This story was written as part of my introduction thread to this site, where I was challenged by King Serperior
with a visual prompt that can be see here
. I was very happy with the way the piece came out and so I've decided to share it here for everyone, and act as a solid writing sample for those interested in playing with me.The Ends Justify
highlights an interaction between Antonio Delgado, a police detective who doesn't quite believe in the magic that exists within his world, and the Lady Eliza Beaumont a mysterious but well known witch who is all too happy to lend out her magical prowess for a price. The only catch is that she isn't interested in money.
The sun had set hours ago, maybe it just seemed like hours with the thick blanket of fog that had rolled into the bay; even the street lamp that was only supposed to be fifteen feet or so away seemed more distant, hanging in the air more like a will-o-wisp than a man made lantern. The bay area was known for fog cover like this, usually one or two would roll in off the Pacific a week, not typically so dense though; paired with the rain that hadn't let up since sunrise, the bay had a distinct personality about it that screamed ominous mystery.
Antonio looked down at the watch on his wrist. “This is absurd, what am I even doing here?”
It may have been the weather that was getting on his nerves, or a skepticism for the very thing he was here to arrange, likely a blurred combination of the two; even with his practiced patience, honed with nearly a decade of detective work, waiting here like this made him uneasy, more importantly, agitated. He rolled his shoulders uncomfortably, and shifted his weight from one leg to the other restlessly.
The very same moment he had decided to give up on all of this, determined to find another way, was the moment his thought was interrupted and the silence was broken. It was startling, the beauty of the feminine voice he heard, everything he had been told and so very much more. It was nothing shy of a siren's call, urging him to bury his thoughts of leaving and remain rooted while she approached.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Detective.”
“Hmph... We had an appointment, you're lucky I'm still here.” Antonio jabbed, quickly growing uncomfortable with the situation as his date emerged from the milky grayness.
He took a moment to measure her up, he'd heard stories about her, the department used her from time to time on important matters that couldn't be left up to chance, but he'd never had the opportunity or desire to meet her personally. In this case though, it couldn't be helped.
She was Lady Eliza Beaumont, and if the stories were to be believed she had some sort of tie to royalty across the pond. What he had been told was she was a practitioner of the art; that's what the so called magi of the world called it. Antonio never much cared for it, magic; it was difficult to understand and wrap his mind around. He'd seen it in practice before, but he'd never been sold on its true value. When it came down to the wire he'd much rather have his good friend Smith & Wesson at his side instead of Dumbledore & White. Still, Eliza was supposedly among the best at what she did, at least in this hemisphere, and she came highly recommended by a good friend. With stakes as high as they were, he couldn't afford to not explore any available option.
She was taller than he had imagined her to be, comparable to himself actually; he had her in weight class though, if she tried any of her hoodoo voodoo tricks on him he could wrestle her down. That thought was enough to invoke an exuberant grin.
“Tch tch tch, detective, that wasn't very nice.” The pale woman responded.
Antonio paused, could she have been responding to his thought? Such a thing had to have been impossible, no clearly she had been referring to the way he'd addressed her. That's what he told himself anyway.
Eliza chuckled quietly under the cover of her heavy hood, like his coat it was designed to repel the seemingly ceaseless rain. She tilted her head straight so finally they could meet eye to eye.
His heritage had passed down to him dark brown orbs of Spanish chocolate, which clashed heavily both in color and steeled gaze with her gentle, youthful, spheres of Persian green. He had expected to be dealing with a hag, a wrinkled and decrepit old woman from across the sea; instead he blessed by a young beauty with skin more fair than any his eyes had ever seen, with movements so subtle and graceful she might have been feline.
“You came all this way, waited past our arranged meeting time, while in this weather and you're just going to stand there?” Eliza quipped, a coquettish grin dancing on her porcelain lips.
She really was a witch, what with how she so enticed him with little more than a sentence and her looks. Antonio shook his head, pushing himself from the lamppost he had claimed as his resting place while waiting. He held out his hand, a gesture of good will, this was after all a business meeting.
