“Hey, Lover Boy, how have things been going today? I haven’t heard from you all day.”
“Oh, hi Yvonne. Sorry, but I’ve been busy. I got a call for an interview this morning, and it’s kinda sucked up my whole day.”
“An interview! That’s great! Why don’t you join us for dinner and tell us all about it.”
“No, I think I’d better stay home tonight.”
“Oh, well in that case we’ll bring dinner to you!”
“No buts! We’ll be there in about forty-five minutes.” Yvonne hung up before Patton could protest any further.
Now what, thought Patton. I thought coming home was going to be safe enough, but now I’m not so sure. I certainly don’t want to get Yvonne and her sisters involved in this … situation. He started working out possible actions and consequences even as he did what he could to prepare the dining room for dinner guests. He was going to have to use the good china — all the everyday stuff was smashed.
He was still brooding on things when he heard the Coven Mobile pull into the driveway. The sisters came around the back to the patio since the kitchen was still out of commission. Each witch carried a basket or bag. Yvonne’s bag clinked suspiciously.
“Welcome! Come on into the dining room, the table’s waiting for you.” Patton started to lead them into the house, but Elaine stopped him.
“I think we’d better set up outside,” she said.
“You see, we’re having a party!” chipped in Yvonne.
“And we invited a few friends,” added Margaret. Patton felt like they were piling on him. Again.
Elaine’s turn. “We knew you wouldn’t mind.”
“Since you’re invited, too!” That was Yvonne.
A new voice interrupted as a short black woman peeked around the corner of the house. “Hello! This be the right place?”
“Dotty! Welcome!” Margaret had barely gotten that out when another voice was heard.
“Yoo-hoo! You can start the party now, I’m here!” This was from a tall woman with a dancer’s build. She was followed by a woman with a distinctly earthy look.
“Yeah, well you’d better save a bottle for me!” The three newcomers were quickly surrounded by the coven, who greeted them with hugs and kisses. Then a small, pale woman appeared around the corner.
“Uh, is this the right place?” Her voice was simultaneously shy and musical. The women immediately swarmed her with greetings, leaving Patton feeling a little out of place. He started taking the forgotten bags into the house.
“Ladies! Where are my manners! I’d like to introduce you to our host, Scotty Patton.” Elaine introduced the newcomers.
“Scotty, this is Sandy Payne …” The dancer gave a deep dancer’s curtsy. “ … Dotty O’Malley …” The short black woman bounced up and gave him a peck on the cheek. “… Rose Garner …” The earthy woman nodded her head. “… and Karen Love.” The small pale woman bowed like she was on stage. Elaine turned back to the newcomers.
“Ladies, think of this as Scotty’s coming out party. He is new to magic, and like any debutante he needs to be introduced to society. I hope you will make him feel welcome!”
Things immediately spun out of control, at least as far as Patton was concerned. Before he knew it food and drink were spread out on the patio table, his tiki torches had been dug out of storage and lit, someone had cranked up the stereo, and the wine was flowing freely. As the sun went down things started to get cold, but he was the only one who seemed to notice.
Elaine noticed his chill and took pity on him. “Let me show you a little trick.” Elaine started to dance her way over to the edge of the patio, where she waved her arms way over her head, in time to some unheard music that was totally at odds with the sound coming from the stereo. She danced along the patio edge all the way around it, making these big gestures and staying in time. Patton thought it was quite lovely to watch.
She danced her way back to him and said, “Now light a fire in that patio burner.” He got a few sticks out of what was left of his firewood pile and soon had a nice little blaze going inside the steel and wire contraption.
“Give it a few minutes and you’ll find it getting toasty out here. With my spell that little flame can warm up the entire patio.”
Sandy, the dancer, came over to the fire. “Thank you for doing that,” she said to Elaine. “I was starting to get chilled.” The music on the stereo changed, and it sparked something in her for she started dancing in a way that was clearly professional.
“She’s a witch, right?” asked Patton. Elaine nodded. “What does she do when she’s not witching?”
“Isn’t it obvious? She teaches dance at Hochstein.” They watched her as she twirled and leaped to the music, all the time not spilling a drop from the glass still in her hand.
“I guess that makes sense,” said Patton in amazement, then he and Elaine simultaneously took a drink while keeping their eyes on the dance.
“So, Mon, tell me what you do!” Patton took his eyes away from the dance to see Dotty O’Malley studying him with the intense stare of a cat. He felt a little unnerved.
“Well, I’m currently an unemployed engineer.”
“Not that, Mon! What your magic?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You really are new to your Power.” She stared at him even more intently. “I always thought it be a myth, but here you are.”
