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Sleight of Hand

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Chapter 1

A burst of applause erupted from the people congregated around me as I showed the man his watch that I had just spirited off his wrist while performing a card trick. Not only that, the crowd was cheering for the fact that I had delivered the prestige of the card trick as well. Sleight of hand is a great way to earn money . . . if applied correctly.

The man took his watch from my hand carefully, his eyes staying fixated on my hands as if they were going to suddenly grasp for his prize yet again. What an idiot. If he had any attention span whatsoever, he would have noticed that I had lifted the digital camera in its carrying case that dangled from his belt on nothing more than a string. People are so easily distracted by street performers, and in Old Sacramento, there are tourists aplenty to lift goods and valuables from.

Now I bet you are thinking that I'm nothing more than a common pickpocket, but let me clarify a few things. First, is the fact that I only take from those who have money. You know the type; the people who act as if they are such a normal family yet they're driving the latest model vehicle, every member in their family but the dog has a smart phone, and they seem to have every luxury money can buy for souvenirs and food at whichever tourist trap they happen to stop in. Those people are actually quite common, and most of their property is probably insured. The second thing that you should know about me is that I am not some average cut-purse. I am a master of the art of misdirection and sleight of hand. I am an expert vaudevillian of the practice. With the way the country is, every penny helps, especially when you never had money to begin with.

My name is Danyael MacClaude, aka Danny Nimbus to those who I perform for. On the surface, I am a legit street performer for the Old Sacramento area of downtown. I entertain tourists with magic, and I am very good at what I do. But life is never easy so I need more than what I make in tips and donations to survive. Especially when I have to support an alcoholic mother and pay for everything from house’s mortgage to gas money. It's a rough path that I walk, but it's all I’ve ever known. I grew up in Del Paso Heights, where I still live to this day. But alas, I digress.

My day was almost done, and it was beginning to get stifling hot. But then again, one's body tends to rise drastically when they wear a velvet long coat and a bowler hat. What can I say? I dress to sell what I do. Yet, I couldn’t take the coat off until I was well out of Old Sacramento, otherwise most of my pilfered profits would be too noticeable. Yet again, the price I pay in order to do what I do.

"All right, folks, you have been an attentive and gracious audience, but it is time I take my leave! I bid you all good evening and encourage all to attend my weekend shows." I took a bow, turned away, and started packing props into my leather duffle bag as the crowd around me slowly dispersed.

Have you ever got that feeling that someone is staring at you? As if they is someone attempting to gaze upon your soul and you can feel their eyes burrowing along the back of your neck? That was the feeling I got a moment after my audience had vanished, or so I thought had vanished. I looked up from what I was doing to notice that the man whom I had taken the camera from was close by and glaring at me. His eyes were narrowed until they were near slits. I gave him a puzzled smile and stood up.

"Do you have a question, sir?" I asked, wary of this man who seemed to be stabbing me with his eyes. I let a moment pass before I asked him again, "Seriously, sir, if you have something to say or ask, please do. I have other engagements tonight, so I really am in a rush."

"How did you manage to get past my wards and sneak my watch off? They are set up to defend against even the most violent magic!" His voice was vibrating with hostility as he finished the sentence.

"What are you talking about?" I asked, truly confused now. "REAL magic doesn’t exist. What I do is all smoke and mirrors, so to speak. Anyone can learn to do it with practice."

"That cannot be possible," the man said, his tone failing to waver. "No mere human could get past my shields. I would have noticed."

"Alright, sir," I said, feeling a little anxious now. This guy obviously had a few screws loose. "How about you just leave me alone and go about your business. If you’re interested in magic, there’s a nice New Age store around the corner that carries all sorts of stuff. Now, I really don’t have the time for this, so if you persist on this interrogation, I will call the cops."

"FINE!" the man said, now aggressively disgruntled. "I will leave you be. I do not wish to deal with your human constabulary. But know this: I will be back to observe you, until I can discover your secret magic."

