A VIRGA MYSTERY
The Invisible Girl: Entry 1a
I can already tell that living with a witch for a roommate means my university life will never be dull. Especially when Melissa runs a private detective agency in her spare time. Though really, it’s more like being a university student is done in her spare time, the agency coming first… and by that I mean she’s invested a great deal into what she calls “restoring the balance of the supernatural on earth”. I’m still working out exactly what that means.
Anyway, Melissa has allowed me to write about her cases, under condition that I don’t identify specific names and places (since those would make it too easy to track her). Seeing as I’m in first year, working towards a career in journalism, and given that I can publish this on the internet under an anonymous name, I’ve accepted her terms. Therefore, you have no guarantee that my name is James Conway, or that hers is Melissa Virga, but they’ll suffice for the purposes of the chronicle.
Well, all right. That’s not entirely true. Her last name IS Virga, pronounced ‘Weer-gah’. She wanted that much preserved, seeing as she corrects anyone who gets it wrong. “It’s from the latin,” she told me when I first gave the ‘V’ too much emphasis. “Look it up sometime, educate yourself.” (I have – it means ‘twig’ or ‘broom’.)
Of course, there are also some undergraduates at the university who pronounce it ‘Weird-gal’ for, I suppose, obvious reasons, but Melissa takes it all in stride. At least, I think she does. At any given time, it’s hard for me to tell precisely what she’s feeling.
But on with the story at hand!
The first of Melissa’s cases which involved me begins after my return to our apartment on the first day of classes. I found Melissa talking with a large male in her office.
Of course, when I say her office, I mean our sitting room – Melissa had converted it to office use, since it happened to be not only the largest room, but also the one that you walk into when you first come in the front door. And when I say this was a large male, I mean LARGE – the guy was at least six feet tall and built like a truck. Even though he was sitting down and Melissa was standing, they were about the same height. He turned when I walked in.
“Ms. Virga’s busy,” he declared, giving me an angry look. “Come back later.”
“Now, now,” Melissa soothed, coming around to the front of her desk. “Don’t be rude, Dan. It’s just my roommate.”
The petite brunette fired off a quick smile, her physical beauty still managing to shine through for me, despite the plain purple blouse and faded jeans she was wearing. Melissa then leaned back against her desk, which caused a large stack of papers to slide sideways and collapse onto the floor. She didn’t even make a move to stop them.
“Roommate? Since when does a detective agency take borders?” Dan said, turning his irritated gaze away from me as he became distracted by the noise.
“Since business got slow over the summer and I couldn’t afford to pay the bills,” Melissa said matter-of-factly. “Don’t worry, he won’t interfere with the case.”
“That’s not the point,” Dan said. “I don’t want word of this… this problem getting out!”
“He’ll be discrete. You will be, right James?”
“Yeah, uh… I just came home to make myself some dinner,” I replied.
“Dinner?” Melissa said, furrowing her brow. “But it’s only…” She glanced at her wrist, saw she wasn’t wearing a watch, fumbled on her desk amongst the papers for a moment in search of a clock before realizing there wasn’t one, after which she glanced at the wall where there was also no clock before finally concluding, “Well, I’m sure it’s too early for dinner.”
“It’s after six,” I offered.
“Definitely too early then,” Melissa decided.
“Look,” Dan said, rising. “It’s obvious the two of you have some issues to discuss here, so I’ll just…”
Her voice was soft, but firm. Dan sat, probably without even thinking about it. Heck, I almost sat down too. For someone who only just tops five feet, Melissa can speak very authoritatively when she chooses.
“Thank you,” she finished. “Now, having established that my roommate will be discrete whether he bothers to listen to us or not, I believe you were in the process of explaining to me about your invisible friend.”
Dan shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Yes, well… look, you’re sure this information will be kept confidential?”
“Do you want my help or don’t you?”
“All right, all right,” Dan sighed, slumping back in his chair. Rather than going back behind her desk, Melissa boosted herself up to sit on it, onto it in order to listen. Another few paper stacks slid to the floor in the process.
“Her name was – is – Danielle,” Dan explained. “I invented her way back in grade school, to keep me company at recess, since none of the other kids wanted to play with me. Understand that I was a bit of a loner back then. Clumsy, uncoordinated, that sort of thing. So Danielle was, for me, the only person who saw through my faults, to the sort of person I truly was.”