Eliza never took it, and it only took Antonio six seconds standing there like a fool to realize she didn't plan to. “Fine. I don't need this to be amicab--”
“Do not pretend with me Antonio Delgado. You do not trust me, you do not believe in what I do. Still here you are, begging for my help.” Her voice had lost its playfulness and turned sharp, her words slashed at him like a knife. “With circumstances like they are though, I don't blame you. If it was my daughter who was missing... Well, I wouldn't let my daughter out with the kind of boys yours hangs around with.”
Shock, awe, disbelief, anger, grief, and a flurry of other emotions filled him; to many to count, let alone decide which one should guide is actions now, he was thrown entirely off center by her rebuke. “I... How do you know about this?”
Her grin returned, and she casually licked at her lips. “I have my ways, just like you detective.”
Eliza turned away from him, casting her gaze out into the bay, towards the dimly pulsing pinkish-red lights sitting high atop the great bridge. “It's not your fault though. A single father, a cop no less. You're doing good in the world, it would only be fair if the world did right by you for that, for you helping make it a better place. Especially since it already took your wife from you...”
Anger, he settled on anger. “Don't you bring her up! You have no right to talk about her. If you know so much, what can you do about it, huh? Answer me that, witch.” His whole body shook with the surge of adrenaline that came as a bonus to the embraced anger.
“Oh, Antonio, it isn't about what I can do, its about what you can pay.”
His fists curled into tight balls. So badly he wanted take a swing at the smug woman, give her a piece of the frustration that flourished within him. “Oh course. Money. It's always about the money. You and your kind, you claim to be so powerful but it always boils down to the damn money doesn't it?” Antonio sucked air through his teeth, then spat at her feet. “I've made arrangements. I've got ten-thousand waiting for us to make a deal, and I'll get you another ten once my Adria is returned to me.”
Eliza chuckled again, this time it wasn't soft, it wasn't restrained or hidden. No, she let it all out, the funny man needed her help and couldn't control himself, and to top it all off he understood so little. She spun on her heel to stare at him, shaking her head side to side as the laughter faded. “How ignorant you are, detective. I am not some petty side show magician who needs your money. Nor do I want it.”
She stepped closer, finally raising a hand to part the heavy folds of her cloak; reaching out she brushed her fingers across his cheek, stroking it gently, caressing him almost as a lover would. “I will help you. I will bring your daughter back to you, free her from the pain that she's in.”
She trailed off, dipping her head to the side so that could examine him more closely; her eyes studied his features, watching the mixture of emotion storm within him, for her few things were as enjoyable. “All it will cost you...” She began to finish, trailing her words. “Is seven years.”
She had done it again, locked him in her bewitching trance. Between the sound of her voice, the gentle touch of her skin against his and the promise of being able to help his daughter, Antonio had all but lost his will to fight her, again. Then, then came her offer; it was strange and unknown, he had offered her twenty-thousand dollars and she wanted years? What did that even mean.
He staggered back against the lamppost from which he had originally came and furrowed his brow, shaking his head at her. “What do you mean, seven years? What the hell does that mean?” He barked in frustrated reply.
“It's very simple, Antonio. You get your daughter back, and everything goes back to normal, your daughter will be safe at home when you get there. From you, I will take seven years of your life.”
“I... I don't understand. How do you take someones life, that... You can do all of that?”
Eliza smiled broadly, nodding her head. “Think of your life force as a big well, detective. Every day, every hour, no every minute a tiny portion of that well evaporates as you use the energy. I will simply be making a withdrawal from your well, seven years worth of the energy. You won't feel a thing, promise.”
Antonio hesitated for a moment, he shifted once again restlessly from side to side. He didn't believe such things, not that they truly worked the way described. He could get it all back without it costing him anything. His head nodded before his brain decided, his heart pulled his strings before logic could catch up.
“A deal is a deal, Antonio.” Eliza stepped forward quickly, tilting her head to the side and placing the most gentle of kisses upon his cheek. “Goodbye, say hello to your daughter for me. Hug her tight.”
She stepped back and began to walk away, quickly she become enveloped in the fog fading from view. Antonio turned his head to watch, letting his weight rest against the lamppost. His eyes narrowed as bulbs of purple and pink light flared and dissipated ahead of Eliza's moving form, until all that was left to see was the solid blanket of fog.