A sunny secluded beach with powder smooth sand, crystal clear waves washing over gorgeous woman in tiny almost non-existing bathing suits, and me with a drink in my hand savoring every second. Those were my thoughts as I sat down in my unjustly comfortable leather recliner in first class, ignoring Gulliver’s call for the tenth time and ordering a glass of whiskey from the tall curvy redheaded flight attendant, slipping her a generous tip in advance. “Bermuda here I come” I announced quietly, leaning the seat all the way back, as I waited for my drink. My phone buzzed angrily in my pocket, Gulliver tenaciously unwilling to give up.
“What do you want, Gulliver. You’re being more stubborn than normal” I answered with a sigh. I was already on the plane just waiting for takeoff and nothing the crafty middle man said would be enough to change my mind this time.
“I got a job you’re going to beg me for.” The old man answered
“Really? I’m sitting pretty on over 10 mill After Skeletor’s charitable donation, so not really in a begging mood.” I told him cracking a smile.
“You will, and you’re going to do it for free or pay, your choice really.” He went on without faltering.
I couldn’t hold back my laughter almost tearing from it. A few stiff looking businessmen and a stern elderly woman offering me disapproving glances as they watched, that was the funniest joke I ever heard the old man tell.
“Gull, When was the last time I took anything under a hundred stacks. You keep this up and I’m going to assume this is early signs of Alzheimer’s”
He just kept pressing letting the comment slide “Come on, Boy, You don’t even want to hear who the client is?”
Gulliver asked tauntingly. Carson gave a small pause at that, The clients name normally came after the job was accepted, sometime only after it was done if at all. She lovely flight attendant had already returned giving me a promising smile as she handed over the glass.
“Who?” I asked giving into my curiosity after a long sip.
“A desperate kid that marched into my shop 5 years ago. Who had just sold everything his family had left him and demanded I help find a book. I nearly kicked the lad out, boot to ass until he mentioned his grandfather.”
My mind absorbed the explanation slowly, my mouth parting but was left without words. I remembered that day, my grandfather had just died. He searched for our family treasure his entire life to his dying day, without a clue.one wild goose chase after another, especially after I was born. He said it would bring back everything we lost, but I knew that wasn’t why he wanted it. It was my cure the only thing that would end my curse.
“You found it?” I whispered the question, almost afraid it was a fucked up joke.
“Glenrove, New York. Get there now. I’ll send you everything I know.” Gulliver answered, hanging up.
The old man didn’t answer the question and I knew calling back would be useless. The sly bastard knew he got be, It the first time he’d even mentioned it in five years and I needed it to be true. “Good bye. Bermuda” I said downing the rest of the glass and walking off the plane without a look back.
Eight hours, a different plane ride, a disappointingly male flight attendant and one speeding ticket later I was in the little town of Glenrove, just outside the strange purple coloredlocal history museum. Somehow, Gulliver managed to have a tuxedo and invitation already waiting in the car. Iggy and Seth had already done their rounds and gave the all clear, which sounded too good to be true. I stared at the picture of the book, on my phone, the age leather binding and ancient filigree looked just as his grandfather had described but was there really someone idiotic enough to paint that big a target on their head? The tomes have a way of calling all kinds of creatures most were very unsavory. I remember being told. All the more reason to get it now, I decided getting out and walk to the building.
The little red carpet leading into the Victorian home still seemed adorably humble to me despite what was probably the curator’s best effort to make it look extravagant surrounding it with red and white rose arrangement sitting on ornate pedestals to match the surrounding rose bushes. I handed my invitation to the man at the door with a smile, apologizing for arriving late as he let me in. The Banquet had a warm ambience, gentle piano music playing in the background as elegantly dressed guests, meandered through taking in the pictures and centuries old diary entries and letters framed across the walls. A small group was gathered around the open bar undoubtedly gossiping amongst themselves since they kept indicating people in quick glances and small gestures as they talked in hushed whispers.