Halfway to the kitchen, I paused, being drawn into this conversation despite myself. It was so strange, hearing someone of my age speaking in the way that Dan was. I almost laughed, but then I saw the serious expression on Melissa’s face. It was as if she would remain unfazed no matter what it was that was said in her presence.
I wondered then for the first time what sort of business my newfound roommate was really running.
“Of course, I grew out of that phase,” Dan continued hurriedly, now ignoring me completely as he focussed on Melissa. “Put Danielle and whole concept of invisible friends behind me, where such juvenile thoughts belong. At least, I thought that’s what I’d done.”
“Yet now Danielle’s back,” Melissa deduced.
“Yes, she seems to be,” Dan admitted. “Towards the end of last year I thought it was just my eyes playing tricks on me. But now, I’m not the only one seeing her.”
Melissa leaned forward a bit. “Interesting. Who else has seen her lately?”
“A couple of other people in the residence,” Dan sighed. “The troubling thing is, I wasn’t even there at the time. I only know because word gets around when you’re supposed to be living in an all male wing.”
“And you’re sure this appearance is not simply some girl who resembled the one from your childhood?”
Dan shook his head. “No, no, it’s her, she’s even told me herself who she’s seen, after the fact. And it’s not some practical joke either. Danielle has this ability to appear in both a solid form and a transparent one, such that your hand can go right through her. That’s why I’m here consulting you. Consulting a supernatural expert. I want you to banish Danielle again! Or do something to get rid of her before things get out of control.”
“I see. Could be tricky, since you haven’t yet described to me what she looks like,” Melissa pointed out.
Dan blinked. “Well, she’s a girl. About my age, and I know that doesn’t make sense, but it’s as if she’s grown up at the same rate as me. Her hair is blonde, shoulder length, she’s shorter than me but taller than you, wears a faded dress… look, can I simply point her out?” Dan said throwing up his hands. “She’s like any other girl, except she shouldn’t exist!”
“I see. And although you helped to create her, you think things will get out of control?”
“Yes. I mean, the few times I’ve seen her myself she’s seemed… different from how I remember,” Dan elaborated, now shifting uncomfortably in his seat. “For one thing, she seems less focussed on me, and more on the world in general. Despite the fact that she’s obviously detached from our reality. It worries me. I think she might hurt someone.”
“Hummmm,” came the reply, as Melissa pondered what had been said. At least, her eyes seemed to unfocus, so presumably she was thinking about it. Then, just before I thought Dan was about to interrupt the growing silence, her eyes suddenly fixated on him again. “Tell me, quickly, what colour nail polish does Danielle wear now?”
That comment had come from me, though I quickly clapped a hand over my mouth as I realized I’d spoken aloud. Dan spared me only a brief glance before looking back at the so-called detective sitting on the edge of her desk. “Did you just ask about nail polish?” he wondered.
“I did, yes,” Melissa confirmed, staring at him intently. “Your answer?”
“It’s blue,” Dan said with more than a trace of exasperation in his tone. “How in the world is that important?”
“You never know,” Melissa replied. She hopped down off the desk and walked back around to the chair behind it, though she did not sit. “I’ll need to meet Danielle,” the brunette concluded. “Before she can be disposed of. Could you summon her for me now?”
“Summon? Well, no,” Dan said apologetically. “I don’t really control her that way, not anymore. She comes and goes when she wants. Which is another part of the problem.”
“Ah, I see. Nevertheless, I’ll need to speak with her,” Melissa insisted. “Perhaps you can convince her to come by here sometime?”
“I don’t think that’s likely.”
“Hummmm. Well, leave your address then. I’ll stop by tomorrow and see what I can turn up,” Melissa decided.
“Look, I said I’m in an all male wing!” Dan protested. “You’d be completely out of place, which would hardly help in keeping things confidential. Everyone would wonder why you were there!”
“It’s not as if I’d come looking as I do now,” Melissa said patiently. “You think I have no disguises?”
“Look, if you’re real concerned I’ll send James instead,” Melissa said.
“Huh?” I spoke up again. “Since when am I…”
“The point,” Melissa continued, apparently ignoring me, “Is that I cannot do anything until I see this Danielle first hand. Understand?”
Dan grumbled something under his breath. “How about I see what I can do and give you a call,” he suggested at last.
