
As Jeannine stood to shake hands with her, Maddie was struck by the matronly appearance of the woman. Jeannine stood only five feet tall, but her grip was strong and firm, yet not overpowering. Her curly gray hair and thick glasses gave her the classic look of a southern grandmother. Maddie had never known many older women growing up, simply because people didn’t tend to live very long in the tenth century, but she could feel the woman’s kindness and knowledge radiating from her personality. Based on first impressions alone, Maddie hoped that she might be able to rely on Jeannine as a mentor for quite some time to come.
“Wonderful to meet you, Ms. West,” Maddie smiled.
“Oh, please… call me Jeannine. Hearing ‘Ms. West’ just makes me feel like a nutty old woman. I maybe nutty, but I ain’t old!”
Maddie giggled at this. “I have no doubt, Jeannine.”
“Shannon, can you handle the front desk for a spell?” Jeannine said to the young lady on the other side of the lobby.
Jeannine led the way to her tiny office off the main lobby. “Take a seat,” she said, gesturing to a chair in front of her desk. “So, ya say you need some work. Filled out an application yet?”
“Yes, I printed that from the website. Here you are,” Maddie replied, pulling the papers from her purse.
“Excellent,” Jeannine replied, setting it aside for the moment. “So, let’s get the biggest question out of the way first. Why do you want to work at a library?”
“To be honest, I’ve just always loved reading. Books and stories are a true passion of mine,” Maddie answered. Her answer was short and to the point, but the enthusiasm in her voice could not be denied.
“I see… who are some of your favorite authors?”
“Oh dear, my favorites are so varied and eclectic,” Maddie giggled. “Let’s see… among modern authors, Michael Crichton is a favorite. Few can write suspense like he can. Hemingway is always a joy to read, and I must admit to being partial to Shakespeare. I was raised in England, after all.”
“Not surprised by that, Dearie!” Jeannine laughed.
“Still, I think my single favorite work is The Once and Future King.”
“T. H. White? A fine choice, if I do say so myself.”
Maddie blushed. “Admittedly, that book has a great personal significance for me: it was the book through which I met my boyfriend, Dave.”
“Ain’t it amazin’ how often that happens?” Jeannine smiled.
“Indeed, it is.”
Looking over her application for a few moments, Jeannine said, “I must say, you have excellent penmanship; not many youngsters like you have such great handwriting.”
“Now, I do see some sections missing a bit of info. Education information and previous work experience.”
Maddie was prepared for this. Though she had been giving the same hard luck foster care story to most people she had met thus far, this was a different situation altogether. Jeannine was a woman Maddie hoped would offer her a job, and thus would become a closer part of her life. As such, she had begun formulating her background that would eventually be told to Dave’s parents. In the event that these individuals ever spoke with each other about Maddie, it was imperative that their stories match up.
“I wasn’t sure how to fill those sections out. My father insisted on homeschooling me back in England, you see.”
“I gotcha. Would he have the records for your completion? I assume England has similar requirements to ours here in America for homeschooled students.”
Maddie hesitated, thinking of her father in that moment. “I… I’m so sorry,” she said, fighting back tears. “It’s just that… my father recently passed away in a terrible house fire. My childhood home for years, gone in a cloud of smoke…”
“Oh dear, I’m so sorry to hear that,” Jeannine replied, leaning forward to squeeze Maddie’s hand. “I didn’t mean to bring up such a painful memory.”
“It’s quite alright,” Maddie said, pulling herself together. “In any case, all of Father’s records of my schooling burned up with him, as I understand it. I could try and request copies from the British government, but their bureaucracy is even worse than America’s is, unfortunately.”
“You weren’t able to set everything straight when your Father died?”
“No. You see, I was actually here in America at the time.” Seeing a look of confusion on Jeannine’s face, she continued, “Let me explain. My mother was actually an American citizen, though I never knew her. She bore me in a little town in Kentucky, as I understand it. Father told me she was a member of the United States Army as a nurse, but was killed about a year after I was born. As Father was a British citizen, he took me there and raised me. Upon my ‘graduation’ from homeschool last December, I decided that I ought to spend some time experiencing the American side of my heritage. I originally envisioned it as an extended vacation, but after a month or so here, I received word of Father’s… accident. He had no next of kin, no parents or siblings, so his attorney settled the estate. Unfortunately, the man was a right bastard and used the fact that all of Father’s documents were destroyed in the fire to deny me my inheritance, calling it his ‘fees’. It wouldn’t have been much anyway, but this effectively ensured that I would not be able to return to England to contest the decision. But regardless, I’m at peace with the situation. I want to earn my own way in the world, and what better place to do that than in the United States of America?”
