Evie's Story

"Suffer not a witch to live" shouted an extremely heavyset woman as she threw to the floor the book which was in her hand. Her face had a pinched in stern look which made it clear that she was hell to everybody around her. All eyes were on the woman as she screeched out her complaint. Hopefully the book was not damaged by the woman in front of the desk. I normally love my job and a librarian for the Oakland city library. Not today! It had been a rotten day which seemed to cumulate with this situation.

This whole rant was preceded by a young boy, maybe eleven or twelve, coming into the library a few minutes before and asking about Harry Potter books. The books were extremely popular with children although a surprising number of adults liked the series as well. Probably adult and child alike dreamed of being a wizard. I had helped the young man to the section where J.K. Rowling's books were shelved.

For some reason, Fundamentalist seemed to have latched onto the Harry Potter series as a target for their fury. It appeared that one of these fundamentalist was the woman in front of my desk, apparently the boys mother. I was stunned for the first few moments and she continued her tirade unabated, "Those books should be banned! No, they should be burned! How dare the library spend my tax money on Satanist books."

I saw that Larry, the library security officer, was on his way down. While I was able to take care of myself, the woman probably outweighed me by over a hundred pounds and was at least a head taller than I was. Of course, I could never consider myself tall, only around five foot two inches. A fight definitely would not be productive and it was part of security's job.

Finally getting over my stun, I took a deep breath and forced myself to be calm. I wanted to yell back at herself. Instead I responded in a measured tone, "Ma'am, we are not responsible for the content for the books. Still, those books are city property and you are responsible for any damage to them."

"How dare a damn Hippy say anything about responsibility!" the woman roared while I winced. I did dress a little like a Hippy with a headband and long skirt both with Celtic knot work and two long thin braids framing my face. "Probably march in all those anti-soldier rallies," she continued with.

Actually while I did not really like the present president very much, I always supported the troops. My real reason for disliking the president was not his actions in the Middle East but his actions as far as personal rights in general. I had several good friends who are homosexual and was a firm supporter of gay rights including their right to marry each other. I also suspected that I disliked our Congresswoman from San Francisco about as much as this woman did although I was less fiery about it.

Probably for the best, any answer which I might have said was interrupted by the security officer. "Is everything alright, Miss Harmon," came in a calm voice. Larry Appleton was on older man, likely past retirement but could not afford to retire. Still, he was always helpful and like most of use who worked at the library, absolutely loved to read.

"Thanks, Larry. Would you please escort this woman out of the library. She is being disruptive," came my reply. It sounded much calmer than I would have expected.

Larry motioned towards the door and the woman proceeded him. She grabbed onto the young boys hand and practically dragged him out of the library. I could only feel sorry for him with such a mother. Still she decided to have the last word with, "Bitch, I hope you burn in hell!" It is funny that while Fundamentalists profess love, hate is really their driving force.

The library was extremely quiet with her departure. I guess one of the reasons why her words had hit so hard was that I was a witch by her definition. A pagan, a worshiper of the Celtic Goddess Bridget. I was also a practitioner of the arts as well. I preferred the term Sorceress in general. I had heard the words "Suffer not a witch to live" before. I had not liked them then and did not like them now. I practice magic but I do not countenance evil in any way. There is no sacrifices to Satan or anything like that. Magic is a tool, neither good or evil. That was in the heart of the sorceress.

Magic was not much like it was portrayed in the Harry Potter books and neither was witchcraft but it was still a favorite target for Fundamentalist Christians when they attacked witchcraft. Of course witchcraft was not their only target, they attacked just about anything which disagreed with their narrow world view, including many areas of science.

After a few moments, I came around from my side of the desk and bent down to pick up the poor book which the woman had thrown to the ground. The cover was slightly torn but the book was otherwise not damaged. It would need to be returned to the central branch for repair though. I stood up and adjusted my glasses. Unfortunately, without my glasses I would not see much.

Rebecca, one of the library assistants walked over to me as I was standing up. In a whisper, she asked, "Evelynne, Evie, are you Okay?" I simply nodded my head, not trusting my voice at the moment. I had been so tempted to show that evil woman what true magic was like but whatever you do comes back threefold. If you live your life harming others, that same harm would come back to you three fold. When I got back to my desk, I pulled out a sticker which indicated that the book was damaged and stuck the book under the desk. It would be picked up later.

Rebecca snorted, "Burning books. You would think that this close to San Fran that we would not get people like that." Recently, it seemed like large number of Fundamentalists had begun calling this area home. Maybe they were always here but just were getting more obnoxious recently.

Rebecca and I shared a dislike for Fundamentalists although for different reasons. She knew I was a pagan and she was one of my homosexual friends which I had mentioned earlier. Rebecca knew I had no interest in her or anyone else of the same sex. Besides, she had a girlfriend at home and they had been together for over ten years. Still, she was a good friend and a good listener.

"Maybe so but there are always people like that. I am more upset that Holly is missing," was my reply. Rebecca nodded her head. There had been a rash of disappearances recently. The newspaper had published an article today and there had been pictures of the missing kids. Ten children had disappeared recently. Mostly in their early teens, twelve to fourteen. I knew a couple of them.

Holly Smith had been a regular at the library. She had also had the potential to become a powerful sorceress. The truth was that both of the teenagers I knew who had disappeared had the potential to become practitioners of the art like I had at their age. Sorcery is an art that few can ever master and those with potential to master it are extremely special.

I had begun slowly teaching Holly the ways of magic before she disappeared. Her parents knew I was a mentor although I had not told them about teaching her about magic. Still, they seemed friendly enough and I had help her improve her grades. They had called me a few days ago to ask if I knew what had happened to her. Likely, I would have to speak to the police before long.

Some members of the police believed that the teenagers had simply run away. Holly had never seemed to be the type to run away. Her grades were good and her parents were pretty decent from what I had seen. There was also whispers of there being a serial killer stalking the children. It was quite possible but I was afraid that it might be something even worse. Since the two teenagers I knew had the potential to become practitioners of magic, I wondered if the others were as well. Magical energies often peaked when puberty was reached. As well, when a person is killed, their energies spike and many less reputable sorcerers and sorceress will take advantage of the death energies.

I wanted to speak to Holly's family but I worked the library until closing tonight. The Library did not close until nine and that would be too late to see them without arousing suspicion. I could not clock out early because the library was already understaffed. As well, I needed my job and could not afford to leave early. There are ways using magic to make money but most were on the grey side.

Besides, I liked being a librarian. With a love of reading since being a kid, I had gone to college to become a full librarian. Some people think that you can just apply for a job at a library and become a librarian but it is actually an extensive course of university study. Being a librarian was much like being a kid working in a candy store for me.

About a year before, I had only been working part time at the library. I worked full time with a group of paranormal investigators known as the Luna Society but they had disbanded. The mansion which had been the headquarters had been auctioned off. I hoped I had gotten the most dangerous books of power from the mansion before it was sold and had attempted to erase all the mystic protections on the building as well. The other members were psychics not practitioners of magic. The local members tried to get enough money together to buy the mansion were outbid.

I had heard one rumor that the person who supported the society had gone bankrupt. Another rumor was that he had died and his heirs were squabbling over his money. The various members of this branch had either taken mundane jobs like I had or had left the area. Unfortunately, it meant that in most cases I had to deal with supernatural incidents on my own.

The clock seemed to be moving in slow motion. Patience was sometimes real hard for me. While I could not talk to the family tonight, I had plans for some rituals which I hoped would allow me to locate Holly and maybe the other teenagers. I could only hope that they were not dead. For a moment, I had to consider that a group of Fundamentalists might have kidnaped the children but it did not seem to quite fit.

I went back to sorting through various books to put them back on the shelves. If I kept busy, maybe time would go by faster.

It was good to be home although I still had to complete the rituals. My home was not all that large but still was far better than an apartment and there was no mortgage to pay either. It was a one story house which originally had three bed room. It had been built in the early Fifties, probably for a returning G.I. from World War Two. Unlike newer houses, the house still had character. Like the house, the back yard was fairly small but was far better than the postage stamp sized yards which many houses had behind them.

It was a bit lonely but I had gotten used to it. There had been no steady boyfriend since I finished with college. Maybe there was someone for me but I did not know where I might find him. The nicest seemed to be already be taken or be gay. As well, most men seemed to have problems with my practice of the mystic arts. Several which I had dated briefly had wanted me to give it up. That would be like giving up part of my soul. I might have been able to find a roommate but had not really tried. My peculiarities would make it extremely hard to find the right person.

The house had belonged to my uncle Bruce and his lover Tom. Because of Bruce, it was more than just four walls and a roof. Most of his other relatives shunned him because of being gay and Bruce had been extremely lonely without Tom. It did not matter to me what a person's sexual preference was. I had spent as much time as I could with Bruce so that he knew that someone cared. Bruce had also given me a place to stay right after I had graduated college. Having a place to stay helped me get on my feet.