“I’m still lost.”
At that point Elaine jumped in. “Dotty’s specialty is potions and charms. You have a doctorate in chemistry, don’t you?”
“Yes, but dat be a few years back. Now I be back to makin’ potions, only now under laboratory conditions so’s my customers get consistent results.”
“Oh?” asked Patton. “Do you have a shop or something?”
“Yes, off North Clinton. Come by and visit some time!” She noticed her glass was empty and drifted off to refill it.
Yvonne came over and took away Patton’s glass. “No more for you, Lover! You gotta dance!”
“You know I can’t dance.”
“You know I can’t dance!” he protested louder. Sandy came over.
“Dance with me, Scotty, and I’ll have you dancing like Fred Astaire.” She took his hand and dragged him out into the middle of the patio. All the rest of the women gathered round to watch, and Patton knew he had just become the evening’s entertainment.
She leaned in and whispered into his ear. “I can’t do this with most of my students, but you’re a wizard — I can feel the magic in you. I’m going to teach you a two-step, quick-step and a Bossa Nova, a little Victor Sylvester and a Rudy Valentino. When we’re done they’re going to be coming back for more!” Her magic reached out to him, into him, and tapped into the primal rhythms deep in his soul, until his body was swaying to the music so that he couldn’t control himself. A moment later they were doing an improvised dance to the songs blasting from the stereo, improvised, yes, but perfectly choreographed, so they moved together in harmony with the music and each other.
They were really getting into it and the ladies were applauding when a powerful flashlight sprang from the darkness of the driveway and spotlighted the dancers. Patton and Sandy froze in their tracks, and the women went silent. The stereo suddenly sounded out of place, unaware of the change in its audience.
A loud caw came from up in the trees, and the flashlight came onto the patio, held by a sheriff’s deputy. “Excuse me for interrupting your party, but somebody called in a complaint about the noise. Would you mind turning down the music?” Margaret ducked into the house and a moment later there was silence.
“Now which one of you is the homeowner?”
“That would be me.” Patton gave his name to the officer, who wrote it down.
“Hey, aren’t you the guy who got blown through your kitchen window? I’m glad to see you’re recovering so well, to dance like that.”
“Yes, well I had a good doctor, and Ms. Payne here is an excellent teacher. It’s supposed to be part of my physical therapy, to make sure there isn’t any lasting brain damage.” Patton wasn’t sure what motivated him to bullshit the officer that way, but as long as he was shoveling it on that way he might as well pile it really deep.
“Yes. Well, feel free to dance all you like, but please keep the music down. If I get another complaint I’m going to have to write you up.”
“I understand, officer, and we’ll remember to keep it down.”
“Very good.” The deputy went back to his car and sat there a few minutes, entering the incident in his computer before pulling out and heading to his next call.
Caldwell and Nieves let Fuentes drive while they had their senses out, trying to feel Patton’s aura. They’d driven all over town until finally, on the off chance that Patton was exceptionally stupid, they headed for his house. Apparently he wasn’t very bright, for they could tell he was there even before the house came in sight. However, there were complications.
“Looks like he’s having a party,” said Caldwell. Fuentes pulled the car over to the side of the road, turned on the dome light and pretended to study a map. He may not be the brains of the outfit, but he knew what to do to avoid attention while scoping out a target. He watched for cops and let the others do the surveillance.
“Must be a good one, too,” said Nieves. “The cops are already here.”
Caldwell replied, “Yes. I’m not sure why since his neighbors don’t seem to be home.”
“Maybe he’s arranged for protection or something.”
“Possibly. I think we should call off grabbing him tonight. Let him think he’s safe, and come back when his guard is down.” Fuentes folded up the map, turned off the light, and signaled like a good law abiding citizen before pulling out into traffic.
They drove past the house and turned the corner, not noticing that the sheriff’s car left right after they did.
After the incident with the sheriff the mood of the party changed, became more mellow. Things moved inside and the lights were turned down, to be replaced by a fire in the fireplace and candles scattered around the living room. People crowded onto the sofa or into the recliner or simply stretched out on the floor. The other witches persuaded Karen Love to sing for them, and Patton discovered she had a truly enchanting voice.
“Let me guess,” he whispered to Yvonne, who had draped herself across his lap in the recliner. “She’s a professional singer.”
“Oh, yes! That’s her gift. Dotty makes potions, Sandy dances, Karen sings, and Rose grows things. All witches have a gift, something that they’re extra good at. They may learn enough and become powerful enough to do other things, but they’ll still maintain their specialty.”
“And do I have a gift? If so, what is it?”
“We don’t know yet.”