Jeannine was dumbfounded at hearing this story and sat slack-jawed for several moments. At last she replied, “Madison, I am so very sorry to hear of your troubles. It breaks my heart to know that anyone could treat you so poorly.”
“Thank you, Jeannine. You are too kind. Still, were it not for Father’s attorney, things would not have worked out for the best.”
“How do you mean?”
“It was in the aftermath of Father’s death that I met my boyfriend. Had I returned to England, he and I would have never crossed paths,” Maddie replied.
“That’s a wonderful mindset to have.” Glancing at the application once more, Jeannine asked, “Now, what about your SSN?”
Maddie took a deep breath and focused her mind, remembering everything Dave had taught her about this. “Actually, I already filled that part out, as you can see there. I believe you already entered it into your computer system, as well.”
Jeannine blinked a couple of times and examined the application. “Huh… I apologize, looks like I missed that altogether. Oh, and there it is on my computer! Guess I’m on my game and don’t even know it,” she chuckled.
“Better than the opposite,” Maddie giggled.
Touched by Maddie’s story, Jeannine said, “Hun’ I’d love nothing more than to-”
“Jeannine, one more thing if you please,” said Maddie. “I do apologize for interrupting you, but I feel this must be said. I do not want you to offer me a job because of my story. My past is just that: my past. I only want you to offer me a job if you feel that I will be an asset to your team and your library.”
Studying her for a moment, Jeannine replied, “That’s a big risk you just took, interrupting me like that. I might’ve been about to give you what you wanted.”
“I realize that,” Maddie answered with confidence. “Still, I meant what I said; I want to earn my way in the world. I have no desire to get by on luck and charity. I shall gladly accept any good fortune that may come my way, but I’ll not become accustomed to depending upon it. That is all I mean to say.”
Smirking, Jeannine said, “What I was going to say was that I’d love nothing more than to offer you a job… but I don’t have one to give at this very moment. That was going to be the end of it. But I gotta admit, you’re very interesting, Maddie. Ya got me curious.” Thinking for a moment, she decided on one last way to see if Maddie was the kind of critical thinker she suspected she was. “I’ll make ya a deal. Shannon, the young lady out front, is supposed to be leaving in two weeks, and I do need to find a replacement for her. The work is mostly part time, but could lead to more under the right circumstances. You’ve got one hour. If, within that hour, you can manage to find my single favorite book in the library and bring it to me, the job is yours. We got a deal, Maddie?”
“Ah… how am I to learn what your favorite book is? I assume you would not be willing to tell me?” Maddie asked.
“Nope. I ain’t makin’ it that easy on ya!” Jeannine chuckled. “Still, you can use any means of finding out other than getting it from me. Now, we got a deal?”
Smiling, Maddie replied, “You leave me no choice. I accept.”
Checking her watch, Jeannine said, “And your hour starts… now!”
As she returned to the lobby, Maddie racked her brain in an attempt to figure out what Jeannine was wanting from her. It seemed an unreasonable request for her to know the lady’s favorite book after just meeting her. Seeing Shannon still at the front desk, Maddie decided to see if she might be willing to help her.
“Hello. Shannon, is it?”
“Yep,” said the young lady. “How’d it go?”
“It’s not over,” Maddie replied. “Jeannine wants me to find her favorite book within the hour. If I can do that, she’ll hire me as your replacement when you leave.”
Shannon smiled, having gone through the same exercise two years ago. “She’s a crafty one, she is. You won’t get the answer out of me, though.”
“Hmm… can you at least tell me a bit more about Jeannine? How does she treat her employees? Whom does she tend to favor?”
“Jeannine doesn’t play favorites, not at all,” Shannon answered. “She values every member of the team for who they are and always recognizes the strengths they bring to the table.”
“I see. Would it be safe to surmise that she feels much the same way about books? That she finds some form of enjoyment and value from any book no matter the subject matter?” Maddie wondered.
Shannon tried to hide her slight grin. “That would be a safe assumption.”
“In that case, it would make sense that she simply doesn’t have a favorite book,” Maddie said. Getting no response from Shannon, she continued, “Still, there must be something she has in mind for me to bring her. Hmm… wait, that’s it! Shannon, I know that books are usually located and catalogued in the computer system, but how was this accomplished before computers were commonplace?”