Unfortunately, Bruce had died a couple of years ago from and the house, along with his prize Mustang, had gone to me. I would have preferred to keep Bruce instead but the Goddess had called for him. Tom had died several years before Bruce had and the medical bills between them had wiped out most of their savings. Bruce had been unable to keep up with the upkeep on the house for the last several years and when I had gotten the house I had needed to invest quite a bit into repairs.

Pulling the grey Mustang in the small driveway beside the house, I shut the engine off. Sometimes it felt like Bruce was riding beside me in his old Seventy-Six Mustang although not tonight. The notes of Clannad cut off to be replaced the night noises of the neighborhood. It was a relatively quiet neighborhood with a large number of elderly couples. Most of them had done their living and their families were long gone.

Just before heading for the house, I set the security system in the car as well as the kill switch. I also breathed the words on a spell which would ward the car. If anyone touched the car, a mystic alarm would go off which only I could hear. With all that in place, the likelihood of the car being stolen was remote. Even though it was a good neighborhood and old Mustangs were not what most kids wanted to steal these days, there was still a risk which could not be ignored. In general, kids preferred newer cars like an Acura or a Lexus.

The house was similarly protected and I quickly typed in the pass code before the alarm could sound. My mystic alarms had not been breached so I knew that no one had gotten in my house. Before I planned to start any ritual, a nice hot shower would be a good idea. While it was useful for purification, the real reasoning was simply that I wanted that warm water to wipe some of the problems of the day away and allow me to relax a bit. Quickly, I headed for the bathroom.

With pleasure, I divested myself of my blouse, skirt, and underwear, leaving them on the bathroom floor. Maybe I was a bit of a slob but I would pick them up later. The bathroom had been recently been redone with the other repairs and I had multiple shower heads installed in the shower and had a larger hot water heater installed. Within moments, steam rose from the shower and I stepped in. The first few moments were bliss and I closed my eyes to simply enjoy it.

The shower was over far quicker than I would have liked but I still had rituals which I needed to perform. Still, I was able to relax and find my center while under the hot water. It would help quite a bit. I quickly toweled myself off and threw the towel on top of where I had discarded my clothing before I jumped into the shower. I reminded myself that I needed to pick up the cloths which I had discarded on the floor. Later. Maybe I was a bit lazy. I wrapped a terrycloth robe around myself. It was time that I went to work.

There had originally been three bedrooms and I had converted one into my magical work room. The room was originally a children's bedroom. Kind of small but still large enough for my uses. Thick curtains now made sure that no one could see inside. Many of my magical tools and components were in the room. As I prepared for the ritual, I lit a dozen cones of rosemary incense as the essence of memory.

Holly had accidently forgotten a hairbrush in my house one of the times she visited and I had loaned her an extra I had. From that hairbrush, I was able to pull a few hairs. Due to the hairs physical ties to her, they would greatly increase my ability to locate her. I put a recent picture beside the hairs to further strengthen the magic. I began the word of the ritual to locate her. At least there was no need for a circle with this ritual. I began a slow chant which built in both speed and power as I gathered the magical energies needed to fuel the ritual. Power began to build and I began feeling a floating sensation and hopefully I could soon see where she was. I hoped that there would be enough clues to find where she was because the ritual did not actually pinpoint her location.

Bang, suddenly it feel like I had hit a brick wall. It looked my right from my floating state I had been in a moment and stunned me for a few seconds. I took a deep breath and tried to relax. That was unexpected. There were rituals which protected a location from being scanned with magic such as I just used but I had never encountered the magic before. The magic did not feel familiar although there are ways of creating such magic without leaving an aura. It was extremely powerful and likely was created by an extremely powerful sorcerer. The shield which preventing me from locating Holly did feel new though. There was a raw sensation to it. It was a very different sensation than when you tried to locate a person outside the range of the ritual or if the person was deceased. At least it hopefully meant that Holly was alive.

The real problem was that there was no much more which I could do at the moment. I could get further impressions off the brush she had left in my house but they would be of little good. The mystic wall which prevented me from scanned for Holly also meant that in all likelihood that it was not a Fundamentalist group behind the kidnaping. There were some Christian Sorcerer but they were splinter branches which the Fundamentalists would have nothing to do with in all likelihood.

No, I would have to search the old fashion way. Ask questions of other practitioners and see if they knew anything. Luckily, I did not have to work at the library tomorrow. Of course forgetting about the cloths I had left on the bathroom floor, I headed for be. No, I am not a slob! I just forgot!

I planned to wait until the afternoon to see Holly's family. First I wanted to ask some questions of others who practice magic within the area. On reconsideration this morning, it was possible that a sorcerer or sorceress already established in the area might be the one responsible. I hoped not because it would make it potentially even more difficult. Still, the 'new' feeling of the shields made that less likely. As well, Summer Solstice was coming up less than a week. Logically that was the most likely date for any ritual to take place and when the children would most likely be killed to supply the energy needed for a high powered ritual.

I had dressed carefully for today. Celtic style clothing was very expensive so I had learned to make my own, mostly from cloths that I got from a thrift store. A long skirt with Celtic knot work again but with a low medieval style collar. No makeup although I tied up my braids carefully.

There were several reason why I dressed like this. One was because I liked the look but it made me look harmless. There were large numbers of Folkies, as they were often called, in the San Francisco area. They liked to dress in period clothing from the Elizabethan, Mideval, and other time frame. Mine were not quite "period" but were close and far less expensive that true period clothing. I could easily blend with the Folkies this was.

First stop would be one of the magic shops I knew best in San Francisco proper. The owner was very nice and I knew was just a bit sweet on me. He was happily married and did nothing beyond flirting but I still knew he was attracted to me. I knew that he and his wife Susan had been trying for quite some time to have children with no luck. He was not in my league in his magic abilities and would not want to get him involved directly as a result. I knew of few in the area who were and were all too caught in their own affairs to get involved. Still, Lutherus had his ear on almost the entire magic community and I had to hope he had heard something that could help me.

The other place I planned to visit before seeing Holly's family was the Witches' Moon Cafe. As the name of the restaurant indicated, the place was a hang out for those who practiced magic. While I had no-one specific in mind, there were always rumors running around the place and maybe I could find out something valuable. There was also the chance that someone on the streets would know something. It was too much to do in one day but I had to do what I could in the time I had.

The few sorcerers and sorceress in the area that were of my power level or more powerful were also a concern. While I was powerful, I was extremely young and there were many with decades more experience than I had. Even though they were all reclusive, I though I knew enough about all those with my level of power well enough to think that they were not responsible but was it possible to really know?

At least I had finally remembered to take the clothes from the bathroom floor and put them in the hamper to get cleaned. There was a spell I had read about which allowed for the magical cleaning of clothing that I wish I knew. It was also suppose to repair minor damage to clothing. It was time to go out. I grabbed my keys and made sure that the house security, both mundane and mystical were on.

I got to the store which Lutherus ran just as he was opening. It was a small shop which was set in one of the three story buildings on one of the rolling hills which San Francisco is famous for. Similar buildings were on either side. Lutherus and his wife lived above the shop and I had visited them several times. In front of the shop was the sign Mystic Fire with warding signs along the top of the sign.

It is predicted that one day there would be another earthquake which would level the city once again. It was a beautiful city although the political climate left much to be desired. Biggest problem was the gun control laws including trying to ban firearms completely. How else was a one hundred pound woman suppose to defend herself from a two hundred and fifty pound man? Sorry but martial arts just does not cut it.

I had a nice stainless Ruger P-97 pistol which I went to the range with whenever I got a chance and I had become a pretty good shot. Many of the men at the range were surprised when I pulled out a forty-five pistol. My uncle Bruce, who had been a Vietnam Veteran, had taught me how to shoot. He preferred the forty-five over the nine millimeter because of its better knockdown power. I agreed with him, preferring to not need more than one shot. My magic was not limit less.

The bells which had attached to the door jingled as I opened the door to the magical shop and Lutherus looked eyes with me from the stool he was seated on. In his mid to late Thirties, he was likely at least a foot taller than I was when he was standing and his shoulders were built like a weight lifters. I gave him my most brilliant smile as I entered his shop. There was no one else in the shop yet. The trip to his shop would also allow me to stock up on the herbs which I was getting close to running out on. Besides I missed seeing him. Maybe half the reason I had dressed this way was for him. I did not want to steal him from his wife but I did like being appreciated as a woman.

I asked, "So how is Suzy?" and watched him smile back at me. His wife Susan hated being called Suzy and it had become a private joke between us.

"Pretty good although she will clobber you if she hears you call her that." Lutherus came back with. "We are still having no luck although we are trying a new clinic next week.

"That is excellent. I do wish you luck. Well, I will need the usual" I stated as I handed him a list of the herbs which I would need.

"Obviously, you are here for more than this. I can tell that something is wrong," came his response as he looked at the list I had handed him. Lutherus knew me too well to trick him easily. My smile faulted for just a moment.

"You are right" came my response, "I have a problem which I hope you can help me with."

"Go on," he directed me, looking just a bit concerned. He began gathering the herbs I had on my list and carefully sealing them in small zip-lock bags.

