I peeked around a driftwood tarot table to see the vast robe of Madam Morel swing around as if she was checking for eavesdroppers; she then leaned over towards Vee.
“It concerns you directly, dear,” she whispered. In the eerie silence that followed I heard Vee’s sharp intake of breath. “I came to warn you at once. But first, I need another branch from that ancient hawthorn of yours and some cherry blossom. I’ve got to seek confirmation – I just cannot believe the signs are right! As soon as I’ve finished here, I shall go by the cemetery for consecrated holly and incense. This business is too serious, too serious by far. I shall have everything ready for tonight, so I can repeat the magic and call for the luminous spirits’ assistance. You can come, dear. Of course you can come. Now, go. Go get me what I need.”
“Yes, Madam Morel. Martin,” Vee’s voice was shaky as she called me.
I stood up, still holding tight onto the bundle of cloth. Madam Morel’s expression soured when she saw me, but I didn’t pay attention to her – the feeling was mutual, and she knew it. Neither of us was bothering to pretend otherwise anymore. What worried me was Vee; her face was ashen, her brow crumpled up in distress.
“Will you offer Madam Morel a seat and a drink while I nip into the garden, Martin? Please,” she touched my arm as she darted past me and out the back door.
My eyes narrowed as I glared at the source of my wife’s upset. “Sure,” I answered a little too late; Vee had already gone.
I heaved my cargo to the side of the counter, where I dropped it unceremoniously, too close to Madam Morel’s feet. I hoped she would catch her floppy sandals and trip over it, the stupid old bat.
I slipped behind the counter and picked up the one rickety stool. Holding it in what some people might consider to be a slightly threatening manner, I asked, “Chair?”
Madam Morel took a step back, and then she collected herself. “No. Thank you,” she added as an afterthought.
I wondered if she thought I was so dim as to whack her around the head with the stool in the middle of my property. I wasn’t, but she should watch herself. My antipathy for her had been merely amorphous, before today. Undefined, like I couldn’t determine why I didn’t like her. Now, the fact that she’d upset Vee gave me a focus point onto which to concentrate my ire.
Madam Morel squared her shoulders, pursed her lips and approached the counter. I waited eagerly for her to lean one careless finger on the glass top, surreptitiously eyeing the stapler by the side of the till.
The witch could read my mind, or maybe my sideways glance had not been stealthy enough. She swallowed hard, and then folded her arms across her ample bosom. Damn.
“Drink?” I smiled and one of my eyebrows shot up as I said the word, probably giving me the air of a villain, just for a second.
She stood her ground. “I’ll have another large black candle, Martin. We’ll all need serious protection.”
After briefly contemplating an array of actions on my part that would most certainly demand protection on hers, I turned to the shelf and grabbed the nearest black candle.
She waited for me to turn and key the code into the ancient till before she spoke. “Larger, if you’ve got one.”
I pressed the ‘clear’ button with unnecessary force as I stared straight into her eyes with unconcealed loathing.
She stared right back at me for a while and then her eyes lost their focus and her expression took on a distracted appearance. She started swaying gently on the spot, humming to herself and making sudden, uncontrolled movements with her arms. I watched her twitching hands warily, trying hard to sort out my priorities. Should I go steady her or start moving the breakable items away from her immediate vicinity first? Maybe I should position the stool behind her and stretch the folds of canvas around her front, to soften her fall. But what if I went to her side and the witch threw herself to the floor so she could have something to blame me for when Vee returned?
“I can see…” she whispered. “I can see what is going to happen.” Her eyelids fluttered and then her gaze fixed on me. “Martin…” She sighed and shook her head dolefully, still staring at me. “No need to make this harder, son. It’s written in the stars that we shall work together. Soon, you will have to trust me.”
I snorted contemptuously.
“You’ll have no choice, Martin.” She kept shaking her massive head; her jowls wobbled and gave her the appearance of a giant slug. Well, a slug with tangled hair, no fashion sense and too much jewellery. “We’ll have to work together,” she repeated. “Forty-eight hours.”
“You’ll come and ask for my help in less than forty-eight hours.” She nodded to emphasize her depressing prediction.
I wondered if she’d finally lost it. In what warped reality would I ever, of my own accord, ask a witch for help? I bit back a retort that was likely to put me in my wife’s black book for a week and reached up to the back of the top shelf for the thickest black candle I could see.
“Nine ninety-nine,” I said impassively, ringing the amount into the till.
I placed the candle on the counter at the same time as Vee rushed in, clutching a carrier full of cherry blossom in one hand and what appeared to be half a hawthorn in the other. I added five more pounds to the amount on the till.
“Fourteen ninety-nine,” I amended my calculation.
“Don’t be silly, Martin,” Vee chided me, walking quickly to Madam Morel’s side. She picked up the candle off the counter and stuffed it in the bag, beside the blossom. “You can’t charge our best customer.”
“But…” I mumbled in consternation as she proceeded to unload the bulk into Madam Morel’s eager arms. I could see the witch’s smug expression from the corner of my eye.
“Thank you, my dear,” she said in a sickeningly sweet voice. “May the spirit guides stay closely by your side.”
“They don’t need to,” I said sharply. “That’s my job.”
Vee smiled and stroked my arm soothingly, but didn’t look significantly reassured.
Madam Morel glanced back at her with sombre eyes. “I’ll see you tonight, my child. At dusk.” Vee nodded, her expression miserable. “Be sure to wear black.” Vee’s frown deepened. She nodded again. The witch turned her attention to me, then. “You’d better be there, too, Martin.”
“Why on Earth would I?”
She didn’t answer, but turned and swept theatrically out of the door without so much as a goodbye.
Thank you for taking the time to read this sample of my novel Martin Little Takes Epic Action, a sequel to Martin Little, Resurrected. Any thoughts? I would love to read your comments. Part 1 is right here. Come back next week for part 3.