“That was decades ago, but back then, the library used the old card catalogue system,” she said.
“I know they aren’t in use any longer, but are there any still here in the library?” Maddie asked, feeling she was close.
Flashing a toothy grin, Shannon replied, “Back of the library, room 190.”
Walking as quickly as she could, Maddie found room 190 to be a private reading room converted into a storage area. Seeing a large drawer to her left, she inspected it for a few minutes, soon finding outdated library catalogues. She withdrew one of the cards and made her way back to Jeannine’s office at the front of the library, sliding it across her desk without a word.
“Oh!” Jeannine examined the card for a moment before asking, “Now, what would make you think that an outdated card catalogue is my favorite book?”
“It’s more what the card represents,” Maddie answered. “You are a woman who loves books of all sorts. You are able to find entertainment and value in any form of reading material from any genre. Thus, it would only make sense that your favorite book is one capable of leading you to any other book in the library. Of course, this is done by the computer nowadays, but as you asked me to bring you something physical, this fits that description.”
Jeannine paused to take in the moment. “My, my… Maddie, I would have accepted any number of titles as your answer. The Great Gatsby, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1984… but this? This is beyond anything I thought you’d bring to the table. Maddie, as long as you’re agreeable to starting part-time before moving to full-time, you’re hired. When can you start?”
“Splendid!” Maddie gasped. “Um… I’ll be meeting my boyfriend’s family next week, since he has the time off for Dead Week before finals, so the week after would be perfect. Does that work for you?”
“Absolutely. That’ll let you spend some time shadowing with Shannon before starting on your own the week after.” Standing and shaking her hand, Jeannine said, “Welcome aboard, Maddie.”
That evening, Dave and Maddie celebrated her new job with dinner at Dave’s favorite local college dive, Fellini’s Pizza. Maddie was a bit worried that the spell she used on Jeannine’s computer wouldn’t hold up, but Dave assured her that it would be perfect; she had done exactly as he had done at the DMV, after all. As they ate, Dave enjoyed the looks and silent nods he got from the college guys that frequented the place. Every one of ‘em knew Maddie was with Dave by the way she remained in physical contact with him; most just kept their distance and transmitted their respect through the silent nod all men understood. Of course, things got a little hairy when one of them recognized Dave from class.
“What’s wrong?” Maddie asked Dave.
“That guy heading this way is one from my classes. Juan Rodriguez, he’s a real ass, typical jock.”
“Davey! Look at you, out and about after dark!” Juan said as he arrived, rumpling Dave’s hair condescendingly. “Oh, and who is this?! Señorita, my name is Juan Rodriguez, the greatest star of the Georgia Tech football squad.”
“I thought you were third string?” Dave remarked, eliciting a giggle from Maddie.
“Shut your mouth, nerd, unless you want me to show you your lungs,” Juan growled.
“Er, I’m Maddie Adams.”
“Ooh, a visitor from England!” Pouring on the charm, Juan continued, “Your Majesty, I feel I ought to warn you that the man you’re with is an undesirable peasant, not worthy of your time or beauty. If I may, I’d like to be your date for the rest of the evening. I couldn’t bear it if you got an undue bad reputation for hanging with this loser.”
Maddie saw that Dave was about to blow a gasket, but quieted him with a subtle wink. “Why, that is so very kind of you, Juan, but I fear you may be out of your depth. You see, I am a woman who knows exactly what she needs, and Dave fits all my qualifications.”
“You can’t be serious-”
“Please don’t interrupt me, Juan,” Maddie said, placing a finger to his lips. “Now, as to the poor reputation you claim Dave has, I couldn’t care less what people such as you think of him. I know the truth: he is a wonderful man, stimulating company, and above all else, a passionate and thorough lover. To be honest, I am rather insatiable, and Dave has thus far been the only man I’ve ever met capable of fulfilling those desires.”
“If it’s stamina you want, I’m your man!” Juan boasted, puffing his chest a bit.
“Of course, but as you can imagine, I have heard these words a thousand times over, and only Dave has lived up to the promises. I’m so sorry, but it simply wouldn’t be fair to put those expectations upon you, Juan.”
Dave sat in amazed silence. In one fell swoop, Maddie was not only putting Juan Rodriguez in his place, but also improving his reputation. True, he was about to graduate, but every little bit helps, he reasoned. Besides, even if she was embellishing, it wasn’t very much. Of course, this was more than Juan ever wanted to hear, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.