"Have you heard about the missing kids?" I asked him. When he nodded his head, I continued with, "One of them, Holly Smith, I know pretty well. I was teaching a bit about magic. I tried to locate her with a ritual last night but it failed. Problem was not that the spell just did not work but it was blocked by something." With that his eyes went wide. The spell to create a sanctum which prevented mystic scrying would be very expensive and few in the area could likely cast such a thing even with aid.

I let him digest what I had told him before continuing, "What I need to know if you have heard anything about any new in this area who might wield this kind of power?"

He shook his head. It was what I was afraid of. "I have not heard anything anyone new coming into the area with the kind of power which might be as powerful as that. I can ask the other shop owners though. It is likely that he would need to get materials for his magical activities and unless he gets them from out of the area, someone might have seen something."

Nodding my head, I stated, "I am concerned because Summer Solstice is only a few days away. Any ritual which needs a lot of power is most likely to be performed on that day," echoing what I had thought to myself earlier.

"Well, It will take some time. Probably be best if you come back later, maybe around seven or eight. I know that you are not much of a cook having tasted your cooking," came his response although he smiles at the end. Still, it was true enough. I just never seemed to be able to get the knack for cooking down right. His wife was an incredible cook and visions of her cooking danced through my head.

I nodded my head and asked, "So have you managed to acquire anything interesting which I might be interested in?"

"Well, there is a new book which I bought recently. It looks like it might have some old spells described in it. It will be a lot of work to decipher and was looking for just the right buyer, someone with a lot of patience. It is worth a fortune but for you, I think I can let it go for around cost."

I was intrigued. "Can I see this book?" I asked. He got off his stool to retrieve the tome.

Finished at Lutherus's shop, I had found an empty seat by the bar at the Witches' Moon Cafe. I did not want to carry the book around so I had left it with him where I would pick it up at dinner. While waiting on the sandwich I had order, I simply sat back and sipped a cup of tea. Regular tea, not the herbal tea which many of the other patrons were drinking. I would likely need the energy by the end of the day. While quite crowded, no one sat on either side of my stool. From the auras around me, about three quarters of the patrons were mundanes with no magical or psychic spark. They just wanted to visit the wild side as they considered it. The rest were split between mystical and psychic. Most appeared to be of relatively low power, just having a small number of gifts. Having gifts can be wonderful but the more power you have, the more trouble which seems to find you. It is definitely a double edged sword to be as powerful as I was.

The walls of the cafe were a dark blue and various mystic symbols ran along the walls near the ceiling. Posters from various movies featuring witches decorated the cafe. Nearest to my seat was a poster for the movie "The Craft" and others included "Hocus Pocus" and the "Witches of Eastwick." Lamps hung on the ceiling with bulbs designed to emulate candles and there was a candle on each table. Instead of being gloomy, the cafe was an energetic place.

The atmosphere was quite loud, especially after hush of Lutherus's shop. Dozens of conversations were going on at once. The talk drowned out the light music which was being played in the background. Most of the conversations were of a mundane variety but some were mystically oriented. Several had to do with plans for summer solstice. I was more or less a solitary practitioner and had no real plans for the solstice myself beyond a simple ritual to celebrate the longest day. I could only hope that I might hear something which would clue me in towards what was happening.

Suddenly a conversations caught my attention. A woman a few seats away from me asked her companion, "Did you hear about Marianne, Carol?" The other woman shook her head, "Her daughter disappeared. Marianne went to the cops but they just pretty much seem to consider her to be a runaway." I had met Marianne a few months ago and her daughter was definitely Gifted. That made at least three of the ten children who were missing to be Gifted.

Picking up my cup of tea, I got up from the bar and walked over to their table. "I am sorry but I heard a bit about what you were discussing. I am pretty concerned about it myself. Could I join you?" I asked. Now that I looked closer at the two woman, I thought I remembered them from Marianne's coven. Still, I did have a fairly good reputation even if an outside to them.

The woman who had been speaking motioned to the seat and replied, "I guess so." I think here name is Elizabeth. I sat down and crossed my hands on the table in front of me.

"I am concerned because of the girls I know is missing also. Do you know Holly?" I continued once I had settled. Elizabeth shook her head and I stated, "Holly is Gifted as well and I am concerned that someone is going after teenagers who are Gifted."

Elizabeth responded, "I don't know much more than that she disappeared a few days ago. Marianne called me, hoping that she had heard something. She had been coming back from art lessons and never came back home. She knew better than to accept a ride from strangers." Maybe I could talk to Marianne and find out the route that her daughter took back from art classes and see if there is anything in common with the route Holly might have taken. I knew that Holly took piano lessons a couple of nights a week.

I tried to think of any questions I should ask Elizabeth but most questions would be best to ask Marianne. Still, there were another area I could ask about. "I have other reasons to believe that there may be a new practitioner in the area or possibly a group. If it is an individual, the person could be quite powerful. Have you heard any rumors of anyone new?" Both Elizabeth and Carol shook their head. Still, they did not associate a lot with other practitioners from what I remembered and mostly only involved themselves with their own coven. It was possible someone else had heard something.

"I am sorry to have disturbed you." I stated. "If you do not mind, I will head back up to the bar." With that, I grabbed my tea again and stood up. Weaving around tables, I walked back over to the seat I had occupied previously. It was a bit surprising that no one had taken it. Just as I sat down, my hot pastrami on rye sandwich appeared on a plate in front of me. You might think that the waitress was psychic and in this bar, you would be right. I knew for a fact that she was.

Thinking about a powerful new sorcerer in the area made me think of my father. I had not seen him since I was five and had few memories of him. He was kicked out of the commune I had lived until that time because he had stolen funds but I always wondered if it was more than that. It was quite possible that he was dead now. He had styled himself "Alistair Blackstone" and was definitely an extremely powerful sorcerer. It was likely that my gift had come from him because my mother never had a spectacular gift for magic. Of course it was rumored that he dabbled in the black arts including necromancy and blood rites. Even though I did not think it likely that it was him, I wondered what would happen if we ever ran into each other.

When the waitress returned to me after I had polished off the pastrami on rye, I asked her, "Hey, have you heard anything about any new practitioners in the area, especially someone powerful?"

She stopped for a moment and nodded, "I have heard a few rumors but not much beyond that. Heard a few here discussing him. Mostly those that see themselves as practicing the dark side of the arts. There seems to be a lot of awe about him and it sounds like he is quite rich as well. No name and I don't know where he has set up his residence. It sounds more like they hope he will ally himself with them than anything else." There were many who saw themselves as demon worshipers and dabbled in the arts. They often dressed in gothic styles and thought they knew what the dark really was. Most would piss themselves if they ever actually met it.

I handed stack of bills to the waitress and told her, "Keep the change." It was little enough anyway and she needed it as bad as I did. With that, I stood up and headed out the door. I did not notice that someone had gotten up behind me and followed me out the door.

I was only a little way out of the Cafe when I heard rapid footsteps. A male was approaching me, dressed in black cloths with a black trench coat over it. All of his cloths were genuine leather. Definitely more expensive than my salvation army clothing. Incredibly hot for this time of year, I could not understand how anyone could wear something like that. He was not tremendously tall but of course towered over my five foot two inch height. Still, having spend much of my youth hanging around, along with my brother, children I shouldn't, I knew how to defend myself among other things. After our mother had left the commune, I did not have much choice. The person was definitely a Goth from all of the piercings on his face. He had a large nose ring, his lip was pierced in multiple places, his eyebrows were pierced, and of course his ears were pierced. Maybe I am old fashioned by that look is disgusting to me. If he got rid of them and did not wear such a sullen expression, he might even be pretty good looking.

I turned to face him. While I did not try and scan his aura, there was no huge amounts of magic energy radiating from him. If he was Gifted, he was only minimally Gifted at best. He spoke, "Babe, I may have some stuff I could tell you but not here on the street." He motioned towards one of the nearby alleys. Even without any kind of danger sense, such as some psychics have, it was easy to see that he was leading me into a trap.

As soon as he was past me, I studied the aura of him and to see if there were any other auras in the alley. From a closer look at his aura, I could tell that he was not gifted in any way. There was something messed up in his aura. It is often hard to tell exactly what although it very well might be drugs in his system. They will often eat a person alive and destroy them slowly. Still, this stain of his aura was different than any I had ever seen. A new drug, maybe.

Still, I needed information so I allowed him to lead me into the alley. The walls of the alley were brick which had been painted dozens of time. The top color was red but from the peeling layers, you could see that it had been painted almost every color of the rainbow. Broken glass littered the pavement in many places and grass battled through cracks in other areas. Various smells assault me as I followed him into it. The strongest odor which I could readily recognize was that of urine. It was likely that bums often slept in the alley and various shelters had been constructed from scrap wood and cardboard. The alley was extremely narrow, maybe three or three and a half feet wide and was pretty dark as a result.

He suddenly turned to me and tried to puff up. "I heard you asking too many questions. The matter is no concern of yours. I suggest you forget all about it." Obviously he though that since he was so much larger than me that he had the upper hand. He continued with, "If you don't, I will have to reach you a lesson. Perhaps I will have to teach you a lesson anyway." Of course I already knew the lesson he wanted to teach me, always thinking with his gonads. His hand went to his crotch.