"Well sir, I encourage all to view my show, as long as they show a little appreciation with donations. If you are truly into magic, as I said, there is a nice New Age store right around the corner next to the Christmas ornament store. I'll see you this weekend, I guess."

I turned back to my gear, gathered it all up, and made my getaway towards the parking garage where my Pinto was parked. Yes, before you say anything, I drive a Ford Pinto. Big shot street magician and pickpocket drives a puke yellow ‘78 Ford Pinto. I live the life of luxury with what I do. I concentrated on getting to my car because I didn’t want to be around the "touched" gentleman when he realized his camera was missing. That would be all I needed to increase the interesting parts if my life. Some wacko making a big enough scene that the cops would search me, discover my dastardly secret, and screw the best moneymaker I have available to me. Going to jail was not on my priorities of the day. I was just hoping he was still too rattled by my ability to “get past his wards” that he failed to notice the missing camera until I was long gone.

I loaded my bag into the passenger seat, after I slipped my coat off and draped it over it. I finally rounded the vehicle and slid into the driver's seat, putting the key into the ignition and attempting to start the car... The engine struggled to turn over, whirring for a few moments, as if the Pinto was protesting being active in the heat. Hell, I couldn’t blame the car. Personally, I'd prefer to stay somewhere with air conditioning. Eventually the Pinto slurred to life and I let it idle a moment before putting it in reverse and backing out of the parking space. The car quickly circled downward inside the parking structure and I began my drive home.

And of course I hit a red light, slowing the car to a stop. The traffic was worse than my uncle's arteries, clogged with no flow or movement whatsoever. I looked down at my goods for the day, noticing the camera case that I lifted from Mr. Magic was nestled on top of my loot. I decided that since I was going to be here awhile, I might as well take a look at it. Any object that belonged to someone who supposedly possessed magic was worth a glance. Then again, the guy was a loon, and for all I knew it was some sort of bomb. I pulled the Velcro flap up and dumped the contents onto the passenger seat, as if it would be less dangerous landing there should it be a bomb. A commonplace digital camera flopped out with a rattle onto the top of my long coat. Were cameras supposed to rattle? Not the last time I checked. So I carefully picked up the camera with as much caution as I could muster. As I started to pull it towards me, a deafening noised blasted behind me. My heart jumped into my throat as the car behind me beat on his horn making it clear the traffic had dispersed and was moving again. I dropped the camera back where it was and continued through the green light overhead. That damn hunk of plastic was going to plague me until I could examine it more thoroughly. I forced myself to focus on the matter of driving as best I could and begrudgingly waited until I got home.

For the entire trip, my eyes kept glancing over at the camera. I pulled into my driveway none too soon, killing the engine before I even had the car in park. I grabbed my gear and goods in an awkward bundle, and then hurriedly made my way towards the garage. I fumbled with my keys for a moment, and after a difficult minute of trying to keep a firm grasp on my wadded up hoard, I fell through the doorway as it practically burst open. I stalked over to my work table, carefully, but quickly, depositing the contents of my arms onto its surface. I then walked over to the wall and quickly flicked the light switch, wanting to start into the pile immediately. The sudden glow of fluorescent lighting fiercely attacked my sight. I shielded my eyes for a moment, cursing to myself at my stupidity for not being ready for the abrupt exposure of my eyes.

I made my way over to the work table again and rifled through the plunder until I came across the camera. I picked it up and it gave a gentle rattle. I realized that it was light despite its size, which was odd. I quietly glanced over it, brooding on what it truly was. I pushed the power button to turn it on, furthering my inquisitive investigation. Nothing happened. I figured that nothing was going to happen when I did, but I had to make sure to cover all the bases. The man I got this from was pretty nutty after all. I ran my fingers gently along the seam of the camera, trying to see if it was put together and fastened properly. It wasn’t. I looked at the side of it, trying to figure why someone would hollow out a camera to hide something. There were a lot better things to hide small items in. Books, belts, boot heals, they were all much better for secreting things away for valuables that can be stolen then easily sold at the closest pawn shop. Live and learn for Mr. Magic, I suppose. I gave the sides of the camera a firm squeeze, popping it open as its contents spilled into my open hand.

