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“That was quick!” Caitlynn cried joyously seeing the box left by parcel post.
Gerald frowned, making the wrinkles carved into his face deepen, hiding some recent scratches and older scars. Beside him, Jenni, the third of the friendship of three and soon-to-be co-owner of the company Caitlynn was starting, asked, “What did you order?”
After unlocking the newly rented one-room business office, Caitlynn opened the door wide, ushering her two friends and business associates if her arm twisting stuck through the next half hour of signing contracts. “Everything. Wait until you see them! But first – ta-da!”
Caitlynn’s money had been well-spent on the small room. Recently painted cream-color walls and tiled floor brown-and-cream geometric pattern reflected light from the hallway. Two desks with computers with a small barrier between them created separate work areas plus two dark brown pseudo-leather couches and a low table demarking a waiting area furnished the room. One of the easily cleanable couches stretched more than six foot, long enough for Gerald to lay down, and took up most of the right wall. A lockable four-drawer filing cabinet was tucked in the last bit of the wall and had a printer on top. A flick of the switch lit the windowless room, igniting the small hum of fluorescents and blinking the room blue then yellow as the gases warmed up.
On one desk, a manila folder lay ready for the day. The bouncy redhead picked up the box and brought it over to the left desk. Along the far wall the only decorations were three diplomas framed in heavy brown and gold wood. Jenni glanced at them, “So that is why you borrowed my bachelor’s degree.”
“Have to make people know we are serious and not some fly-by-night shop of blood and gore.”
“We are a night shop of blood and gore.” Gerald growled in his low bass.
After putting the parcel down, Caitlynn grabbed the large man’s muscular arm and smiled up with enthusiasm. “And blood and gore attracts lots of flies, but we are not fly-by-night. We are here to stay.”
Jenni’s mouth twisted. “At least until Daddy’s money runs out.” Caitlynn’s touch with reality was sometimes questionable when she fell in love with an idea. Great friend, loyal in all things once she was sure you weren’t after her because of who her family was. Honest but strangely not naive, she was able to see through lies except the ones she told herself.
“Daddy didn’t put a dime into this. He stopped helping me after buying the van for college. This is trust fund all the way and didn’t even touch the principal. Grandma wanted me to be able to do this.”
“Are you sure?” The dainty brunette leaned against the left undecorated wall while Gerald crossed his arms and let the fabric-covered cubicle barrier support him, resting head and shoulders above the five-foot freestanding wall. Jenni could see it become his favorite spot to listen to them talk if they went through with this craziness.
“Asked her myself last October.”
Gerald grunted while Jenni raised an eyebrow. “She wanted you to work?”
“Yes she did.” Caitlynn opened the center drawer of the desk, pulling out a couple of pens. “She always wanted to do more, use her smarts and skills and be more than arm candy and a ticket into politics for the General, but the time wasn’t right.” Twisting the pens between her fingers, Caitlynn slipped out of her big-sell persona she had been operating in since Gerald graduated mid-winter, six months behind the female friends more traditional schooling schedule. “It hurts not to use the magic. She didn’t want me to go through the pain of holding it all in and then losing it by inches.”
“But that is me.” She passed her two friends the pens, opened the manila folder, and handed out copies of the contracts. “This is you. I know I have begged and badgered, but if you don’t want to do this I totally understand. It’s a big risk and I can’t promise you a paycheck. We are going to have to earn them.”
Jenni shook her head. “You said this room is covered and got the apartment, plus the spook-mobile. Aside from food and cell phones, we aren’t going to need much.”
The basement apartment Caitlynn found was within walking distance from five-story office building and had three very small bedrooms surrounding one large kitchen-dining-living space area. Only one bathroom, which could be a problem on days they worked for real, but the office building had been used for chemical experiments in the ’50s and had showers located next to the bathrooms on the top floor where they were located. The top floor didn’t have an elevator, so the owners hadn’t spent as much on renovations leaving an industrial-military cold war feel even thin carpet in the halls could not hide. If they didn’t mind taking the freight elevator to the fourth floor and sneaking up the final set of stairs, they could all clean up at the same time.
“My retirement check will cover food.” Gerald had served in the military for twenty years before going to college. Big, tattooed, black, and completely unfamiliar with the education process having survived inner city school system more interested in graduating teenagers alive then educated, he stumbled into the biology tutoring center desperate for help after hitting Dr. Smith’s Intro of Human Biology and discovered Jenni and Caitlynn. He managed to suffer through Caitlynn’s initial combination of hero-worship and debutant-charity thanks to Jenni’s sarcasm and pragmatism.
And they gelled in a way no one could explain except others touched by magic. Before Jenni and Caitlynn had gone for each other’s throats working the tutoring circle; overachievers, one from money-privilege and one from intellectual-privilege, they raised sparks against each other in their bid to be the class valedictorian. Their only competition was each other in the ivory tower environment and they realized it before freshman year was even over. It all changed junior year. Within a week of adding Gerald to the mix, they were sneaking into the medical rooms after dark to get better views of the cadavers.
They were a coven, forever together. Signing the business contract was a forgone conclusion and they all knew it.
(1,051 words – first published 8/21/2016)