I simply smiled at him and stepped back a few paces. Yes, I could shoot him but that would not be the most effective means of dealing with him although it was quite tempting. The magic words for telekinesis rolled off my tongue and I grabbed a piece of wood with my mind. The wood caught his feet and he went sprawling. Many sorcerers think that brute force is the best way but sometimes tricks and the subtle use of magic are the best ways.

"You know, you need to be careful." I answer pleasantly as he began to stand up. He scowled back at me and I continued with, "And about this matter, I think we should discuss him a bit more." Obviously, I was succeeding in getting him extremely angry although it was hard to tell if it was good or bad. When he looked like he was about to charge me again, I used telekinesis to pull down his leather pants and he again fell over.

I continued to stay out from where he could grab me. I could not torture him but there was no reason I could not humiliate him just a little bit. "Naughty, Naughty," I told him. I continued smiling as I asked gently, "I just want to know what you know about this matter? Who told you to pay attention to others talking about it?"

Still fighting me, he shook his head, "I am not going to tell you nothing about. The master...." and he shut his mouth, knowing that he had said too much.

"Hmm, the master." I paused for a few breathless moments and asked in a quiet voice, "So who is this master of yours?"

He spat out, "He is far more powerful than you! He needs no silly parlor tricks! He will send you screaming to hell as a gift to the dark lord or send one of his demon servants. I have seen them, bitch. You should fear them."

While I was not going to tell him, I did fear demons. Even lesser demons could be extremely powerful. I had to wonder just how many demon servants he had recruited. The idea of having to deal with demon servants was something that made me nervous. I would need allies if I had to deal with them as well as him.

With more bravado than I real felt, I replied "Well, you are the one on the ground with your pants down around you ankles. Parlor tricks indeed. Still, I just need to pull hard on a certain body part and you will become a eunuch. Especially after what you had planned for me, it would be tempting. So, do you want to tell me what your all powerful master wants with garbage like you?"

"Won't do you any good. The master recruited us of the Black Hand to join him as his servants. We are going to get women and drugs. Our leader already got his reward for loyalty. Katrina is quite a babe and we have all been promised women like her."Obviously, someone recruited to keep tabs on the gang. I also had to wonder what they effects of all of these drugs might be. It was questionable what he actually saw and did not see. These demons could just be drug induced hallucinations now that I thought about it.

"So tell me who is this master of yours?" I asked, keeping my voice gentle but watching him carefully for any false move. He was still much bigger than I was and could be extremely dangerous if he got close.

"He called himself Master Elrick." the Goth replied to me. "He showed us his powers real good. He will make you beg for mercy. That is if he just does not send one of his demons to rip you apart."

"So, where does this Master Elrick live?" I asked.

"Won't tell you, bitch!" He snarled at me.

Using telekinesis, I lifted up the piece of wood and positioned it directly above his crotch. Sweetly, I asked again, "Where does he live."

"Don't know. Always comes to see us at our club," came his response. "Usually he just passes it through our leader or through Katrina, though. Sometimes he will send a demon servant to see us instead of coming himself or going through them."

"You would be extremely helpful if you could tell where this club is?" I asked. It was hard to keep my tone reasonable but it was quite rewarding watching this Goth punk not know how to react.

For a moment it looked like he was not going to answer and he then asked, "Why should I tell you where our headquarters. I simply locked eyes with his dark brown eyes and he cracked within moments, "Alright, I will tell you." and he told me the address. If it was where I thought it was, it is in a rundown warehouse area. From his voice, I did not think he was lying. Maybe it was where he was keeping the children.

"Is that where the children are being kept?" I asked him.

"Children, we don't have any children. Just were told by our leader that if anyone asks, to tell him of anyone asking about them. What do I care about them anyway. What's a few kids anyway for the glory of the master? Don't know where he keeps them." he responded. Was he lying or did he know nothing about where the children were being kept. Kind of surprising that he had not used the punks in helping to assist with the kidnaping of the children. Maybe he was afraid that they would blab.

"So tell me what this great and powerful master looks like?" I asked back.

He stated, "Master Elrick has a black mustache which is pointed and has black hair with white streaks on either side." Unfortunately, its is just as likely that Master Elrick simply alters his features using magic. The spell was relatively easy to cast and I knew it myself. It did not sound like he really trusted such a low level pawn anyway. Still, I had to consider that the sorcerer used the same kind of magic to trick the kids. Maybe posing himself as a family friend in some cases and in other cases a priest or a police officer, someone the teenager thought they could trust. Some supernatural creatures such as Succubus could do the same thing as well.

"Hmm, you keep talking about the demons which serve your master. Perhaps you could describe them for me?" I asked, keeping a close look at his expression.

"Giant, about nine feet tall. Muscular like Arnold. They have the head like some animal, a little like a cat maybe a dog. Have horns. Grey green skin."

I did not want this punk chasing after me as soon as he got his pants back on. I could hurt him worse than I had but did not want to if I did not have to. I used my telekinesis to quickly unbuckle his boots and threw them with all the force I could muster. They sailed out of the alley and into the street. Suddenly he yelled, "Those cost three hundred bucks." I simply smiled and walked out of the alleyway, keeping a careful eye incase he decided to do something rash.

How I hated meeting with families of those who were missing or dead. Emotions were running extremely high. I sat on a recliner facing Mr Smith and his wife on the couch, both extremely scared and there was nothing I could say to them to offer comfort. I could see from their faces that they had been crying. I was close to crying myself. Holly was very special to me as well. At least I knew they cared and I could only hope I could find Holly in time and return her to her family.

Of course due to being one of the more powerful practitioners of magic in the city, I had to deal with the supernatural when it got out of control and stop the Gifted who abuse their powers to harm others. Maybe it was Karma having to balance the evil of my father. Part of that involved trying to talk to those who are considered mundane. It was rare but unknown that Gifted children.

Of course I could not tell them the whole truth either, that I had been teaching their daughter magic. I had told them instead that I had been teaching her mythology. In truth, it was one of the areas I had studied extensively both in college and on my own. I had also studied several ancient languages and could probably get a job in the museum if I ever decided that I did not want to be a librarian anymore.

"I came by to see if I could offer anything to help in finding your daughter," I heard myself telling the two parents. Their two other children were upstairs and had been ordered to stay in the house at all time. Porbably a good idea especially if they were potentially Gifted like their sister. "Maybe if you told me what happened, I could help." I felt guilt that I was using just a bit magic so that they might trust me more than they might otherwise. There was a small amount of risk but did not have the time to work them otherwise.

Mrs Smith spoke first, "Holly had gone to piano lessons that night and we were suppose to meet her outside the teacher's studio. When we got there, she wasn't waiting for us. I parked and went up to see the teacher to see if the lesson had been running late." Mrs Smith broke down into tears and could not continue for several moments. I simply waited patiently. "She said that Holly had left about fifteen minutes before. We checked the local stores to see if maybe she went to get a Coke or something. She was nowhere to be found. We tried her cell phone and got no answer. The police tried tracking it and could not find it either. She couldn't have run away, could she?" She burst into tears again. I found tears stinging in my eyes as well.

I waited several minutes before speaking, simply keeping my hands clasped on my lap and taking deep breaths to keep myself calm. Eventually I judged her calm enough to answer some questions. It had also given me a chance to compose some questions in my head, "Mrs Smith, who have you told your daughter that you could trust them?"

"A few family, a few friends, nobody else. You don't thing someone we know did this?" she demanded and I could see the nightmare behind her eyes.

"No" I answered, "I think is more likely someone who appears to be in authority. Maybe a police officer, maybe a clergy member."

Mrs Smith shook her head. "No, Holly would have called us on her cell phone. If it had been anyone other than Frank or I, she would have called us."

"Maybe not go with but who would she be willing to talk to, maybe they surprised her?" I asked. There was likely half a dozen magic spells which could easily have been used to incapacitate her. Some of them were not even all that powerful of spells. There were also several spells which can convince others to believe whatever the sorceress tells them. Those concepts would be foreign to Holly's parents so I tried to suggest ideas which would be more mundane. I did not know if it was right or wrong but Holly had elected to keep the mystical side of her life from her parents. From what I understood from her, they were not Fundamentalists or anything like that but she was nervous about telling them.

"Maybe one of her friends from school but we have tried to always teach Holly to be careful," replied Holly's father this time. He was not controlling his grief any better than his wife but he seems to have been taught, like a lot of men, that a man is not suppose to cry. It would be better for him if he did cry, to be honest but society did not teach that.

I just sat quietly, having run out of things to say. I wish I could tell them to trust the police but to be honest, I never really trusted them even in mundane areas and there were few cops in the country which I feel are competent to deal with the divine. They are all either psychics or practitioners of magic who keep their special gifts secret from those they work with. I wish I knew of at least one in the San Francisco area.

