Flame wrote furiously for several pages and then her hand slowed to a stop. I could tell that she was having second thoughts about being so helpful. Her left hand curled into a fist. Plum saw this and dug the fingers of both hands into Flame’s shoulders. A failed attempt to wrench free of the vise-like grip subdued her. When the well of information ran dry, Plum snatched up the papers and gave them a cursory once-over, as she strode around the office. She finished and turned to smile at Flame.
“Have I mentioned how much I love what you’ve done with my office? You just took over and made it your own.”
“I wouldn’t have done it, if I knew you were alive Plum. I thought you were dead.”
“Repeating that doesn’t make it any more believable. You think I don’t know how frustrated you were with being second in command around here? You always did think you knew how to do things better, always questioning my decisions. Still, there are a few of my trinkets sitting around. Looks like you didn’t clear away all traces of me. Take this little doohickey.”
Plum plucked a small beetle figurine from a shelf and strode over to the desk. She leaned across it and Flame reflexively shrank back in her seat. Plum laughed.
“What’s the matter dear…guilty conscience? I’m not going to bite…yet. I just wanted to ask if you know what this is.”
Flame eyed the figurine and shook her head cautiously, suspecting a trick. The smile on Plum’s face hardened unpleasantly. I sensed rage radiating from her in waves. I backed away from them, towards the opposite corner of the room. Plum’s laugh was incredulous.
“Have you learned nothing from me Flame? Why would you keep something, if you didn’t even know what it was?”
“I…uh guess I wanted something to remember you by.”
“Sort of like trophy? Don’t answer dear, that was a rhetorical question. I’ll tell you what this little beetle is. It’s a charm. Let me show you how it works.”
Before Flame could react, Plum blew on it, muttering something unintelligible, before thrusting it into Flame’s face. I held my breath, unsure of what to expect. Frame braced herself, gripping the arms of her chair. A tense moment passed. Nothing happened. I blew out my breath in relief. Flame appeared to think Plum was joking. She grinned and thrust her face closer, before throwing her head back and laughing. I shook my head in the hope that Flame would pick up on my warning, knowing it was unwise to let her guard down, when Plum was angry.
The beetle suddenly launched itself into Flame’s open mouth. I looked on in horror, as Flame’s breath was abruptly cut off. Her eyes grew wide and she grabbed her throat, uttering a strangled gurgle. The beetle crawled down Flame’s throat, its fat little body stretching the skin. She began clawing at it, leaving scratches. Plum grabbed Flame’s hands and held them down on the desk. Not able to stand the suffering, I rushed towards them. Plum shot me a fierce warning look, which stopped me in my tracks. Flame collapsed onto the desk. I looked on in stunned silence, as the beetle re-emerged, crawling out of her mouth onto the desk blotter slick with blood. I gasped, convinced that she was dead.
“What just happened? That thing isn’t real. At least it wasn’t was it? How could it have choked her,” I babbled.
“It didn’t choke her. This is a heart scarab. It’s a soul keeper.”
“I don’t understand.”
Wordlessly, Plum turned away from me. Her essence suddenly flowed forward, out of Ross’s body and into Flame. She stood up in the new body, as his body dropped to the floor like a sack of potatoes. Plum quickly placed the beetle on Ross’s chest and pulled his mouth open, tugging on the chin. The beetle crawled inside. A few moments later, Ross’s body was reanimated, coughing forcefully until the beetle was expelled. Flame’s voice sounded strange coming from him.
“What the f…..Plum, what did you do to me?”
She clumsily sat Ross’s body up. Seeming to find his limbs heavy, Flame struggled to her feet. One look at her own face grinning back at her from across the desk and Flame screamed. Under different circumstances, I would have found a woman’s scream coming from a man funny, but I was in shock. Plum made herself at home in Flame’s body, unbuttoning several buttons on the shirt to expose more cleavage.
The sound of many feet running down the hall made us all look towards the door. Delilah burst in on us, followed by the surviving three members of her coven. Without a moment’s thought, I dove behind the desk guessing that whatever was coming next would not be good. They immediately levelled an attack on Flame, blasting her into ash. Delilah kicked apart the smoldering remains.
“That’s for hijacking our crew, you bitch! Nobody tells me what to do!”
Plum smiled and gave them a round of applause, “impressive ladies. See what you can do when you work together? I really think I missed my calling to be an instructor. I’ve been teaching lessons left and right all night.”
Their mistake barely had time to register, before Plum lobbed a binding spell, rendering them immobile and rooted in place. I could see fear bloom in their eyes, with the realization that they were helpless. Plum sashayed up to Delilah.
“How do you like my new body? Don’t answer dear, it’s a rhetorical question. So, you all still haven’t gotten it through your thick skulls that I own you? I tried to be kind and allow you to have some free will. I won’t make that mistake again.”
Plum smacked Delilah so hard that I winced. She turned on her heels strode over to the desk, yanking drawers open and searching them impatiently. Seeing her pull out scissors in her hand brought me back up to my feet. I tried to reason with her, fearing what was coming next.
“Please don’t kill them Plum. I know they tried to kill you, but…”
“Kill them? What makes you think I’m going to kill them?”
“But, the scissors…it looked like you were going to…”
“Stab them? Don’t be silly Patricia. We’re about to go on the warpath. I need as many warm bodies as I can get.”
“So, what are you doing with the scissors?”
Plum walked up to each woman braided and clipped off locks of hair. She wove them together into a necklace, which she put on over her head and concealed underneath her shirt.
“Now I literally have power over them body and soul.”