A man sized, golden ring came to rest in my palm. It was large and gaudy, and screamed egotistical. I gave it a closer look, curiously wondering if it was engraved or anything. A large gemstone was set as the centerpiece and there was a weird symbol engraved into the gem itself, which was filled with gold as well. The stone, I realized, was black onyx. It was common, but still a gem stone. I'd have to remove it so I could melt the ring down before sending it to my buyer. I took a glance at my smelting kit, grinning. It was going to get some work tonight. I had lifted several other pieces of gold jewelry, so I was going to get some decent money for the ill-gotten booty. I looked back at the ring and shook my head.

"Well, you ugly thing," I said neutrally with a sigh, "I'm gonna put you out of your misery. Nothing cast in gold should ever be so ugly."

A gust of wind kicked up as I said that, and I looked over my shoulder to discover that the door was still open. I tried to remember if I had closed it, but disregarded the thought as unimportant. I walked over to the door, shutting it for sure this time. I returned to my work bench to fetch the ring, only to realize it was no longer where I had left it, but on it instead. I had apparently slipped it on my finger, but didn’t remember doing that. Again, I disregarded the thought and wrote it off as a side-effect of the ridiculous heat. After all, it had caused some lapses in my memory before. I took the ring off and placed it next to my smelting kit. I walked over to my ill-gotten gains and gathered up all that I was going to be working with, and then returned to the smelting kit. I started getting it ready, flicking the power on and making sure the spill guard was in place. When everything up and running, I went for the ring first wanting to set right the mistake of whichever jewel crafter who had made it. But it wasn’t there. I looked around to see if it got shuffled aside while I was occupied with the smelting kit, yet I still couldn’t find it. Suddenly, a thought occurred to me as I subconsciously looked down at my hand.

Again, the ring was on my middle finger, gleaming in all its tackiness. I pulled it off, feeling a little spooked for the first time in a while. The heat had never made me forget this much detail. I rushed to the smelting pot and dropped the ring into it. I would just fish the onyx out with tongs when the band was done melting. I waited for a few minutes, hoping the gold would liquefy and begin the inevitable demise to the horrendous ring. Nothing happened. I was beginning to grow impatient, borderline anxious, my mind demanding the band fall prey to the smelting pot. Yet, after a few more minutes the gold still hadn’t melted down at all. Worse, it didn’t even look like it was heating up. I realized my smelting pot was the only metal getting hot so I turned it off.

Dumbfounded, I stared down into to pot at the ugly ring. Why wasn’t it melting? Gold was actually easy to melt down. It was a malleable metal, so why wasn’t anything happening? I grabbed my tongs and fished the ring out, deciding to set it onto the wooden bench and see if it at least burnt the wood after its trip in the smelting pot. Full of tension, I watched the wood as the ring met its surface. Nothing. No burning sound, no discoloration, nothing at all happened. I reached for the ring slowly, thinking to myself that this is the ultimate test of insanity, which I quickly felt I was reaching.

"Danyael Patrick MacClaude!" the dulcet shouts of my mother nearly made me jump out of my skin. Reality slammed back into place and I turned to sound of my irritation. "Why didn’t you tell me you were home?! I've been out of cigarettes for nearly two hours!"

"Why didn't you get off your butt and walk to the corner store and buy some?!" I shouted back as I made my way inside and to my inevitably ruined, rest of the day. "I'm not your slave, Ruth."

"I am your mother and you will address me with respect! Besides, my back was killing me today and I could hardly get up and move, let alone walk anywhere." Her voice had gone from angry to whiney in less than a moment.