There were also still few clues which I had been able to discover. I had hopes that Lutherus was able to find out something, anything which would help me find the missing children. I was most worried about Holly but it did not mean that my heart did not bleed for the other children as well. Maybe there was something with the Goth Gang and maybe I could find out something by tracing the path which the girls had taken on their way home. I could sneak into the gang headquarters using invisibility and no-one would be the wiser.

Lutherus's wive's cooking was, as usual, incredible. If I ate there everyday, I would probably gain thirty pounds. Unfortunately, he had no been able to learn anything about any new practitioners in the area. I had half expected it, to be honest. Of course with the Internet, it was possible that the sorcerer simply ordered them that way. Even before the Internet, there was mail order or he could simply buy his supplies elsewhere outside the city. There was what that punk had told me but it was possible that all of what he had seen had just been drug induced. A sorcerer who summoned demons is extremely powerful and I would expect that I would have heard more.

I had also attempted to find where the girls had been kidnaped with no real luck. I could possibly get a good impressions if I could find the exact spot where one had been kidnaped but there was simply too much area to cover. As well, there was no guarantee that I could get the proper vision because of the thousands of people who's own images might overwhelm my abilities.

Still, the only real chance I saw was too see if there was anything to this 'Black Hand' and had decided to sneak up to their club. I had decided to park my car several blocks back in a city garage. I had driven through the area carefully to check out the neighborhood and it did not look like a place I wanted to leave my car unattended. Still, it was funny how just a few blocks away were expensive condominiums. The people who lived there likely did their best to ignore what went on just a few blocks from their lush homes.

It was after ten at night but my night vision was still almost useless due to the streetlights. Many were out, shot or simply allowed to burn out, but it was still too bright for my eyes to adjust. The ground crunched underneath my feet no matter how hard I tried to walk quietly. There was no one on the streets other than an occasional car and I had been ignored.

Most of the windows in the buildings around me had been broken. Doors were forced open and stood open on most of the warehouses. Paint was peeling on the buildings, in many cases in huge stripes. Some of the buildings were concrete while others were metal and rust was plainly visible on most of them. Barbed wire and even razor surrounded the building which appeared to have not been abandoned. Most the windows of those where boarded up in an effort to keep vandals from breaking them out again.

The building which the gang used as their clubhouse was definitely abandoned although it was in better shape than many of the others. It was made from cinder blocks and the walls were still extremely solid. Most of the windows had been boarded up and it showed signs of having been repainted more recently than most. On the front of the building was a sign "Dexco" on the front. There was a reinforced steel door in the front but I went down the alley beside the warehouse to get behind the building, walking slowly so to minimize the crunching of glass underfoot.

There were four garage style doors in the back of the warehouse with two more places which there had been additional garage doors. More cement blocks, these unpainted, filled these openings. On the side, there was a single reinforced door. Next to the door was where there had been the electric meter. Someone had smashed out the glass and wires had been run to steal power from the electric company.

I thought I heard noises from inside and I carefully summoned the magic which would enable me to examine any auras which were inside the warehouse. When I had activated my magic, the auras of the people were clearly visible on the other side of the wall. There were the auras of a dozen males and four women. None of them had more than a trace of power and I did not recognize the aura of Holly among them. I recognized one of the auras as belonging to the punk who had attacked me earlier in the day. As well, one of the auras was a bit stronger than the others, I assumed that it was the gang's leader. There was something disturbing about the auras. There was a sickly green taint to their aura and I had never seen anything quite like it. It was like they were possessed with something. At least there were no auras which appeared to not be human even if diseased. There was something else, around waist height. There were irregular spots of a similar sickly green. In some cases, the aura was concentrated and in other cases it was more spread out. For a moment or two, I wondered what it was.

Where I was standing, I would be seen if anyone else came here or if anyone came out the back. It was probable that they used the back door as well so they could stay out of sight. Cops might get curious if they saw a bunch of punks like these going in and out of a warehouse in the middle of the night. There were several rusty drums and I quickly dove behind them to hide. I had changed into blue jeans before going out to investigate the warehouse. My skirt would have been too confining if I had to run or do anything else fast.

I wanted to investigate the warehouse but there was no chance I could sneak in with all of them in there. With a small magic I know, I could easily open the door. I also wanted to follow the leader of the gang to find out if he knew anything. No matter what, it sounds like I had to just wait. Eventually, they would all either leave or collapse. If the gang leader left, I could simply attempt to follow him. Slowly, I relaxed, preparing for a long wait.

It seemed like the wait would never end. Occasionally, I would hear a loud yell coming from the warehouse. When the gang broke up for the night, it almost caught me by surprise. Suddenly, I could hear the gunning of an engine and one of the garage doors began opening. They were more massive than I realized which was probably why they had survived. The heavy steel creaked upwards and I could see a pair of headlights. The car pulled out, for a second I thought it was going to hit the barrels which I was hiding behind. Between being dazzled by the lights and trying to stay hidden behind the barrels, I could not see what type of car it was although it was some type of black sedan.

The black car was followed by three more cars. Apparently the gang hid their cars inside of the warehouse so no one could know that they were in there. I could only get glimpses of the car. One was light colored. Maybe a creme, and the others were darker. They might have been grey or blue from the glimpses I could see. The final car stopped and I could hear the heavy door closing slowly. A final figure stepped out of the side door and I could hear the locking of a massive lock. It must have only been about thirty seconds later and the final car pulled out. There was no way I could follow them without my car and mine was pretty distinctive even if was here.

Taking a moment to look at my watch, I noted that it was almost four in the morning. So that I could see if there was anyone left in the warehouse, I magically scanned for auras once again. There was no one there but there was a trace of the auras which I had seen previously seen although much thinner, almost just a dusting of it. I waited about ten more minutes just in case one decided to return. It was a quiet ten minutes and no one came back. It seemed that the coast was clear.

The almost six hours of kneeling behind the barrels had taken their toll and I had to get up slowly. Slowly, I stretched my legs and tried to work the kinks out. It took a few minutes and I could only hope that I would not get arthritis later in life.

I walked over to the door of the warehouse. I still felt some stiffness in my legs as I walked. As I had expected, the door was locked but that was easy enough to solve. I laid my hands on the lock and called the magic words of a spell. The lock clicked open. I pulled on the doorknob and looked inside. It was hard to know what the building had been used for previously.

I continued walking and saw that they had set up in what had been an office. There were a few tables and some stained and ripped couches and recliners. There were several old car seats as well. There were bags of various take out foods and the smell of them assaulted me seconds later. As well, I could smell the odor which appeared to come from the bathrooms in the corner. The smell of garbage and other odors was not quite overpowering but it certainly was not pleasant.

Closing the door behind me, I walked inside of the warehouse. I had a small flashlight in my purse and used it to look closer at the inside. There was something glistening on the tables and there were all sorts of items strewn on the floor. From the position which I had seen the strange aura coming form, it appeared that it was on the table, it was on the table. Shining my light on the table, I could see that it was some kind of white crystalline powder. It was obviously not sugar. I had heard rumors of magically enhanced drugs but I had been extremely skeptical until now. Probably the drugs were how the gang made most of their money.

Something extremely shiny caught my flashlight as I scanned the table. Turning the flashlight directly toward it, I saw a box filled with jewelry. For some reason, it caught my attention and I decided to investigate it. It was on the other side of the room and I made my way through the garbage on the floor. I picked up the box from the floor and found that it was extremely heavy. With some relief, I put it down on the table which was next to me. Either they did some stealing on their own or people had hawked this stuff to buy drugs.

Slowly, I went through the box. Several wedding bands caught my attention. I could only wonder how many lives ruined this box represented. Then I saw it and I could only look at it for several stunned moments. It was a bracelet I had given to Holly. It was not all that expensive but it was extremely distinctive. It was a copper bracelet with turquoise stones and an intricate Celtic knot work pattern.

It was the first sign which I had found of Holly. This gang had something to do with her disappearance no what that punk who I had question had tried to tell me. Maybe some gang members were in on the kidnapings while others were kept in the dark. I planned to find out exactly what. When I got home, I would try and get some impressions off the bracelet. I pocketed the bracelet and prepared to leave.

It seems to only be in stories where people do not have to work. As a result, I knew that I would probably pay for my late night and early morning adventure. I had to be at the library at nine thirty in the morning and could not take the day off. The city took a dim view on employees who took too many days off and I had only held the job for a short time. As a result, I knew I needed to get home to get whatever sleep I could.

Quickly, I locked the door behind me and headed back to the parking garage where I had parked my Mustang. Luckily, the streets were deserted, even more deserted than when I had come here, and I was able to get back to the garage without further incident. I did not even see more than handful of cars moving on the street.

While walking back to my car, I debating if I should try and trace the girl through the bracelet before I went to bed. What I finally decided was that it would be best to wait until the afternoon and I got off work. I was tired and might not be able to hold a vision properly. It would make tracing Holly all that much harder. Magic should be avoided if you were hurt or exhausted. Unfortunately, that was not always possible.

I was completely exhausted when I pulled into the driveway. Looking at my watch, I saw that it was just after five in the morning. Luckily, the light traffic allowed me to get home far quicker than I ever would have managed during the day. I had just enough presence of mind to set the security system and the alarm spells before getting out of the car.

