Trifles and Folly 3
Trifle and Folly 2
I reached into the shipping crate. My hand closed around a newspaper-wrapped piece from a china dish set, probably a gravy boat from its contours. The warning tingle from my psychic gift was too little, too late. By the time I realized the danger, I was already immersed in a vision of tragedy and terror.
Images strobed in my mind, searingly clear for an instant and then suddenly dark. A dining room table set with holiday finery for a Thanksgiving feast. Eight people—no, nine—but the one person’s face was hidden. Dinner began with high spirits. The person whose memories I was experiencing was a man, the father of the family gathered for the feast, happy that he was surrounded by loved ones—and a guest.
Despite the high spirits, a warning tingled at the edge of my host’s senses. It had been a mistake to invite the stranger, he was thinking. They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
The stranger didn’t say much as the meal began. Everyone else laughed and talked as silverware rattled and food was passed around the table. His son, the youngest at the table, was the first one affected. He complained about his stomach, folded his arms across his midsection, and fell forward onto his plate. I saw the man’s hand set the gravy boat down on the table as he stood.
Everyone rose in alarm—everyone except the stranger. I couldn’t get a clear look at the guest’s face. The others were in sharp focus, but the one I knew was the stranger had blurred features, and the baggy clothing made it impossible to tell gender. The stranger stepped back as everyone rushed to the boy, who fell back, eyes staring blankly, unresponsive, into his mother’s arms as she screamed.
The others began to stagger, hands going to their heads or abdomens, faces frightened and worried. The boy’s mother collapsed across his body. Others crumpled to the floor or sagged from their chairs.
The person whose memories I shared tried to go to them, but his legs failed him. His heart raced but it was hard to breathe, and his mouth had gone dry. Vision blurred, and despite his panic, he was so utterly tired. Still, he dragged himself toward his family, but halfway across the room, his body no longer responded to his mind’s commands. He reached out to the stranger, one hand raised in a plea for help. The stranger only smiled.
I ran through White Point Gardens as fast as I could. Behind me, teeth snapped, and feet crunched on gravel. The redcap was gaining on me. I turned and caught a glimpse of the creature that was hunting me, and let loose with a blast of cold white force from the athame in my right hand.
The energy bolt sizzled through the air, but the redcap was gone. They’re devilishly hard to hit.
Mocking laughter came from the shadows. The redcap was enjoying his game. He was toying with me, letting me get ahead of him, saving his speed for the kill. Legend says it’s impossible to outrun a redcap. I had hoped to draw him off, away from the homes that bordered on the garden, where there were fewer prying eyes and a lesser chance of collateral damage. I’d offered myself as bait to draw the redcap toward the waterfront. Now, I dodged around the statues and war memorial cannons, trying to out outwit a bloodthirsty pixie with a taste for human flesh.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the strangest way I had ever spent a Friday night.
The redcap was chattering in excitement, stoked about getting a good feast—me. I was predictably less enthusiastic about the possibility and determined to make sure he stayed hungry. The back corner of the park was coming up, where it was a darker thanks to a burned-out street lamp. Just a few more feet.
The redcap gave a feral cry and sprang at me, snapping his sharp teeth on my jeans and barely missing my skin. I wheeled and gave him a good kick in the face, knocking him a few feet away. The redcap howled in anger and jumped to his feet; eyes fixed on me as he sized up his prey.
A larger shape moved fast enough to blur, and in the next instant, Sorren tackled the redcap. Sorren hung on, using his own immortal strength to restrain the redcap, who despite being two feet tall and built like a stringy old man was as tough as a tiger.
“Now!” Sorren cried out.
Teag darted from behind a monument. I heard the redcap scream as Teag pulled the creature’s head back and swung his blade, neatly severing the vicious pixie’s head.
Trifles and Folly 1
“I don’t know why, but I’ve really got a bad feeling about that house.” I sat in the car parked at the curb near the big house on the Battery.
“Bad feeling like they won’t pay their bill, or bad feeling like there’s a hungry demon inside?” Teag Logan asked.
I shook my head. “Not sure, but if I had to put money on it, I’d go with the demon.”
Most people would be kidding. Teag knew I wasn’t. I’m Cassidy Kincaide, owner of Trifles and Folly, an antique and curio shop in historic, haunted Charleston, SC. Neither Teag nor I are entirely what we seem, and that holds true for the shop as well.
I’m a psychometric, which means I can often read the history of objects by touching them. Teag has Weaver magic, an ability to weave spells into cloth and to weave data streams—like the Internet—making him an awesome hacker. He’s my best friend, sometime bodyguard and assistant store manager. I’m the latest in a very long line of relatives to manage Trifles and Folly in the 350 years the store has existed, but we’ve all had the same silent partner, a nearly six-hundred-year-old vampire named Sorren, and the same mission: to get dangerous magical items off the market and out of the wrong hands. Most of the time, we succeed. When we fail, people die and really bad things happen.
“How do you want to handle this?” Teag asked.
I drew a deep breath. “We go in, and see what’s what. Then we figure it out from there.” My magic is touch-psychic, not clairvoyance, so I can’t see the future, much as I would sometimes like to.
The house was large, old, and expensive. Most of the homes on the Battery hailed from before the Civil War. Many of the houses are painted in the muted pastels most people associate with places like Bermuda and Nassau. Some of the families who owned these homes had been here since the mansions were built. The houses are beautiful, and tourists flock to see them. But as much as I admire their beauty, I try not to spend a lot of time down at the Battery for the simple reason that it creeps me out.
“Why is your garden gnome in a cage?” I frowned as a plump middle-aged woman deposited a stone statue locked in what looked like a large “live trap” steel mesh box.
“Because this thing ate my cat,” the woman declared. “And I want rid of it before it goes after the dog, too.”
We see all kinds of things at Trifles and Folly, but even for us, this was a first.
“Are you sure about the cat?” I asked, warily eyeing the gnome. It looked much older than the brightly-painted resin figures on sale at the big national-chain garden supply stores. The statue was weathered, with some bits of lichen stuck to its body, and I wondered if it had been custom-made. Now that she mentioned it, the gnome did look a little creepy. The features looked sly instead of welcoming, and the set of the mouth seemed to hide sharp teeth behind the carved stone lips.
“I’m sure,” the woman said, slapping her palm against the wooden counter. “Fuddles never did like the statue. Always hissed at it when he walked by it. I should have taken that as a sign.”
“Where did it come from?” I asked, looking away from the creepy gnome and returning my attention to the lady who had brought in the caged decoration.
“My mother said she bought it from one of those architectural salvage places,” the woman replied.
“Have you had other problems with it, before the… um… cat incident?” I’m sure she was embarrassed and believed I was secretly laughing at her, but I had seen much stranger things.
I’m Cassidy Kincaide, and I own Trifles and Folly, an antique and curio shop in historic, haunted Charleston, SC that is a lot more than it seems. The store has been in my family for over three hundred years, and we’ve got a secret. While we’re a great place to find beautiful old heirlooms and estate jewelry, our real job is getting dangerous magical and supernatural items off the market and keeping them out of the wrong hands. That means we see more than our share of cursed, unlucky, or possessed objects, so I was taking my hapless customer’s tale seriously. Her murderous gnome sounded exactly like the kind of problem we deal with every day.
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