My mother was "clinically disabled", which meant that some doctor had convinced a judge that she was too messed up in some way to work for the rest of her life. As such, now she received money from the government to live on. And it all went to beer, liquor, and cigarettes. In reality she was an alcoholic who had gotten so plastered one night she didn’t watch where she was going and fell down some stairs. Now she sits at home and drinks, smokes and watches court shows all day. She had better acting skills than most movie stars.

Now, an insight to my life. I don’t steal because I enjoy it. There is no adrenaline rush, no thrill for me to enjoy. I do it out of necessity. California has a crappy job market, and there aren’t too many jobs available for a 25-year-old high school graduate with a give ‘em hell attitude and a mastery of sleight of hand and an excellent street magician. I do what I have to in order to survive. And since my mom owns the house and I can’t leave her to her own vices, my options are limited. But I make do with what I have.

“...and take off that ridiculous hat. You look like one of Satan’s goth kids with it on.” I had apparently tuned her out and rant had trailed from complaining to bitter and vindictive. My only thought was that she looked like a trash can and reeked of beer filled ashtray. “So I need you to go get me cigarettes right now.”

“I just bought you a carton of smokes three days ago. What in the hell happened to ten packs of cigarettes?!” I was irritated now, but usually 30 seconds around my mother will do that to anyone.

“It doesn’t matter what I do with my own things. Just go to the store and get me some cigarettes. Oh, and pick up a 12 pack for me while you’re out.”

“Do you have the money for all this luxury you’re demanding from me?” The question was rhetorical. I knew the answer. Her money was gone long before the check ever came in the mail. If it weren’t for me, she’d never get fed and the house wouldn’t have electricity. The things we do to survive.

“You know my money pays for the things around the house,” she said indignantly. “And I let you stay here free of charge, so you can pick me up a few odds and ends here and there when I need them. It’s only fair!”

I shook my head, knowing it was no use to try arguing. We both knew the truth, but if she wanted to delude herself it was fine by me. She had been this way since my stepdad left and took my sister. And all I could do was try and pick up the pieces every time she fell apart. I didn’t have to, but she had no one else. And overall the situation was the best we could make of it. At least we owned the house. I sighed and turned back towards the garage. The night would’ve been worse if I didn’t. Trust me, it might seem as if I gave in, but it was the lesser of the two evils. I walked past the work table and grabbed my coat as I went by and headed out the side door. I locked it behind me, glaring at my mom well on the other side of this door and another wall. It may have been the lesser of two evils, but that didn’t mean I had to like it.

I climbed into the Pinto and fumbled with my keys. As I found them, I noticed a golden shine towards my knuckle. My breath stopped and I stared dumbfounded. The damn ring was back on my finger. What the hell was going on?! My brain reeled, trying to figure out what this could mean. Was Mr. Magic right, and magic existed after all?

“Holy shit,” I said out loud, “If I start touching this and saying ‘my precious,’ I’m map-questing Mount Doom as soon as possible!”

My opinion was that if you can’t reference something to Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, it was as fake as reality TV. Again I shook my head and left the ring where it was. Obviously it wasn’t going to stay off, so why fight the inevitable?

I put the key in the ignition and turned the car over. The Pinto protested being active so soon again in the heat, but I didn’t give it much time to argue further. I shifted gears and backed out of my driveway, navigating the three blocks to the corner market. Mainly because I didn’t want to walk in the heat, but also because I wanted to get this done and get home as soon as possible.

I pulled into the parking lot and killed the engine. I glanced down the walkway and noticed some weirdly dressed men staring at me. I’m used to getting stares, typically because of the way I dress. It happens when living in an area whose population has adopted the Rap/hip-hop wardrobe as a way of life. But these guys were dressed differently. They wore strange, green long sleeve jackets that looked to be made out of the same material as my coat. They looked like they were kicked out of a Renaissance Fair. Crushed velvet as casual wear in this heat was just insane. But it wasn’t the first absurd thing I had seen today.