Stumbling into the house, I laid down on the bed without bothering to take anything off. It felt just so comfortable after my long day. I told myself that it would just before a moment and I would get undressed. Next thing I knew, it was eight thirty and I had to get ready for work fast.

It was almost impossible to concentrate in the library when I got there. Somehow, I managed to make it through although the hours seemed to pass extremely slowly. Being tired from my all night vigil had not helped either. While normally I enjoy my job, most of my attention was on trying to find Holly. I could only hope that the bracelet would give me the impressions I need to find out what had happened to her.

Finally, I could go home. I almost ran for my car as soon as I had checked out. It took twice as long as usual to get home due to being caught in the middle of rush hour traffic. Friday night and everybody was out. While it was extremely frustrating being caught in stop and go traffic, I managed to avoid honking or shouting. Many of the other drivers were not so restrained and my head hurt by the time I reached my driveway.

The sun was down by the time that I unlocked the front door and stepped inside. I needed to relax and get rid of my tension before the vision spell would work properly. The first step was a shower and hopefully I could manage to center myself. Turning the water on full blast, I discarded my clothes on the bathroom floor and stepped into the powerful spray. The shower felt wonderfully. Slowly, I peeled away layers, hunting for my core. First went the cares and worry from the day. Time would take care of most of them.

The headache slowly receded and I was able to concentrate on the task at hand. Staying under the warm water, I was able to find my center and felt refreshed. While I probably was under the water a good fifteen or twenty minutes, the water and electric bill did not concern me. I could feel the magic energies swirling around me, ready for my call. The new energies were probably fleeting but hopefully it would be enough to carry me through the rituals which I needed to perform tonight.

I got out of the shower and turned off the water. Before I went into bathroom to shower, I had brought my ritual robe from the bedroom closet. The bed had not been made and the clothes which had worn the night before had been discarded on the floor. To be honest, I really needed to clean up the house.

The work table in my sanctuary was a single polished slab of oak. I kept it cleansed at all time so that magical energies did not build up. Just in case, I decided to consecrate the table again. I sprinkled some sea salt on the table and spoke the words to cleanse the energies from the oak slab. While any salt was suppose to work, I found that I preferred sea salts which I collected myself. In many cases, what a person believes effects their magic. If someone believes that something works, it probably will. If someone believes something will not work, it will not. Carefully, I swept the salt off the table so that it did not interfere with my magic.

Only then did I lay the bracelet on the table. I put it in the exact center in a Pentagram which was carved into the center of the hard wood slab. During breaks at work I had carefully examined the bracelet and had found no blood on it so there was some hope that Holly was still unharmed.

I closed my eyes and concentrated my magical energies on the bracelet. Slowly a vision formed. The first vision which came up was when I gave the bracelet to her. The happiness when she first put it around her wrist and I watched the vision as if I was watching. The sparkle in her eyes and the wide smile on her face. Emotional times tend to be the strongest and this vision was intimately linked with me.

The vision shifted as I expected it to. I heard the sounds of a piano and Holly practically skipping from the music teacher's studio, dressed in a plaid skirt. The girls expression turned nervous when she looked around. Her parents appeared to not have gotten there yet and there was no one else around. Either she got out of her piano lessons early or her parents were running late. She continued to look back and forth. The street was not a major route and there were no other cars on the darkened street. Holly pulled out her cell phone and looked like she was about to call but instead put it back in her purse.

A black vehicle pulled up to where the girl was waiting, I assume for her parents to pick her up. While I did not recognize the car specifically, I could see the stylized "L" of a Lexus. The car seemed familiar although I could not remember where I might have seen it. There were thousands of black Lexus of this type on the streets anyway.

A woman got out of the passenger side, dressed all in black. The style of her cloths were Goth and appeared to be extremely expensive. The figure had long raven hair and was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. She could be described as a goddess. Still, I thought got a feeling of evil from her. There was something not quite right about her. There was a male in the driver seat, also appearing to be dressed in the Gothic style. While I could not see any facial piercings on the woman, I could see several on him. There had been several girls in the Black Hand from the auras I had seen last night and maybe the black Lexus was the first car I saw pull out last night.

Moving so fast that she took me by surprise, the woman grabbed Holly and dragged my friend into the car. The woman's hands were on Holly's mouth, preventing her from screaming. Holly tried kicking and fighting the woman, who did not appear to be much larger than Holly, but it seemed to do not good. Within a few moments, Holly was in the back seat and she was pinned by the Goth woman. From movement in the back, it looked like Holly continued to try fighting but it appeared to do little good. Still, the man had to get up and close the passenger door. He looked around nervously before getting back into the drivers seat. It appeared that less than a minute had transpired. The car pulled out, accelerating quickly.

My vision wavered and then stabilized again, finding my vision inside the car instead of looking at it from the outside. Holly's initial shock changed to fear as she realized that she was being kidnaped. The woman continued to hold her hand over Holly's mouth as the man continued to drive. I tried to get a glimpse of where they were going but there was not enough visible through my vision to tell where they were going. The two Goths started talking to each other.

The male stated, "I don't like this, Katrina," with what sounded like nervousness in his voice.

Katrina responded, "This is for the master. You do not want to upset him, do you?"There was obvious menace in the woman's voice. In the wrestling match between Katrina and Holly, the bracelet was ripped from my friend's wrist and fell to the floor behind the front seats. There, it glimmered dimly.

He did not appear quite finished and stated, "You know that it is not safe to bring her back to our club. The others don't know about what we are doing and one might talk to the wrong person. We got the drugs and they expect us soon."

A bit annoyed, she responded, "So, call them and tell them that you will be running a little late. You know he is not a patient man."

"Alright," he responded and pulled out his cell phone. The conversation was extremely low key, almost in whispers and I could only make out bits and pieces. After a moment, he closed his phone, obviously finished. He went back to concentrating on the steering wheel.

From what I could see in the back seat, it appeared that Holly was weakening. I knew she participated in field hockey and was pretty strong. In fact, she was taller and probably stronger than I was. This Katrina did not even seem to be breathing hard. She must be incredibly strong. The question entered my mind was if she was actually human.

I caught a glimpse out of the car window of what appeared to be the Golden Gate Bridge and the vision began fading out. To be honest, it was amazing it had held out as long as it had. There grew a mist between me and the inside of the car. Suddenly, there was nothing more to see. The vision had been broken.

I simply stood, with my hands against the table, waiting for my vision to clear. The spell does not require a huge amount of power but when the vision faded or was broken, there were several minutes of disorientation. It was not a spell which you wanted to cast in a hostile situation. I blinked my eyes and slowly regained my center and the workroom came into focus.

With Solstice only days away, I did not dare wait. If I could get to the male in the visions, I should be able to get where this "Master" lives. I needed to get to the gang's clubhouse tonight. It sounded like they met most nights. Hopefully they would be meeting there tonight.

As soon as I stepped into my bedroom, I dropped my ritual robe to the floor. I told myself that I would pick it up later. I dressed as fast as I could. It would be jeans and tee-shirt tonight, nothing fancy like I had wore the day before. Just as soon as I was dressed, I ran out the door. I only stopped to grab my purse and my pistol.

Luckily, the drive there was uneventful. Like I had last night, I parked my Mustang in the garage which was several blocks away. Even without the possibility of vandalism or theft, it would look extremely suspicious in that neighborhood. Walking back to where the "Black Hand" met, I snuck around to the back.

No cars were parked out back but last night they had all been hidden inside the old warehouse. Hiding behind the same barrel which I hade used last night, I concentrated on seeing if there were any auras in the warehouse. As my magic sight focused, I saw that there were several individual inside the old warehouse.

There was that same sickly green aura which dusted the table which I remembered from yesterday. When I was at the library, I had taken the opportunity to research on any new drugs on the street to see if I could find out something more concrete. There was one called "Hell Dust." Some kind of modified Crack Cocaine, it seemed to bring out the evil in people even worse than Crack or Meth did. Police labs had attempted to analyze the drug fully and they literally could not analyze some of the unknown elements of the drug. Articles indicated that the F.B.I. had tried along with several other premier non-police labs and the drug made no more sense to them than it did to the police labs. Multiple victims had died from withdrawal from the drugs while under the care of detox centers. Maybe there really was a supernatural aspect to this "Hell Dust" and that was what I was seeing on the table.

Looking over the auras in the room, seeing if one was likely the leader, suddenly an aura stood out. It was definitely not human. In the past, I have encountered demons. Actually, I have encountered a single demon and it was something I hoped I never had to deal with again. This aura was similar to the demon which I had encountered but definitely not the same creature. There was an blackness to their aura which I had never seen in other type of creature. This creature did not feel quite as powerful as the one which I had encountered before. For several moments, I debated if I should stay here and hope that she does not sense me or if I should escape as fast as I could. After almost debating with myself to the point of distraction, I finally decided to wait. I was worried that it might have seen me but its attentions appeared to be elsewhere.

