Dana is pouring herself expensive scotch when I arrive at the bar. The payphone beside it is a pile of melted plastic and metal bubbling gently in the floor without eating through it. The only bar in ther town of Waverstoke is empty aside from her even though the local hockey team is playing their arch-rivals. Dana looks to be a human female in her early thirties wearing dark jeans and a heavy leather jacket. Her ID identifies her as a member of CSIS. Her other ID claims she is part of their Boder Patrol, which would make her one of the most dangerous humans in Canada.
Neither of those are actually true. She nods to me. “Magician.”
“You shut down the Pig & Porker for a health code violation on a night like this?”
“The owner, and cook, wasn’t human.” She pours me a rum and coke and slides it across the bar toward me.
“Most things in the world aren’t human.” I sip the drink and smile, or at least bare my teeth. “Fine. What was it?”
“They are humans who kill bears on sites that are holy to bears. The curse often kills them, those it doesn’t become bungles, able to drive bears insane with a single thought and looking like a human in a bear costume when not under a fae glamour. As part of accepting a fae glamour, they do nothing to harm bears again. Six humans have died in the past eight months here, all bear attacks, all caued by one Carl Wilkins, the owner of this bar.”
“He broke the compact he made with the fae, then.”
“And it took you this long to realize it and find him?”
“Those are the only ones I know of. The fae have been – remiss in our duties to keep up with those we glamour. They are bound into our service if we have need of an army against creatures from Outside the universe. We seldom do, do it is a win for them. Most do not even consider breaking their agreements with us.” She gulps back half her drink in one swallow.
I have no idea if fae can even get drunk. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to find out.
“I know that, and I have agreed to help you because your power isn’t – what it was, at present.” I try not to think of what happened to Dana, of what it must look like under the glamour at present. Until Joey’s anti-magic ripped into her, I wouldn’t have believed anything could skin a fae alive. That she was still alive after that was more than impressive, even to me. “But closing an entire bar like this will be noticed by people in CSIS. Your cover is good, but we really don’t want the real border patrol thinking you are some invasion from Outside and attempting to kill us both. I could have done the same thing with a ward.”
“A ward that would hold out against the need of people wanting to watch a game here?” She raises her eyebrows.
“Probably, yes.” I have no idea if I am bluffing; she doesn’t call it either way. “What happened to the bunglebear?”
“I destroyed him in the cellars.”
“And the payhone?”
“The creature you call Jay was trying to call for you. It was remarkably persistent.”
I wince at that. Fae can make illusions so powerful they fool reality; Jay can do bindings to a degree I’ve never heard of. I’d rather not see what would happen if he truly hurled his power against a fae. “He did stop.”
“Eventually, yes. I had to alter the frequency of the air to stop a phone call from happening where the payphone used to be.” Dana sips her drink and offers up another smile. “I could allow the payphone to exist again.”
I return the grin. “No one has ever threatened me with a payphone before.”
She pours us each another drink, moving easily as though she has spent much time behind bars. “You are a wandering magician: few with any sense would threaten you at all.”
“And few creatures would break their agreements with the fae.”
“Touché.” She clinks her glass to mine. “You did not have to agree to aid me.”
“I know. But if Jay is going to heal from the damage I caused to his vision, I will need your aid in time.”
She nods slowly to that. “You will. You were almost a fae, to use him as you did to stop Joey and the Emissary from the Far Reaches. Very well: in the future, I will ask you before acting in this world as I did tonight.”
“Thank you.” I finish my drink as she pours herself another, then head down into the cellars. There is no body, because fae don’t leave such things behind, but I let the magic out, repairing broken casks, cracked walls and shattered ceiling beams. Whatever a bunglebear was, defeating it had taken more time and effort than it ever should have for a fae.
I don’t point that out as I come back upstairs, just pour myself some sparkling water and drink that slowly. “Did he have a partner?”
“Man or woman, adopted children?” I ask.
“I have no idea.” I say nothing. “I assume so, however.”
“You can’t leave this community worse-off than when we found it.” I add nothing else.
Dana pours herself another drink, gulps half of it. Her fingers shake only slightly. “There will be consequences for this you won’t desire, magician. I cannot make a glamour to be Carl Wilkins and hold the other ones at the same time.”
I wince but not. Dana closes her eyes, opens them, and where a man is beside her, coming into existence through her will. “The glamour will last for a time. He will pass the bar onto another, make peace with those in Carl’s life and depart the town,” she says, looking tired.
I nod to that and wince as the payphone exists again; she couldn’t make the glamour of a new Carl and keep the payphone in whatever state she had it in. I walk over and answer it. “Jay.”
“Honcho? Honcho!” I can feel his grin through the phone. “You’re okay.”
“Jay. We are bound together. You know I’m okay.”
“I’m fine too.”
“I know. You’ll be fine.”
“I am,” he says, shouting it.
“You can’t ‘Jay’ me if you’re not here to do it,” he says, then: “I didn’t mean to –.”
“It’s okay. You have to stay with Charlie, kiddo.”
“I know.” He sniffs loudly. “I mith you.”
“I miss you. Sometimes. A little.” That wins a giggle. “But I can’t have you calling me like this, and Dana doesn’t have the energy to deal with it either. I’ll call you at least once a week, okay?”
“Really?” he says slowly, and for the first time I think, maybe, there is a true hint he’s not quite trusting me in his voice.
“Really,” I say, and it takes everything I am, everything of me that isn’t a magician at all, to keep my voice steady.”
“Okay! We’ll talk soon and lotth,” he says happily, and hangs up.
I run a hand over my face and walk outside. Dana doesn’t follow. The air is cool and sharp and I feel so small under the sky and stars as magicians are never small. “I’m sorry,” I say, and I couldn’t have said for the life of me who I am talking to or even why.
There is no response. It’s best that way.