I turned away from the men and walked into the store. I greeted the owners' son, Jahnil, behind the counter and walked back to the beer section. A sticky feeling dragged at my feet as I made my way back to the coolers. This place wasn’t too keen on upkeep sometimes. I grabbed a cheap 12 pack and started walking back to the counter. It was there I was cut off by a man dressed similar to the guys outside. The only difference in his appearance was that he was wearing a belt with a gun holstered on it.

I tried to walk around him, but he intentionally barred my way. A part of me panicked, and I turned around to go the other way. The man reached his hand out and placed it on my shoulder. I froze.

“I do not wish this to end in violence,” he began in a deep, steady voice. “I only wish to speak with you for a moment.” His hair was cropped short, almost shaved. He was tall and lanky, with little muscle to his frame. His eyes were sunk back slightly, as if he rarely got any sleep. His chin was almost non-existent; its shallow feature was covered in dark stubble. He seemed hardly threatening, but that’s what made him feel wrong.

“Well,” I began, swallowing the lump of panic in my throat, “you’ve got the gun, so let’s talk.”

“You’re attentive, that’s good. It will help keep you alive longer.” He removed his hand from my shoulder and grasped his other arm behind his back. His stance was disciplined yet relaxed. This man was dangerous. “I come to you now with one question. Are you loyal to your race and the One True God?”

“Dude, like I told all the other Neo Nazi groups around here that have tried to recruit me,” I inhaled sharply before continuing. “I’m not interested. We all bleed red, so lighten up.”

“Do not confuse me with some common hate mongering thug,” his voice teamed with anger and I was kicking myself for being the cause. “I meant are you loyal to the human race and to your creator, the God of All?”

“Listen sir,” I began cautiously, “I’ve had twice my daily serving of weird for the day, so if you could stop asking questions that I obviously don’t know the correct answer to and speak plainly, things will be easier for both of us.”

“Very well,” his stance tensed as he looked me in the eyes. “You have in your possession an item of power that is outside of Gods Plan. Therefore it is an Artifact of Blasphemy and must be confiscated before those who are tainted by evil seek it out.”

My hand twitched, and his eyes seemed to catch the movement. I quickly acted like I was scratching my hand, hoping he didn’t notice. Yet the ring was no longer on my finger. Odd. I let my hands fall and looked up.

“What sort of item do you seem to think I have?” I asked innocently. I guessed as far as he knew I was ignorant to what exactly he was talking about. Technically I was, but I had a good feeling this was about the damn ring.

“A ring to be precise. It is a man’s ring and has a large black stone set in its center. Upon the stone is a gold engraving of a symbol that looks similar to a pyramid and an eye. This ring belonged to the ungodly warlock known as Aleister Crowley.” His voice calmed as he explained the ring in precision to me.

“Well, here’s the funny thing,” I asked mock laughing and scratching my head. “I’m curious how you know I supposedly have this ring?”

“Don’t trifle with me boy,” the man said threateningly, “this is a matter of life and death and we are deadly serious. We were there when you stole it off the creature that had it prior to you. Little tricks to don’t sway or affect we who are devout in our faith. Now, I suggest for your safety and the safety of your mother, that you give us the ring!”

“Whoa buddy,” I said backing away slightly, “listen, I would gladly give you that ring, but I currently have no idea where exactly the wretched thing is. All I planned to do with it was melt it down and sell it. I don’t know what it’s worth to you, or whoever you work for, but it’s been nothing but a head ache for me since I lifted it. When I find it again, it’s yours.”

“A wise choice on your part,” he said un-holstering his gun. It was a 45 Desert Eagle. A lot of fire power for an urban setting, “but a poor one on the clerk behind the counter.” I looked over his shoulder and saw Jahnil with a shotgun pointed at the man’s back. I hadn’t heard him pull it. “Now kindly advise him to put away his weapon or my men will cleanse this heathen shop with fire.”