There was one specific human aura which is seemed to hang near most often. It was the strongest one and seemed to be the aura of whom I assumed last night to have been the leader. Otherwise, there was nothing extraordinary about his aura. No sign of him being a psychic or a practitioner of magic. Like the others, there was some kind of corruption in his aura. Most likely it was from these drugs which he was taking.

Settling down for a long wait, I watched carefully the back of the warehouse. I needed to come up with a plan on how I could either find out where he lived or catch him alone.

It only seemed to take forever but suddenly I could hear the noise of the heavy metal door opening. The sound was just as loud as it had been the previous morning. This meeting appeared to end a little earlier, it was only two thirty in the morning. I was looking for the black sedan which I had seen in my visions. Would it be the first car like it seemed to be on the previous morning. Quickly, I cast a spell which would make me invisible. Of course any demon would probably see right through the spell but I hoped to keep it distracted.

The first headlight seemed different and it was the cream colored car which pulled out first. The second one though appeared to be the black sedan which I had seen in my vision. Focusing on auras, I saw that the one who appeared to be the leader of the gang was in the driver's seat and the figure which was some kind of demon was sitting beside in the passenger seat. I hoped that my plan would work. Otherwise my best chance would be to try and blast the demon and run as fast as I could. It was a fairly simple plan but even the simplest plans can go wrong.

It is fairly simple to disrupt electronics with magic. All you have to do is create a tiny electromagnetic pulse and all of the electronics will shut down. In some cases you can focus enough electromagnetic energies to actually destroy the electronics. The spell does not work on old cars, such as my Mustang, very well but works incredibly against new cars. Focusing just the tiniest amount of energy, I caused the black sedan to stall just as it was pulling out.

The driver tried to get it started but to no ail. After a few moment, I heard the sound of him popping the hood. He stepped out of the car and he was definitely the man who I had seen in my visions. After a moment, the raven haired of my visions stepped out of the other side. Katrina in the flesh. I had half expected that she was the being with the aura of a demon.

The man wiggled around some wires in the engine and commented, "I wonder if the battery is dead." With a few moments, most of the other gang members joined their leader beside the hood. Obvious from the sounds of the chatter, none of the gang really knew much about cars.

This would be my only chance. I ran for the back of the sedan and focuses my magic on the trunk lock. It clicked obediently. I could only hope that there was no something horrible in the trunk like a body. Looking inside, all I saw was some dirty cloths. I quickly crawled into the trunk and pulled the trunk shut. Maybe it was a bad idea but it was the only plan I could think of. At least I had my cell phone if I needed to call for help.

The conversation outside went on for several more minutes and I heard the leader say, "I am going to try it one more time." This time the sedan turned over and started when he engaged the ignition. Within just a few moments I heard the passenger door close as well.

The ride in the trunk was long enough for me to chastize myself many times over. It is extremely hard to tell how long it was and even though I am not very big, the trunk was extremely cramped. I kept imagining that the car would be driven into the bay and sunk.

In the front seat, I heard Katrina speak to the gang leader, "You should have been more careful about what you tell your gang. Having one of them beat up someone asking about it like Simon could get us into trouble. We can only hope that the girl does not go to the cops."

It took me several moments to realize what she was was talking about. Simon must have been that Goth punk who I questioned in the alley. He could not take the blow of being beaten up by a mere girl so he had to make up a story.

The male voice responded, "All I told them was to watch and listen. Simon may not be all that smart but I did not think he would openly defy me. Don't worry, he will be punished."

"Punishment might not be appropriate," the woman cooed back. In an almost sickly sweet tone she stated, "It might be best just to simply eliminate him. Maybe just make sure he has a little too much of the good stuff."

There was silence for a long time, maybe a minute. The leader then replied, "I don't like it. He has a lot of friends outside of the gang and he has been very good at selling the Hell Dust even if he does sample a bit more than I would like. I am sure that Master Elrick does not want our profits to go down? Maybe we can find the girl and permanently silence her?"

Katrina did not miss a beat with her response, "We would have to know where she is to find her. We know where to find Simon. You know what the master will say." Before he could answer her, she added, "Besides, you know the dust is selling extremely well. We can always find someone else to sell the dust to his friends."

He responded, "I know but I do like the idea of eliminating one of my own gang. We were together long before I knew you or Master Elrick."

If anything her voice turned even sweeter, "I know, baby, but some choices are hard. Where would you be without the master's patronage?" Her voice seemed to drip with false sincerity through the back seat but he seemed to not notice. She then added, "When we get to the master's, we can go upstairs after talking to him." There was sudden silence. There was nothing for me to do but wonder what was going on.

Suddenly, the car made a sharp turn and stopped for what seemed like an eternity. I thought I heard a humming sound but was not certain. Then the car moved forward and within moments I could hear the sound of the car being put into park and the engine was shut off. First one car door opened and then the other. The car jostled as they got out and slammed the doors. Wherever our destination was, this was it.

I waited several minutes in the trunk, straining for any sounds. I heard nothing which I could be positive about and the strain was making me ready to jump at the smallest sounds. Suddenly, I heard a horn moaning and I almost slammed my head into the roof of the trunk. Once I calmed down, I realized that it was the sound of a tug horn. Obviously I was somewhere near the water.

Focusing my magic on the trunk lock in the same spell I had cast several times today, I was rewarded by a clicking sound as the latch released. As I looked out from the crack of the open trunk, I was that wherever I had been brought was well lit. I slid down the side of the truck, keeping it as little open as possible.

Finally, I could look around. It took mere moments to recognize where I was. The Golden Gate Bridge was almost right over where I was standing. All around the building was a massive stone wall. It was the mansion which had belonged to the Luna Society. I had trouble believing it for a few moments. Still, it make a kind of perverse sense. Such a mansion would be the perfect place for a new mage to set up shop. Months had passed since the last time I had been close to the building.

I focused my will on the building to see what I could see inside. It was like hitting a brick wall. Someone had done an incredible job at shielding the mansion from magical probes after I had dismantled the ones I had forged onto the building. From what I could see, there were stronger than any I had ever created. There was no way I could see if Holly was in the building but I had little doubt.

There came my quandary. Should I escape and try and get some help with assaulting the mansion or should I try and rescue Holly and anyone else inside now. She should had a few more days and if I tried on my own and failed, no one would know where the girls had been take to. The problem was that most of the people who I knew and trusted at such a thing had been members of the Luna Society and were no longer available. Most of the mages and psychics I knew were too low powered for a confrontation with a sorcerer who summoned demons.

The only one I thought could was also a former member of the Luna Society. He had been a marine before being discharge for being gay. As I have said many time previously, I seem to attract gay friends. When the previous president had promised to support gays in the military, he had come out of the closet. Unfortunately for Drew, the president had chosen "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and Drew had been discharged over being a homosexual. Drew was not a powerful psychic but I knew few as good with a weapon as he was. I think even ex-marines are still marines and I knew he still worked out and was as tough as nails. Even having been out of the marines for many years, he still looked like something out of a marine recruiting poster. At least he should be able to keep the nasties away from me while I take on the sorcerer.

At least having lived in the Luna Mansion for quite a while, I knew all the secret ways in and out. Whatever defenses were on the house, there appeared to be none laid on the outside walls. There was an area of stone wall which concealed a secret passage. The only way to open the secret door was through the use of the same spell which I used to open the trunk. Quickly, I exited the courtyard, careful to close the secret door so that I could use it to sneak back in.

Unfortunately the walk back to the city was extremely long. My car was miles away. While I had my cell phone, I did not want to call a cab this close to the mansion and have it be noticed. I started walking toward the bridge and get to a place where I could call a cab and not be noticed. At least I did not have to work for the next couple of days.

I was as ready as I could be. Tomorrow was Summer Solstice and I wanted to rescue Holly before then. It would be better to say that I 'had' to rescue her before then or she would not be alive to be rescued. As I had expected, Drew had agreed to help me. Instead of taking my Mustang, we had taken Drew's van. It would be far less obtrusive than a classic Mustang. As well, the van could hide his weapons far more effectively. We were parked several blocks away next to a warehouse. Rescuing Holly and any other prisoners was my first priority with taking the sorcerer a strictly secondary concern.

It had taken a couple of days to get ready because I had enchanted his rifle so that it would be more effective against the supernatural. His rifle, he called it an M-4, looked like a shortened version of an M-16 from movies, was fully automatic and should give even a demon pause. I had enchanted my pistol in the same manner. Unfortunately, modern weapons such as firearms seem to resist the magic and it is extremely hard to enchant them although the enchantment lasts two weeks once cast.

Someone had to know what was involved in case I did not come back and I had left an envelope with Lutherus which he was only to open if I did not return by morning. Inside it was a note detailing everything I had found out and what he should tell the police. The shop keeper had not liked the idea but I had gotten him to reluctantly agreed.

The plan was to wait until Katrina had departed with her gang leader boyfriend before striking. That would leave two less that I would have to deal with. Hopefully cut off from the sorcerer who had summoned her, she would just return home. Otherwise, I would have to deal with her as well.

