Plum’s offer to use magic as a way out of the predicament of a group of angry witches at our heels made sense. But I felt reluctant, because it could be a trap. Now that her soul was displaced from its host body, Plum might be coveting mine. This idea preoccupied me to the point that I forgot to shield my thoughts from her and she was insulted.
“Don’t flatter yourself Patricia. Your body doesn’t suit me. There is perfectly good body waiting for me back home. I’m just trying to get back to it. Okay? Something tells me that if those idiots inject you with Propofol, then you might never wake up. So, what’s it going to be sweetie? We haven’t got all day. Your little friend and her posse are closing in on us.”
I hesitated for a moment longer before giving Plum the go ahead. The first order of business was to get that collar off my neck. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be able to do anything. Reluctantly, I gave control of my body over to her and forced myself not to think about what might happen to me, if it was a trick. Plum approached a passerby and borrowed his cell phone. We listened to her make a call.
“Ross darling, it’s me I’m on the corner of Waterman and Delmar. I don’t have any cash on me. Send an Uber. I’m coming to see you.”
We spent a nerve-racking twenty minutes hiding in plain sight, waiting for our ride. Ross turned out to be a baby-faced, chubby little man with thinning hair and a weak chin. He opened his front door and peered into my face uncertainly.
“Well, hello Ross,” purred Plum.
I saw recognition and dismay slowly spread across his features. With visible effort, he replaced his frown with a fake smile.
“Plum, is that you? Why do you look so different?”
“It’s a long story, which I don’t have time to tell you. Are you going to let us in or do we have to camp out on your doorstep?”
“Oh yes of course, come in. What brings you by today?”
“Nothing much dear. I came for some of my money.”
“Yes Ross, the money I gave you to keep safe for me.”
“The money you gave me to keep safe?”
“Yes, that’s what I said. Why are you acting so strangely? You do still have the money I gave you right?”
“Oh yes, of course. How much of it do you need?”
“Not much, five thousand ought to be plenty.”
The smile never left his face, but I saw panic flash in his eyes and the way he began to wring his hands. A big St. Bernard came bounding into the room and nearly knocked us over, standing on its hind legs and planting an enormous paw on each of us. Plum cooed at the dog and stroked its massive head. Apparently, its name was Beastie. Looking down into its friendly face, the tension I felt eased. Perhaps, I was overreacting. One look back at Ross and my uneasiness returned. He wasn’t smiling. Something felt very wrong. Plum dismissed my warnings as paranoia.
“Patricia, you’re from one extreme to the other. Either you blindly trust people or you’re overly suspicious. Just chill out. Ross is harmless. He doesn’t have the skills or the balls to go toe-to-toe with me, even with me trapped by this stupid collar. Ross has been in my employ for years and has never given me a moment’s trouble. He knows better. The man does as he’s told.”
Ross ushered us into the living room, oblivious to the conversation going on between us, inside my head. He smiled at us again, gesturing widely.
“Make yourself at home. You can sit anywhere, except in that chair.”
He pointed to a wooden chair in the middle of a round rug and the feeling of disquiet stole over me again. Something about that chair bothered me. I couldn’t figure out why. It was just a weathered and rickety looking old thing. Before I could share my misgivings, Plum beelined for it and plopped down. Ross abruptly stopped wringing his hands and a sly smile spread across his face.
“I knew if I told you not to sit there, then wild horses couldn’t keep you from doing it. Just couldn’t resist showing off for your passenger could you?”
I was confused, “What’s he talking about Plum? What passenger?”
“He’s talking about you.”
Ross waved his hand in front of us and uttered a word under his breath as he passed, briefly disappearing into another room. I immediately felt my body pulled tightly against the chair. Plum tried to move me, but my back, arms, and thighs were held fast to the chair. I didn’t want to ask, but I felt compelled.
“What’s happening? What did he just say?”
“Mane…it’s the Latin word for stay. That sonovabitch just activated a binding spell!”
“Does that mean what I think it does?”
“We’re stuck like glue to this damn chair!”
Ross returned with a book in his right hand. His left hand was concealed behind his back. I found the maniacal expression on his face disturbing. Waves of conflicting emotions emanated from him and washed over me. I sensed hatred and remorse. Something bad was about to happen and we were a sitting duck.
There was no point in taking back control of my body, since it was pinned down to the chair. Plum attempted to move and succeeded only in moving my legs forward below the knees. Ross saw her straining and let out a bark of jeering laughter.
Plum suddenly began to cry and beg to be spared. I was stunned. She sounded earnest, but inside was watchful, calm and cool as a cucumber. Ross laughed again.
“My how the mighty one has fallen. Go on Plum, beg some more. I’m enjoying myself. Who knows, I might spare your worthless life, if you entertain me. Perhaps, I’ll keep you around as one of my pets.”
“If you let me go, I’ll give you anything you want.”
“Anything? Alright then, tell me where your grimoire is and I’ll let you go. What did you say? Speak up Plum. I can’t hear you.”
She continued to speak softly. Ross moved in closer, leaning forward. I felt Plum’s glee a moment before my right foot connected with his crotch. He doubled over and I gasped in shock at the sight of a dagger clenched his left hand. My foot whipped up and struck Ross in the chin. His head snapped backwards and he dropped the dagger, collapsing to the floor unconscious.
Plum whistled and Beastie came bounding into the room, with a toy rope in its mouth. A playful leap into my lap flipped us backwards onto the floor. My head landed on the hardwood floor outside the circle of carpet. Plum bit down on the other end of the toy and played tug-of-war until Beastie unwittingly dragged us off of the rug, which freed us from the chair. I was amazed.
“I thought we were stuck. What just happened?”
“With a little help from Beastie, breaking contact between the chair and pentagram unbound us.”
Plum pulled back the circular rug and revealed a pentagram chalked onto the hardwood floor. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“Hold on, I thought this collar prevented you from using magic.”
“It does, that’s where Beastie came in. He’s a familiar.”
“You know, a sort of enchanted helper. Look at what Ross dropped. Can you believe the bastard was going to use a dagger of souls on us?”
“What’s a dagger of souls?”
“It grants the person who wields it dominion over the body and soul of anyone whom he or she brands with it.”
She reached down, turned Ross onto his stomach and began examining his neck.
“What are you doing Plum?”
“I’m investigating a hunch. I think that he had a little passenger of his own. Hey look, I was right. Do you see that black thing beneath the skin on the back of his neck? It’s an astral parasite. They burrow into your brainstem and feed off of your astral energy, weakening you to the point that you become highly suggestible to psychic attacks. Someone is trying to use Ross to get to me!”
Plum grabbed the dagger and made a slit across the back of his neck. A flash of blinding light made me flinch away. Plum continued to carve up his neck.
“What are you doing? You’re going to kill him Plum!”
My body suddenly slumped forward. The pressure inside my head lifted so abruptly that I felt light-headed. Plum didn’t respond to frantic questions about what was happening. At first, I though she was ignoring me. Realization slowly dawned that she was gone. Ross suddenly turned over and sat up. Instantly, I recognized Plum’s smirk on his face.