“Your men would set fire to this place with you still inside?!” I asked a little stunned at the entirety of what all was occurring.

“If I die, it’s in the service of our Lord God. We do His work and I fear not death. But do not worry, I would make sure you would die quickly and not suffer the flame. He, though, would need to feel the heat of God’s cleansing embrace for following a pagan way of life.” His voice was deadly calm, and I could hear that he truly believed what he said. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

“Jahnil, I appreciate the thought, but you might want to drop that.” I began trying not to let the fear show in my voice. “This guy says his buddies will torch the place with us inside. And I’m pretty sure he just told me he’d shoot me first.” I looked over the man’s shoulder to see if Jahnil was listening. He gave a quick nod a slowly lowered his gun. I could see fear in his eyes as he kept looking at the front door for signs of the man’s posse.

“Now,” the man began holstering his 45. He didn’t take his eyes off me. “I will give you 3 days to find the ring and turn it over to our possession. If you haven’t found it by then, we will resort to more drastic measure to obtain it. Until then, mortem ad serpentes!” He gave a curt nod and turned to walk out the door. Before exiting he turned back.

“For the sake of your life, should someone else come seeking the ring I suggest you avoid them at all costs.” With that he walked out into the evening light.

I picked up the 12 pack and walked to the counter. Jahnil’s eyes were wide and he looked panicked. He had been robbed before, but never had his life been truly threatened like today. I felt bad, because I had brought this to his store.

“Listen,” I began, trying to get his attention, “sorry about that. I have no idea what the hell is going on today.”

“It’s ok Danny.” Jahnil replied, though his voice sounded far way. “Guys like us have to look out for each other. I have no idea who captain Velvet was, but I suggest you get out of whatever weird shit you’ve landed in.”

“I hear that,” I said with a grim smile. “I need the usual.”

“Pack of Kingsport regulars coming up,” Jahnil disappeared behind the counter briefly and returned just as quickly. He tossed the cigarettes down on the counter and started punching keys on the register. He gave me the total and I paid with some of my day’s honest earnings. I pocketed the cigarettes and gave him a wave as I exited the store. I was pretty sure he was going to make his dad start coming back in for a while. And I was almost positive I wouldn’t see him for a long time. I opened the passenger door to the Pinto and put my mom’s crap on the seat before getting in myself on the other side.

The drive back seemed to not happen at all, because I was home before I realized I was in the driveway. After the man at the store’s threat, I decided to stop and try to appreciate my house for a moment. Sure, the lawn was dying and full of weeds. And the house itself could use some paint, but all in all it was a decent place to live. The 2 bedroom building threatened to overtake the sidewalk; its front porch was a style too large for the confines of inner city housing. My former step father had built it in hopes to share meals at night with the family in spring. The man was a hopeless romantic. Despite the fact that he had built it, I loved the porch. It made the house less like part of the scenery, and more of an individual.

This was my home and it had been threatened by strangers. I might live at the edge of Del Paso Heights, which is a proverbial ghetto, but life was simple here. It was the only life I knew. Obviously there were bigger threats to the house than inner city violence, but that wasn’t the point. Those who looked for those threats usually found them. Hell I found one without even trying.

I climbed out of the Pinto, taking in the events of the day. Somehow I managed to steal a supposed magic ring from some guy I assumed was a basket case, only to have different basket cases of the dangerous variety follow me home and threaten my life if I didn’t give them same said ring. What the hell had I got myself into? The question of the day I suppose. I entered through the garage again, not even looking towards my work table. I walked straight to the door into the house and went into the kitchen.