But my attention was quickly drawn away to the corner of the bar, standing apart from the high society snobs was an absolutely gorgeous woman, wrapped in an elegantly simple halter gown, her hair pulled back in a sophisticated auburn french braid with heels emphasizing her already seductively defined legs as her calf peeked out through a low slit. When the bartender poured her a glass of bourbon I almost forgot why I came. Shaking my head I looked around once more for my main objective. The power emanating from the grimoire was blatant when I actually paid attention with was placed atop an ebony wood stand framed on a cloth of simple lace, open to a random page under protective glass. It took all my will power not to sprint across the room toward it eager to make sure it’s real. I could feel pressure building with every step, like I was being warded off, Was that why it was left forgotten in the back? The book kept struggling weakly to keep my away and me ignoring its pleas. Less than 20 steps away from the case; the loud slam of the book shutting itself startles the rooms, as if to warn of my intentions. Not wanting to draw lingering stares, I hung back near one of the oldest photographs, show an old mill during peak work hours, the people frozen in mod hustle running one side to another. It was as impactful as pocket lint to me, so I was thankful when someone appeared at the book’s podium to investigate. The same beauty I noticed earlier was already unlocking the case and I suddenly realized who she was. Taya Dallas looked very different in her eloquence, for one, she was still sober and for another she wasn’t dancing on a bar top or table like in the twenty or thirty pictures Gulliver had sent from her social profiles. I walk up to her playing curious.
“That was a little odd wasn’t it?”
"A little bit," She answered politely, giving me a small smile before turned back to examine her tome more carefully.
Just like the old thief said she didn’t seem to know anything. I came up to her side bending down to take in the relic, eagerness and anticipation roll over me in waves as I stood inches away from the treasure I only heard stories of my whole life.
"Doesn’t, look like its Damaged." I told her looking at the cover design, the power growing for dense almost defensive around the book.
"Maybe it was just a gimmick the museum set up?" I offered the simple explanation
She looked back at me nodding with a little skepticism but agreed anyway, Flipping the book open again
"I'm sure that's what it was. Are you a professional or simply an admirer?"
My eyes scanned the open pages search for any secrets they’d reveal, glossing over every inch of writing, to no avail something was keep its content hidden.
"Little of both I'd say, And this one is truly a beautiful piece." I finally answered, just registering the question.
Turning back I was struck by the almost longing expression she gave, entirely fixated of the book almost as ravenous as I was to understand the indecipherable text. Her hand moved across the pages affectionately, like she was trying to coax the secrets out gently. I cleared my throat and watched her hand recoil in confusion as the trance broke.
"Nerves," she explained, "Do you understand the dialect?"
I watched her carefully, trying to make sense of here reaction, did she really have no idea? The girl was proving as much a mystery as the book.
“It more or a puzzle than a dialect" I told her, gauging her reaction. "And no, not without the right key or cypher.”
Her shoulders fell at the words her excitement fading into disappointment, "Of course."
I felt a tinge of sympathy for her, but It didn’t matter if she couldn’t find it herself it would always be useless to her.
“My family kept a sibling tome to this one, a long time ago, before my father’s time actually. I never thought I'd see really see one." I said taken in the Grimiore again.
"How odd that you just happen to show up at the museum showing that this book was impulsively placed in." the tension of her voice told me I said too much, I forgot how last minute the relic was added. At least I didn’t have to make any more small talk.
I gave her a small grinning nod, “Guess you caught me, Miss Dallas, finding one of these relics has been part hobby part obsession for me. I was hoping to buy it from you."
"How did you- um never mind. It’s not for sale." Was her instant response.
"You haven’t even heard my offer yet. At least have a drink with me and pretend you’re interested. Please” I asked, playfully pleading without losing my smile. From her file I knew Taya Dallas was a party girl, She might even fun to invite of vacation, I just needed to get my foot in the door first.
That was not the same woman standing before me now, she abruptly shut the book
"This book is my brother's. I'm sorry."
"2 million cash right now." I offered seriously, losing the pretenses
She started to laugh, taking and sip her drink. "What no brief case?"
"Maybe you just weren’t looking hard enough" pointed out, bending behind the podium show casing the tome and conjuring the suit case out of her line of sight.
"See for yourself." I insisted offering the case
She shut me that with no hesitation losing all mirth
“It's not for sale. Keep your counterfeit money, and your dignity, before you cause a scene."
