Happy Thursday, Internets! It’s April 7th, so you know what that means? Snow!
Well, just spits of fine little flakes so far. *knock on wood* Let’s hope it stays that way. The daffodils in my yard would appreciate not getting snowed under.
Thursday also means it’s Free Fiction day on my blog. This week’s story is another Tale from The Shadows, this time about a wizard who works on the right side of the law.
Ties That Bind
Published by Thunder Valley Press
Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed
The first hint of trouble came from Gris in Research and Development.
“We’re having a bit of a problem getting the enchantments to stick to the new cuffs,” he said to me in an early morning phone call.
I’ve never done mornings well, but when you’re the wizard in charge of the largest magical enhancements company in the city, and a woman in a man’s profession to boot, whether you do mornings well or not doesn’t matter one damn bit.
I leaned back in my leather chair and gazed out my tenth floor office window at the overcast sky. The streets below were still wet from last night’s rain. I could almost smell the wet asphalt. It would probably rain again today. I pinched the bridge of my nose against an impending headache that wasn’t all sinuses.
“Is it the alloy or the spell?” I asked Gris.
“Can’t tell yet,” he said. “We’re still testing. Just thought you should know, Nell. Considering.”
My company had a contract with the city to supply enhanced weapons and restraints to the police department. Research and Development had been testing redesigned handcuffs. Lighter-weight with an easy snap-close lock, the new handcuffs were supposed to address problems the cops had with the old handcuff design. Personally, I thought any set of handcuffs that could keep a changeling in its true shape or prevent a wizard from casting a spell to escape custody were good enough, but my father built this company by supplying our customers with whatever they wanted. And what the customer I had a meeting with later today wanted was new and better handcuffs.
“Keep me informed,” I said, and I hung up the phone.
I unlocked the bottom drawer in my desk and took out the thick, three-ring binder I kept there under lock and key. To the uninitiated, the binder looked like nothing more than what a high school student might carry around in a backpack. But instead of notes on Shakespeare, calculus, and the culture of ancient Rome, this notebook was chock full of page after page of spells and instructions written in a tiny, crabbed hand, all neatly separated into categories by brightly-colored index tabs. My father had been anal in the extreme. This was his spellbook. What he’d built this company with.
And what he’d handed over to his only daughter when he died.
I glanced at my watch. Eight-fifteen. I had a little less than two hours before my meeting with the city’s purchasing director. If the problem was in the enchantment, the answer should be in the spellbook. I might not be powerful enough to cast the spell myself, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t spot a problem with the enchantment.
I opened the binder and started to read.
* * *
Templeton Rae showed up for our meeting ten minutes early. Not surprising. Templeton was a born pencil pusher. He probably dreamed about numbers in neat, orderly columns that always balanced and never dipped over into the red. Tall and gaunt-looking with a movie villain mustache, Templeton handled the city’s multi-million dollar purchasing contracts like every penny the city spent came from his own pocket.
I met him in the ninth floor conference room. Outside of my office, this corner conference room had the best view in the building. If the sky hadn’t started pouring rain an hour ago, we could have seen the snow-tipped peaks of the mountain range to the east from one set of floor to ceiling windows and across the bay to the exclusive homes on Marlette Island out the other. The view today wasn’t quite as impressive. Still, it never hurt to treat Templeton Rae to the best.
He didn’t shake my hand when I came into the conference room, not a good sign. Still, I smiled my warmest smile and asked him about his family.
“Fine, they’re all fine, but let’s get to the point,” he said as we sat down — on opposite sides of the conference table. “I’ve received a bid for lightweight, enchanted handcuffs that’s quite a bit lower than yours.”
I tried to keep my face impassive even though my heart rate went through the roof. Our contracts with the city for the various enhanced items we produce comprised more than half of my company’s annual revenue. If we lost the handcuff contract, that would just be the start of a long, slow slide into downsizing and maybe even bankruptcy.
(Read the rest of the story here.)