“Fine,” Melissa concluded. “The answering machine is always here even if I’m not. I do look forward to hearing from you again.” She fired off a quick smile again before at last pulling out her chair to sit down. Picking up a pen, her attention became immediately caught by a few of the papers still cluttering her desk.
Dan hesitated briefly before standing, apparently not sure if there was anything else he should say. He glanced in my direction, to which I immediately raised my hands in the traditional ‘don’t look at me, I have no answers’ gesture.
“Okay, I’ll show myself out then?” the tall man finally said. Melissa didn’t even look up. I watched as Dan turned and strode back out the front door. Yet when I turned back towards my roommate, she was looking directly at me. I took a half step back in surprise.
“So, what do you make of him?” Melissa inquired.
“I think he’s crazy,” I said honestly.
She smiled, her green eyes twinkling invitingly. “In that case, what do you make of me?”
I blinked. “Well, I don’t know. Do you actually believe his story?”
“Parts of it,” Melissa admitted. “Some things, like the nail polish, I’ll need to see for myself.”
“Nail polish,” I repeated. “Right.”
Melissa laughed. “You look so tense, James. Relax. I wasn’t seriously going to send you out to Dan’s place, I merely wanted him to stop protesting. Remember what I said when we made these living arrangements – you can determine your own level of involvement in my business affairs. As long as you give me your rent on time and respect the confidentiality of my clients, there’s no problem.”
“Uh huh,” I said slowly. “Look, Melissa… how about you just leave out a warning when you have such strange types visiting. I can always eat out then.”
“If you like,” she said agreeably. “What sort of warning should I… oh, I know. How about I turn the doorknob fuchsia whenever there’s a client over?”
I blinked a few times. “Turn the doorknob… fuchsia?”
“Well, any colour would work, but fuchsia can signify ‘stop’, plus I have this silk scarf I can use for a reference,” Melissa explained, pulling open the top drawer of her desk. She paused to rummage around in it, finally closing it and opening the next drawer down. “Oh!” she then exclaimed in surprise. “I was wondering where that had got to.”
Melissa pulled out a half eaten sandwich, on a plate and everything. She took a quick bite. The contents seemed to be lettuce and tomato, yet that did not explain the dollop of raspberry jam I saw dribble out from between the bread slices. “Hum, still tastes good,” Melissa declared. “Maybe it should be dinner time after all. Anyway, I’m sure that scarf will turn up sometime, so is fuchsia good for you?”
It took a second before I realized she was talking to me again. “Sure,” I replied, starting to wonder whether I was actually on some hidden camera TV show. “Sure, tie the scarf on the doorknob when you’re busy.”
Melissa made a ‘tch tch’ noise, setting aside the sandwich as she stood back up. “James, James, James… I won’t be tying anything, I’ll be changing the appearance of the metal,” she said. “See, it’s harder for someone else to fake that. Other scarves exist out there, but I myself only know of one other person in the area who can convincingly distort reflected light with her magicks.”
At this point I felt at a complete loss for words.
Melissa grabbed something else from her desk drawer and approached me. “See, I really wasn’t kidding when we spoke on the phone, back before you decided to move here,” she continued. “Magick and the supernatural, they exist all around us. The forces are there, and anyone with the proper abilities can tap into them. I don’t mind if you ignore that fact, most people do. However, in my presence you’re going to have to at least acknowledge it.”
She held out her hand, in the palm of which there was a small ball. “What colour is the ball, James?” she inquired easily.
I looked at it. “Green,” I stated.
She closed her hand, then almost immediately re-opened it. “And now?”
I did a quick doubletake. “Euh, yellow?” Her slight of hand was very impressive.
Again her palm closed and opened. The ball now seemed to be plaid. As if sensing my skepticism, she reached out her other hand. It was completely empty.
“Simple illusion,” Melissa explained offhandedly. She tossed the plaid ball aside and it rolled under a nearby bookshelf. “Well, okay, not that last one, but the yellow you could learn to do yourself. Given time, if you tried hard enough. It comes pretty naturally to me is all, owing to my bloodline.”
“Riiiight.” There had to be something tucked in her jeans. “And how do I know you don’t simply have good slight of hand, with some identical yet different coloured balls hidden on your person?” I challenged.
Melissa shrugged. “I could repeat the process in the nude if you like, but I suspect your attention would wander more.”
I suspect I flinched. She didn’t seem to react. I know this because I made a point of not yielding to temptation, and keeping my gaze on her face.
