I lay there, eyes closed, until my body had calmed down. I sighed. I was procrastinating. I had some unpleasant magic to perform. My battered body had already begun to heal the damage that had become my insurance.
I had lied to Mav when I told him that my body did not heal quickly on it’s own. I did, however, have a way to stop the healing process, for a time. I unlocked the hidden drawer in my desk, drawing out the ancient relic I kept there. Chanting softly, I stopped my body from healing. This was a spell generally meant for someone other than yourself, and it almost hurt worse than the beating, but desperate times called for desperate measures. And lucky for me, I was on a first name basis with both desperate times and desperate measures. Boy, did they love me. The feeling was very much not mutual.
My body quickly rebelled, and I emptied my stomach into the wastebasket beside my desk. This was not going to be a fun couple of days, but at least I had bought Lynn and I some time. Now I just had to get up off my bruised ass and make use of it.
The closest thing I had to an informant worked as a cocktail waitress at The Golden Dragon. The Golden Dragon was a dump casino on the outskirts of the strip. It was, however, the closest casino to The Grove, the monstrosity of a casino that belonged to the druids. It doubled as their base of operations for the west coast.
It was a perverse phenomena, since the druids were notorious for their love of forests and water, and all things green. I had often wondered why they would choose to station so many of the green-loving bastards right smack in the middle of the desert, but I’d learned not to ask. No druid would answer that question. And just asking it tended to make them real salty.
I’d met Casey years ago. She had been sobbing quietly in the cafe portion of our shop. She was a cute little thing, with corkscrew auburn curls and bright green eyes. I’d sat down in the chair across from her and asked her if she needed help with anything. She’d then proceeded to tell me her life story, including the most prominent part, about her having a stormy affair with one of the higher ranking druids. I’d given her some good relationship advice, knowing a thing or two about the subject, and we’d been friends ever since. I’d also placed a silencing spell on her. If she made a habit of talking too much to strangers about such things, she’d quickly find herself buried in the desert.
And so I found myself dumping some money into a slot machine as I waited for the cocktail waitress to make her rounds. I got lucky. Casey just happened to be working my section of the place. Her face broke into a big smile when she saw me. She nearly skipped her way over to me in her excitement. God, had I ever been that young? Not in this lifetime.
She wore a black and gold cocktail getup that exposed her midriff and left nothing to cover her ass but some fishnet pantyhose and a string. She was sporting the bad boob-job that so many professionals in Las Vegas had adopted.
I was shielding my bruises for the sake of not drawing attention to myself, though people seemed to stare my way no matter what I did. Being blond and around the six foot mark tended to make me stand out.
“Hi there,” she said, as she got closer. “Just here for slots?”
I smiled at her. “I came by to see you, actually.”
She beamed at me. “One second. Let me go tell my boss I’m taking a break. I have a fifteen minute one coming up, but they won’t notice if I slip out for thirty.”
She pulled out a smoke the second we stepped outside, lighting it. She offered me one, and I declined. I knew I’d never get lung cancer, but I just couldn’t stand the things.
“Some druids came and paid me a visit today. Heard any gossip about anything to do with our shop?” I asked bluntly.
She froze, the cigarette actually falling from her hand. “Shit, yeah, I have. Been meaning to tell you about it. I guess someone who visited your shop claimed that you were magic-users. Some old hag, looking to get a reward, I hear. Joseph told me about it because he knew I went to the shop a lot, wanted to know if I noticed anything unusual.” She laughed nervously. “Crazy, right? I figured they’d go check out your place and see that she was scamming them.” I was watching her face while she spoke. She never met my eyes once.
“Why’d you cross me, Case?” I asked her softly.
She burst into tears. “I didn’t mean to, I swear. Joseph used something on me. I was talking, telling him things I didn’t want to. I figured you’d get out of whatever trouble they made for you. I know you’re really strong.”
I let my shields down, showed her my battered face and arms. She sobbed harder, apologizing over and over. I put my shields back up. Normally, I avoided using magic around humans like the plague, but it seemed the damage was already done here. “Why couldn’t you at least give us a heads up?” I asked her.
She was shaking her head. “It was like I said, some old w-witch-hag got to them first.” Witch-hag’s were a particularly nasty class of witch. They always looked like ancient old hags, regardless of their age. Their youth was the first thing they sacrificed to gain more power. After that, they got even more desperate, sacrificing countless other things. The rogue hags were even less particular, sacrificing humans or even whatever Others they could get their hands on. It alarmed me a bit that one had been aware of me, but not me of her. Luckily she hadn’t been a rogue, or she would have done worse than gone to the druids. If a rogue hag knew what I was, if they had even an inkling, and got the jump on me, with any knowledge of how to bind me, she would harvest me for parts. There’s nothing a rogue hag would love more than getting ahold of one of my kind.
Casey continued. “Then Joseph was questioning me. I’ve never seen him like that. He was ruthless. I’m not sure I ever really knew him at all. I’m so sorry,” she sobbed, backing into the side of the building and sliding down into a crying heap.
“What all did you tell them about me?” I asked quietly.
“Everything I knew. Everything you’ve ever told me, or that I’ve noticed on my own.” She was curled up on the ground now. “What can I do to make it up to you?”
I felt a little sick at heart, but I was too practical to overlook a good opening when I saw it. “You can’t, Case. But you can call me if you hear anything. Keep me up to date on anything you find out.” I was walking away as I finished, Casey a mess on the ground of the alley behind me.
“Are we still friends?” she called after me.
“You tell me. I don’t have a lot of friends. Is this how you normally treat them?” I ignored her pitiful sobs and walked away.