Now, when I say I don’t have much money, I mean it. The kitchen is almost barren of any signs of use. A few stray dishes in the sink, mainly cups. We usually survive out of cans. There’s no microwave, the oven doesn’t work, and half of the window above the sink is boarded up. The floor is an ugly shade of green linoleum from the 70’s, and it has tears in it throughout the kitchen. I heard my mom snoring from the couch accompanied by the detestable voice of Judge Judy blaring on the TV. I set her stuff down and made my way to my bedroom. Now my bedroom is furthest one from the living room, and for the obvious reason. My mother, in all her Scottish-catholic self-righteousness, felt that life was no longer worth living unless court shows were on TV, and played at high volume. She always had at least one 12 pack readily available and a cigarette in her hand. She has spent the better part of seven years rarely leaving the living room.

I put my bedroom key into the door and gave it a turn. Yes, I have a lock on my bedroom as well. My mother had a bad habit of going into my room and selling my possessions while I wasn’t around. And since I have a computer and a few other electronic items that are worth something, I learned to lock my door. It used to be a wooden door, but I had to replace it with a metal one because she paid some neighborhood punk to kick it in under the pretense he could take anything in my room he wanted. I lost my first video game console that day but she couldn’t find anything to sell besides what the kid took. I also learned that hiding things of value is also a requirement when living with my mom.

Most of our important paper work was hidden in the mass of books scattered on the second hand book shelf inside my room. This I started to do when she got the bright idea she was going to trade the house straight across for a “lifetime supply of Jägermeister” from some guy who claimed he was a CEO for the company. It never occurred to her that Jaeger is imported and that no Hispanic man with a heavy accent could possibly be a CEO for a German alcohol company. It was then and there that I began hiding things like deeds and that sort of paperwork in books. My mother never bothered looking in the books. When she asked where anything was, I just told her I had a lock box at the bank that only I could access.

I walked in and shut and locked the door behind me. I looked around my room and took in the solitude and sanctuary it provided. It had the look of a well-furnished prison cell. I installed bars on my on the inside of my window last year after the same kid that my mother hired before, tried to break in while I was actually in the room. It wasn’t a pleasant night for either of us. I had use padding to sound proof the walls and windows, allowing me to stifle the noise that came from my mother’s programs as she called them. I had a plain, full size mattress lying on the floor with no box spring and no sheet. The only other furniture in the room was a second hand computer desk and chair, the book shelf mentioned earlier, and a milk crate turned up-side down and used as a night side stand. I lived pretty Spartan, and not by choice. I walked over to the computer desk and flicked the computer out of sleep mode. It started its process of waking up while I emptied my pockets onto the crate. As I pulled my hand from my pocket to deposit my key, it came out with the ring on my finger yet again.

I sighed, looking down at the ever growing pain in my ass that the ring was becoming. There and then I decided that I was going to look up the symbol on the ring and whoever the man at the store had said the ring belonged too. What had his name been? Crollen, Crawler… it would come to me. I sat down at the desk and my hands started typing. I knew my computer would still be logged onto the internet. I paid for it so I never logged off of it if I could help it. I Googled a description of the symbol on the ring and got two main results. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, highly doubtful, and the symbol of Aleister Crowley’s pagan church. That was the guy’s name, Crowley! The guy at the store said the ring had belonged to Crowley. I started researching the man, so I could get an understanding why people would want this ring bad enough to kill for it.

An hour had passed and the only things about Crowley I had come to learn was that he was considered by all to be a sociopath and a lunatic, and that he was addicted to drugs. He still had a church of sorts over in Europe. Apparently the local government forbade people from entering the structure. Most people had found his claims of power laughable and hokey. He was disregarded as another dreg of the world and forgotten by almost everyone to this day. So why keep his temple sealed up tight? If he was, after all, just a crazy druggy, what was the harm of a building? Things obviously weren’t what they appeared, but I found myself too tired to give a damn. The day had exhausted me mentally, and I just wanted it to end.