From where we were parked, I could see heavy metal gates openings. Moments later, the black car, which I now knew was a Lexus, pulled through the gate. I cast the spell which enabled me to see aura and was clearly the same black aura of the demon who called herself Katrina. The car passed where the van was parked and did not even slow down.

We waited for several more minutes. It was now show time. We climbed from the van and walked the several blocks towards the mansion. Drew held his rifle next to his body to hopefully keep it concealed. He wore body armor as well and he must be extremely hot. The area appeared deserted and we were able to get to the wall without incident.

With my "unlock" spell, I opened the secret door in the wall and slid inside. Drew slip inside right behind me. We were inside but I had been inside last night as well and it would only get tougher from here. Stealthily we crossed the yard to the house.

There was a secret entrance into the mansion itself. I was suspicious I knew where any prisoners where being kept and hoped I was correct. Using my spell to unlock the door, I pushed the door open. Suddenly I felt a change in wards protecting the building. I had thought that they were simply designed to prevent scrying but the sorcerer had created full defensive wards. My wards were only designed to warn me.

I pushed Drew away and cast a quick shielding spell around myself. Lightning struck all around the hastily erected shield and would have fried anybody unprotected within seconds. Whatever this sorcerer's magic lacked in subtly, he made up for it in sheer power.

With the triggering of the wards, the sorcerer would definitely know someone was here. That part I knew was almost avoidable from the beginning. There was not much time. There was nothing to do but try and get inside as fast as possible. Right behind me was Drew although I could see his eyes were wide with fear.

Suddenly four creatures appeared. They were humanoid sized and shaped but that was as far "Human" as they went. They were covered with a carapace like an insect, hand compound eyes, and antenna on their head. Their hands ended in sharp claws and their bodies were covered in sharp spikes. While fairly low powered demons, they cast still be extremely dangerous. As one, they charged the two of us.

Drew reacted how a marine usually reacts when fear grips them. He opened fire with his rifle. Rounds sprayed down the passageway. His burst took out three of them before they could get close enough to attack us. The enchantment on the rifle made the bullets almost as effective as they would be against a normal person.

The final one went for a claw strike straight to my face. Focusing my magical energy on my shield, it created a shower of sparks against my defenses. Most of my magic is focused on investigation but I have a few battle spells. I was not sure if fire would effect the demons so I threw a massive lightning bolt at the demon. Even with the gravity of the situation, I was struck with the thought that ti looked just like an insect in a bug zapper. It crumbled to the ground.

Normally I don't like to use death energies but I needed all the magical resources I could get tonight. The magical energies of a creature triple when they die. I absorbed all of the energies I could. It would slowly dissipate but I could hold the energies for several hours at least.

I was right about where the prisoners were being kept. It was the same room which I had used as my magical ritual room while I had been living here. It was in the center of the mansion and had stone walls. Master Elrick appeared to have set it up as his own work room and it was definitely far darker than it had been when it was my room. Darker both in spirit and in the amount of light. A black stone altar was the center piece with black and red candles on either side of the altar. Each was in a holder which appeared to be made from bone with hollowed out human skulls as the sconce portion. On the altar was a large sword, probably the sorcerers ritual sword.

Taking a look along the sides of the room, I saw that there were shackles put into the wall and there were twelve young teenagers chained to the wall. More than were reported missing and there at least a half a dozen sets of unoccupied shackles along the walls still. While they were all filthy, I recognized one of the figures as being Holly. None appeared to be really abused and all still had their cloths. Most were slumped in obvious resignation but some locked eyes with us as we entered.

The sorcerer was not in the room. I wondered where he was. Maybe he had needed to leave and get some supplies for his rituals. The only hope I had was that he was not hunting for more kids to fill the additional manacles. I ran for the first of the kids along the wall and used my spell to unlock his manacles. This figure appeared to be a male. The number of males and females appeared to be approximately equal. The first of the prisoners was free. There was only eleven more to go.

Suddenly one of the figures in the back stood up with the sound of manacles hitting the stone floor. One of the figures had not actually been manacled. I know what that meant but I just did not have enough time. Drew had been attempting to pry open one of the manacles on the other side and was caught as much by surprise as I was. The figure gestured towards my companion and spoke the command words of a spell. Drew dropped to the floor with his rifle clattering loudly. I turned my head slightly and saw him writhing in agony. While I did not know that spell, I had read about it in the past. The spell literally activated every pain center in your body and left you unable to move.

The figure turned towards me and intoned what sounded like the same words as he had spoken against Drew. I felt the cold of his magic was by me but unlike Drew, I was adept at resisting such spells. The spell left me unaffected.

He stood completely up and folded his hands together. Now looking at him, I saw that he was not a teenager. He appeared to be in his late thirties or early forties. He was cruelly handsome with black hair and a goatee. Not quite the same man as the punk had described.

He spoke in an urban voice, "Congratulation, perhaps we can come to some kind of agreement. You are the most powerful practitioner of the arts I have seen in this town. Most have been just pathetic. If you will join me in endeavors, I can make it quite worthwhile."

Frowning back at him, I responded, "What kind of endeavor might that be?" Often predators see those who are capable of resisting them as predators themselves. As well, the stolen demon death energies made my aura far darker than it normal would be.

He smiled back at me, "Why the endeavor of every man or woman. The quest for immortality. The channeling of the life energies of these stupid kids into keeping me young forever. I have been able to keep myself young for over two centuries through it. If you are willing to help me, I will teach you the spell. Wouldn't you like to be young forever?"

Even though sometimes I was afraid of death, life was meant to be lived and the world then given to the next generation. You did not steal the life energies of those destined to inherit the world. I was not tempted by his offer in the least. He must have seen my scorn even in the darkness because I saw him tense as if to attack.

Knowing what was coming, I focused magical energy into my shield as the sorcerer threw a ball of fire at me. It exploded against my defense. The sorcerer kept throwing fireball after fireball at me and I could feel my shields draining quickly. It took everything I had to just hold them together. The magical energies I had stolen from the demons were soon stripped. He was probably the single most powerful sorcerer who I had encountered. I certainly had never fought anyone as powerful as he was.

In desperation, I cast the spell of telekinesis and grabbed for one of the bone candle holders with my mind. It required far less power than trying to throw fireballs or lightning at him. Telekinetically, I tried to smash the candle holder against his skull. He had a shield ready and it struck against his defenses. I then used my magic to throw the other candle holder against his shields. The altar was too large for me to throw with telekinesis but I grabbed at every object I could with my mind. Unfortunately nothing was as heavy as the candle holders and were of limited effect.

Still, I could feel his shields had weakened although I was down to my last reserves of power. While he was extremely powerful, he had drained the kids who had not resisted of their magical energies. Within moments, I knew my shields would collapse. I could feel them unraveling already. Drenched in sweat from the heat of the fireballs hitting my shields, I was becoming lightheaded as well.

The only thing I could hope for was to use the unexpected. I began walking step by step towards him, trying to hold my shield together by pure force of will. Through tearing eyes, I could see him sneering at me. "Do you wish to surrender?" he asked. "Maybe I will be merciful."

Ten feet from him, I drew my pistol and began firing. The first couple bounced off his shield but he had not expected such a crass attack. The third and fourth bullet penetrated his shields and the fifth struck him right between the eyes. My uncle had taught me well. With the last of my energies, I quoted an old movie, "My Mother taught me something she never taught you."

With that, darkness engulfed me and I collapsed onto the floor.

I woke up with Drew wiping a wet cloth against my face. The first thing that greeted me was a massive headache. As well, my body felt like I had been beaten up everywhere. I literally had no magical reserves left and felt incredibly weak. Of course, I was alive.

Slowly I sat up, not without the world seeming to spin around me. Looking around, I saw that I was still where I had collapsed and just a few feet from where I lay was the corpse of Master Elrick leaking blood from multiple gunshot wounds. Noticing that my pistol lay just beside me, I tucked the weapon back into its holster. I did not want to leave it for the police to find. The serial number would be on file with them. If I had any magical energies left, I would burn the body to ash to destroy the evidence.

With Drew's help, I managed to stand up. My knees felt like buckling but eventually I was able to keep on my feet. Thought slowly came back. The police would investigate and some kind of story would need to be created. It was dark and none of the kids probably got a clear look at our faces. Turning toward Drew, I asked him, "See if you can find the keys to the manacles." Within moments, he found the keys in a pocket of the clothes the sorcerer was wearing. He began unlocking the manacles one at a time. For such a huge man, he was incredibly gentle. The marines had lost an incredible soldier when they discharged him.

While he did this, I spoke to the kids, "There should be a phone upstairs. When the police come, tell them that you don't know who rescued you and that this man had kidnaped you and had locked you down here." If the kids told some of the more fantastic elements, it would be better in some respects because the cops would never believe the story..They might take it as a hallucination. Looking at Holly, who might be able to recognize me even in the dark, I shook my head. I would talk more to Holly in the following days.

Slowly, I limped from the room.

By Kitsune (E-Mail Kitsune).

Copyright © 2007, Kitsune. All rights reserved.