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    Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    Wizard Part VIII



    Part VIII

    I woke up feeling eighteen again. I hung the Do Not Disturb sign on the door as I shut it gently behind myself. She'd earned her sleep. Normally I'd have felt bad about it, but since I was pretty sure she wouldn't I let it go.

    I pulled the Van out onto the road and merged onto I-10 and headed West toward New Orleans. The sun had just begun to rise and it kept pace with me all the way to Gulfport, Mississippi, where I stopped for breakfast.

    My waitress was a beehive five star and she practiced her own brand of slight of hand. She kept my cup of coffee endless without me ever seeing her pour. It took me a minute to decide between the Uncle Herschel and the Grandpa's Country Fried. In the end I went with Grandpa.

    I got it over easy with biscuits, chicken fried chicken and the hashbrown casserole. As I ate the casserole I lamented the days when they'd served plain hashbrowns without all the extra crap. I used the last half of one of the biscuits to clean my plate and almost died from pleasure as the last bite of biscuit, runny yolk, batter crumbs and butter melted across my tongue.

    I grabbed a bag of horehound candy in the restaurant's general store on the way out. I'd never much cared for the taste, but they'd been my Uncle's favorites. I'd keep in the glove box and learn to like them.

    Two hours later I hit the outskirts of New Orleans. I tapped Pirate Jane's address into the GPS and listened intently as it ran me down the convoluted streets. Eventually I started to remember where I was. I parked the van five blocks from Jane's place walked a few extra just in case.

    The bell over the door rang, just like it always did, but then the store fell into silence. I looked over to where Mr. Toots should be and saw an empty cat bed. I waited for Pirate Jane to tell me to "Fuck Off," but when it didn't come I gently closed the door behind me and locked it, turning the sign to closed.

    I didn't take another step until I had mumbled a reveal spell. Nothing jumped out, so I took a moment to look around. It didn't appear at first that anything other than Mr. Toots had been disturbed. But, that was enough to worry me. It was possible Mr. Toots had passed on, it had been almost an average cats life span since I had been here last and Mr. Toots seemed pretty damn old even then.

    Pirate Jane? It's me. It's...

    Something rubbed against my leg causing me to choke on my sentence. When I looked down, a chill shot right through me. It was Mr. Toots. He was rubbing against my leg. He wasn't hissing. Something was definitely wrong. I reached down to pet him and he backed up and hissed, then started walking toward the curtain. Not quite lassie, but I followed Mr. Toots anyway.

    I found Pirate Jane in the basement cellar. She'd been dead for a few days. If she'd been upstairs I would have smelled her right off, but the cellar was cool and so she hardly smelled any different than normal. What I did notice right away though was that someone had taken her other eye. If what my Uncle had told me was true, then I figured she must have taken sides again.

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