Tomorrow would be my day off, and I would spend it melting down the other jewelry and selling the stuff I had acquired during the week. Our country may be in a recession, but people are more than willing to spend money on games and vices. And I provided one for them. Albeit, I cheated them out of their possessions sometimes, but no one ever returned with accusations. I was a local David Blaine or Chris Angel as far as they were concerned. Tourists flocked to Old Sacramento just about every weekend, and I was there to entertain and wow them. It paid the bills for the most part. And what I didn’t make in tips, I made up in pilfered items. Jewelry, cameras, phones, all of these were easily lifted from the average tourist. Only once had I been caught in the act, but the guy was from Japan and thought it was part of the show. He laughed it off and ended up tipping me well enough that I almost felt guilty for trying to nab his stuff. Almost… I walked to my bed, flopped down ungracefully, and rolled onto my back. I lifted my legs to untie my sneakers, because it was almost impossible to just kick them off. They were the black canvas kind with the white toe. You know the type. Once both shoes were off, I shifted to my side, grabbed a blanket and drifted off to sleep.


I realized I was dreaming when it occurred to me that what I was seeing when I thought I woke up was from the third person perspective. I watched as three teens snuck haphazardly into some abandoned building. It kind of looked like some sort of church, but I wasn’t sure. One of them knocked something over, then a voice as clear as day spoke in my head.

“So,” the voice said with curiosity, “you are the one who possesses my ring. Yet I cannot shift control over your body, how very interesting. No matter though, the rest of me will be coming for it anyways, as I need it to retain my own worldly body. If you give it up freely, we won’t have any problems. I look forward to meeting you when I am whole again. Anyone who can steal anything off a half-elf is worthy of note. Until then.”

I sat bolt upright and looked at the clock. It read midnight exactly. I knuckled sleep from my eyes as I stood up and staggered to the bath room. I splashed water on my face, and then shook it groggily. I looked at my reflection, trying to make sense of myself.

“What the hell is going on?!” I asked the mirror. I expected my reflection not to answer, but I was wrong in that rational conclusion.

“You’ll find out in time.” My reflection said back to me as if it were another person.

“Wait, what?!” I asked feeling more than a little stunned and spooked. I stared at my reflection waiting for an answer. Silence was the only response.

I woke up, again at midnight. I looked around, freaked out by the dream, correction, dreams I had just had. Hell I wasn’t even sure the first one was a dream. I didn’t even contemplate a visit to the bathroom. Who knew if this was yet another dream? And I was in no mood for anymore spooktacular occurrences. I laid back down and stared at the ceiling, trying to get a grip on myself. My world had been turned upside down by a stupid ring. I was beginning to wonder if I should just hand the thing over to the guys from the store and be done with this entire situation. Assuming the damn thing stayed in one place long enough for me to get rid of it.

I decided to I would go for a walk to get some fresh air. Maybe it would help clear my mind and get rid of all this confusion. Every situation had an answer and a logical action to be taken. This situation was no different. So I left my room and headed to the front door. I stepped outside and shut it behind me, not wanting to have to deal with my mom this late. I leaned back and ran my hands through my hair, as if it would help me think.

I thought I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye, and I turned quickly towards the direction. Nothing was there. I shook my head, berating myself for chasing the phantoms that my mind had created since I woke up. I turned and started down the steps, stopping to look at my house again. Its dirty white exterior almost glowed in the exhaust fumed night air. Stained and chipped paint gave the place a patchwork, run-down look. Yet it still possessed a majestic quality, despite the fact that it resided in one of the worse neighborhoods in the inner-city area.

A sudden pressure fell against my throat. It was something cold and sharp from my guess.

“For the love of…” I blurted out loud. “I’ll tell you like I told you the last guy who tried to mug me. I don’t have anything worth stealing!”

“Hold your tongue or lose it!” The voice was soft but steely. It possessed an accent that I couldn’t place. “Now, I know that the Order has contacted you, but I am here to make you another offer for the Essence of Aleister Crowley.”

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