“Listen, I’m the one guy on this campus women would kill to be with, bitch,” Juan snarled, grabbing Maddie’s wrist roughly. “I can have any woman I want, and tonight, I want you. So, just ditch this loser, come with me, and it’ll all be enjoyable. But you might not like my methods if I’m forced to… convince you.”
Drawing on a bit of sorcery to increase her strength, Maddie slipped her other hand on top of Juan’s and pressed her thumb into his palm. To the casual observer, it would appear she was simply holding hands with him, but the pressure point she was now engaging put Juan in more pain than he had ever felt in his life. Worse still, when he tried to pull away, Maddie’s iron grip refused to let him go.
“Now, it’s your turn to listen, Juan,” Maddie whispered with intensity. “When a lady says ‘no’, she means it. That’s not just me, by the way; that goes for every woman you will ever meet in your pathetic life. From this day forward, you are going to behave yourself around women. And if you ever pull a stunt like this,” she said gesturing at his hand, “again, I shall know. And believe me, you do not want me to come after you for continued misbehavior in this regard.”
“Y… yes… ma’am,” Juan managed through gritted teeth, trying not to publicly show how much pain he was in.
“Good boy. Now, run along home. Be a good lad.”
With that, Maddie released Juan from her grip. It was all he could do not to scamper off with his tail between his legs, though he did get several knowing looks from the other patrons. Dave was still dumbfounded by the exchange, but Maddie kept acting like nothing had happened.
“Ready to head home?” she asked, seeing both their plates empty.
Later that evening, as Maddie was packing for the trip to see Dave’s parents, Dave remembered that he needed to let his mom know that they’d have an extra house guest. He had been dreading this moment, but it was here nonetheless. No turning back now. Taking a deep breath, he picked up his phone and dialed.
“Hey, Mom. It’s Dave.”
“Good to hear from you, dear. Are you and Cindy still planning to head this way in the morning?”
“Yeah, gonna get on the road about 7:30. Oh, and I’m sorry about the short notice, but… there’ll be a third person with us, if that’s ok.”
“Of course, Dave. After all, Cindy brought a friend home with her for Christmas, remember? Sweet girl, but no family out here on the east coast… is this the same person coming with you?”
Dave hesitated. “Uh, no. It’s actually… my girlfriend.”
Now, it was his mom’s turn to hesitate. “I see. Well… we look forward to meeting her. Goodnight, Dave.”
“Night,” Dave replied, but his mom had already hung up. “Yeesh, that can’t be good,” he muttered to himself.
“Everything all right?” Maddie asked.
“Not sure. Mom seemed pretty surprised when I told her you were coming, then just hung up the phone. She never does that…”
“I’m sure it’s nothing to be concerned about,” Maddie smiled.
“I don’t know. I’m just-”
“Hush,” Maddie said, placing her lips on his. “I love you, Dave Brighton, and nothing will change that. If your mother is concerned, then I shall endeavor to ease her mind that my intentions with you are purely noble.” Blowing a stream of cool air into his ear, she continued, “Well, mostly noble.”
Dave’s eyes rolled back in his head. “Holy fuck…”
“Sir? We’ve found something.”
“Come in, shut the door.”
“Our sentries have been detecting increased amounts of magical energy from the area of Atlanta, Georgia. This has only started in the last few weeks, but the consistency is such that we felt we should bring you into the loop.”
“I see. Some youngster just discovering their potential, eh?”
“We don’t think so. The amount of energy being used is far greater than anything a chickling could muster. Whoever or whatever is doing this, they are fully trained in the art of sorcery, possibly one of the strongest in the country.”
“Yes, sir. I almost missed it myself, but I found a record in the Georgia DMV systems that had been modified with sorcery. I haven’t tried to research further because the sorcery that was used to modify the record also enacted some protections. I could feel something emanating from the record, trying to convince me that everything was legitimate. I might have believed it if I hadn’t closed the record straight away.”
“Hmm… whose record was it?”
“It was for a driver’s license for one Elise Madison Adams, sir.”
“Find me everything you can about her.”
“At once. Shall I also deploy the Containment Squad?”
“No, not yet. We don’t yet know if this Elise is the one behind this sorcery or if she’s just a third party. We need more information before we can decide how best to approach this. The last thing I want is to spook this person. Besides, if they are indeed a citizen, they’re still entitled to due process.”
“Understood, Mr. Secretary.”