One thing Gulliver always taught me was there was always a price. People just resorted to thieves because they were cheaper. And I was ready to pay any price for this.
"Fine, just give me a bank account and price. You’ll have the money in ten minutes."
She just blinked at me as if my words were unintelligible
"Are your parent’s siblings, or something? I said no."
I was growing impatient with this woman, but I remembered the last bit of information I read on her, with the time frame, Gull had though the book might have had a connection to her brother, but I couldn’t wait for her to get past her grief. I’d already waited long enough for this chance.
“I heard of your brother’s death. I’m sorry for your loss, but wouldn’t he have wanted his sister to be happy, I can give you enough to make your life very fulfilling.”
Her eyes narrowed taking my comment more severely than I thought she would.
"You don't know what you're talking about." She informed me with a hard edge of finality, gathering the book in her arms.
"Showing is over." She walked back to her table to sit with the curator.
With a frustrated sigh, I shook my head, I was fine acquiring the book legally but I was taking it one way or the other. I strided over to the bar ordering two Bourbons before wandering over toward the back. After a couple generous sips, I made sure I was alone and set the second glass on the floor, using an old pen knife to scratch a circle and a few symbols into the tile around the drink.
“Ignis Minor, Rise Iggy” I called. The amber fluid ignited, into a small almost human shape flame before shifting to the little cardinal. The little will-o-wisp hopped around excitedly the tips of its tail feathers holding a small flame like a candle wick.
“I take it you liked the offering?” I asked rubbing his head gently. He chirped lightly in agreement.
“Good, that was payment upfront. I want you to go play, set off a few sparks and scare everyone witless then buy me some time when I need to go. Just don’t hurt anyone and give me a minute before you start, got it?”
Iggy looked like he was ready to burst with excitement, I had basically given the mischievous little spirit free reign to do as he like it the mortal realm. He fluttered his feathers in understanding and set off before I could change my mind. Cries or surprise and delight were already evident as I made my way back to the crowd and toward the bar keeping out of Miss Dallas’ sight as I kept the book in mine, she was already slipping into her bag. I ordered another drink to enjoy while I watched the fireworks. Iggy made himself as visible as possible to catch everyone’s attention as he zoomed around, a bright read dart bouncing across the banquet hall, occasionally stopping to show off his rich color. The little show off seemed to make all the guests, even the curator, forgot about the exhibits, their conversations and their meals, hypnotizing them with the strengthening glow of his little bird body. The Cardinal came to rest on a beautifully elaborate chandelier using, what looked like all his self-control to keep still and turned to me eager to begin. With a nod, I unleashed his crazy. The small bird feather glowed fiercer as he glided along drapes and curtain setting the cloth ablaze. The viewers froze in fascination, at the obvious trick before them until the fires continued to spread everywhere the bird touch from the walls to glass cases. Their disbelief quickly changed to fear and by by the time the smoke alarms and sprinklers went off the show case was in full panic, running around in disorder. Several employees ran with fire extinguishers trying to suppress the damage, but Iggy created three more for everyone they put out.
I was already mixing into the disarray, keeping close to the book, I had hoped shed run right away forget the bag like some of the others, No such luck, she hung to the bag tight, leaving me anticipating the best time to snatch it away. The door became my best option with everyone trying to squeeze through at once. With a low whistle I called Iggy toward me causing the fearful audience to his destruction to scream and push in horror. That was my cover, I press passed a pair or older men trying to shoving each other out the way in one clean cut open the bag and took the book leaving the rest of its contents to clatter to the floor as I slid toward the other side of the other side using the chaos for cover as I moved back into the building passed the exhibits, and out another exit shoving past another mash up of guest when the door inexplicably became a large piece of firewood behind me causing a few cries of pain, nothing to serious I was sure, I had no doubts, Iggy would obey me completely.
Usually after a theft you would move calmly and casually to where ever you were going not wanting to look rushed or out of place. This time It was the opposite, I ran to my car as if I was deathly afraid of the flames just like everyone else. I placed the book in my lap threw the car drive and shot out of the parking lot. Reminding myself every few seconds to get somewhere safe before I wrenched the book open and greedily scoured its pages for the spells I needed.