“Suffice to say,” Melissa continued, “I am in tune with the supernatural. A witch, if you prefer. That’s why I can appear to change the colours of objects, that’s why people come to me when they have trouble with their imaginary friends, that’s why I can turn you into a chicken if you skip out on your lease.” She pivoted and walked back to her desk. “Of course, that last is a rather involved spell, so I hope to avoid using it.”
I frowned. “I thought the chicken clause was a joke.”
“The thing is,” Melissa continued, sitting down, looking back at her stacks of paper and retrieving her pen. “One shouldn’t be able to wield these magicks against another with the intent to cause harm. Not without the recipient’s consent anyway, the penalty for such misuse being severe karmic backlash. However, for some reason I can’t fathom, that supernatural balance on earth is falling out of whack. Individuals are abusing their powers and getting away with it. That’s where I come in. I’m attempting to restore the balance.”
“You mean you really could turn me into a chicken?”
“James, were you listening?”
“Yes, I heard every word,” I assured her. “You’re out to restore the balance of the supernatural on earth. Fine, good, I’m sure that’s a noble goal. However, I’m more than a little concerned about whether I accidentally signed my soul away in the last twenty four hours.”
“Relax,” Melissa sighed with a roll of her eyes. “You’re hardly the sort of person I’m after. As I indicated, don’t cross me and we’ll have no problems.” She paused. “Though you know, you could stand to be less naive. I don’t want anybody coming after me through you.”
“Gee, sorry,” I retorted sarcastically.
“It’s okay, we can work on that,” Melissa said obliviously, having already returned to studying her papers. “Simply let me know if anyone seems to ask you too many questions.” She reached out to take another bite of the mystery sandwich.
I was tempted then to simply beat a quick retreat back into the kitchen, but there was one little detail of Melissa’s prior conversation that still nagged at me. I knew it would bug me all night if I didn’t say anything. So I spoke up, having to ask my question twice before I even got Melissa’s attention once more.
“Nail polish what now?” she questioned.
“It’s just I really can’t understand what that had to do with Dan’s imaginary friend problem,” I repeated patiently.
“Oh, that. Simple really, though you almost destroyed the whole thing with your exclamation.” Melissa pulled her hands back out of sight, under her desk. “Tell me,” she continued easily, “what colour nail polish am I wearing?”
I blanked momentarily, then thought back to when she had been demonstrating the trick with the balls. “Clear polish,” I stated.
An eyebrow rose. “Could it be you’re a better observer than I thought?” Melissa mused aloud.
I shrugged. “I have a semi-photographic memory,” I explained to her. “Comes in handy when trying to describe a scene for an article some time after the fact.” (Incidentally, also true as far as writing about Melissa’s cases go.)
“That’s handy,” the brunette reflected. “Hope I’ll remember that. Though as a matter of fact, you’re wrong, I’m not wearing any nail polish today.” She put her hands back on the desk. “Thing is, most guys don’t key into those minor details of your appearance, not right away. Yet Dan was pretty quick with his response. Which means…” She let her voice trail off and stared at me expectantly.
“Which means… he was making it up?” I ventured.
Melissa shook her head. “The people who invent cases for the purposes of making fun of me wouldn’t have been upset at your presence. Try again.”
I couldn’t think of anything. Possibly because I was getting increasingly distracted looking at her. She really is attractive. “I don’t know.”
“I think Dan knows more about his ‘friend’ and her preferences than he was willing to tell me,” Melissa concluded. “Hence the need to speak with Danielle myself.”
“Ah. But, er, won’t it be tricky, chatting with an someone who is imaginary?”
“Eh, I’ve done stranger,” my new roommate said dismissively. Again she bit into her sandwich, and this time I noticed the presence of a banana slice in amongst the lettuce.
“Okay, well, I’ll just be in the kitchen then,” I decided, attempting a smile as I inched further back from her desk.
Melissa didn’t even notice, having already returned to her paper shuffling. Something told me she didn’t spend much time in the kitchen herself. The knowledge that my current bedroom had previously been the dining room added credence to the thought. So it seemed unlikely that we would speak again that evening.
I tried to put it all out of my head.
That worked until late Friday night.
ASIDE: Originally written in 2003. Like? Dislike? Thoughts about the characters, or what will happen next? Hope you’ll let me know!