Virga: Act 6B

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A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT


I considered Melissa’s request. “We might be able to get Trixie to run some calculations on when technology would best be shut down,” I suggested. “That avoids your parents completely.”

Melissa shook her head. “I have no doubt she could do it, but I don’t want to distract Trixie at this point. She’s got less than two weeks to finalize her work on the neural net. Besides, I need to know the spell’s exact time, down to the second. It won’t be easy for her to get that precise.”

I thought again. “Your parents might have it written down somewhere. If we were to visit them again, I could distract them, while you look.”

“They’d see through that,” Melissa sighed. “And I’d probably end up arguing with them even more, which I’d rather not do.”

“Since you might storm out in a huff?”

She attempted to elbow me in the ribs. “One time, ONE time I act immature in front of them, and you’re there, so you’ll never let me forget about it, huh? No, it’s that my Mom is pretty stubborn, so even presenting a proper case to her now will be pointless. Stooping to the level of subterfuge, that would not fly at all.”

“Fair enough,” I said. “So maybe you can try your case on someone else? Trixie’s parents? Other witches?”

Melissa clasped her hands behind her back as she spoke. “Except then I might have to get into the whole Chosen One situation. I don’t think it’s wise to mention the spell to anyone who doesn’t already know about it. In part because other witches might not like that I… I’m starting to have second thoughts about my unilateral decision to restore supernatural balance.”

I stopped walking. “Really?”

She also stopped and looked at me. “Really. Is that so strange?”

“Sort of,” I admitted. “I mean, you cut right to the heart of the matter in the beginning, and you don’t usually second guess yourself.”

“It’s not second guessing so much as realizing I might not have had all the data I needed to form my conclusion in the first place. In particular, Merlin’s take on everything. Hence, wanting the spell information.”


I resumed walking, and she again fell into step beside me. “I guess this doesn’t make much sense to you,” she said after a moment.

“No, it kinda does,” I reassured her. “I was just thinking of more alternatives. And while there’s only four witches aside from your mother involved in the re-energizing spell, there must be TONS dealing with the tech problem. Can’t we track down one of them specifically? See what their calendar looks like in the couple days before Decision Day?”

“Kind of? There are a few names I’m aware of. Thing is, I don’t personally know any of them. Aside from the one in France, whom I vaguely recall from a fancy dinner when I was young. And with him, I wouldn’t know how to get in touch without my parents finding out. While for anyone else, being contacted out of the blue would simply be suspicious.”

“Someone geographically closer would be best,” I granted. “We could maybe sneak into their place when they weren’t around.”

“Again with the subterfuge, I hate to resort to that. Of course, two weeks doesn’t even give me the time to figure out where they all are, and then do further research to narrow down which ones might be sympathetic to me if we’re caught.”

I rubbed the back of my neck. This was definitely as big of a problem as she’d thought. “Can we play the odds? I mean, the majority of witches casting this anti-tech spell, they’d be older, yeah? Against new inventions? Maybe we can use that to narrow things down.”

Melissa frowned. “James, that’s ageist. Who’s to say they’re not younger? In fact, the older witches and wizards might not properly recognize some of today’s tech.”

“Oh. I figured the spell would be doing the recognition.”

Melissa rubbed her nose. “Another good point, I don’t know the exact spell involved here. Agh, if only my parents would simply TELL me!”

“Okay, calm down,” I soothed. “Consider, we can at least eliminate the techno-witches as casters. I mean, can you honestly see someone like Trixie willingly participating in a spell to cut technology out of her life, even for a second? Imagine if something went wrong, and they couldn’t get it back! Chaos!”

The brunette witch smirked. “Possible point. But that really doesn’t narrow things down. There’s a lot of witch groups.”

“Okay, let’s turn it around then. How many of the other groups might be friends with techno-witches, and inclined to give them vague warnings. Like ‘Bad idea to use your technological devices at a particular time on this day’ sort of thing.”

Melissa stopped to lean back against the nearest building. “That’s a good line of reasoning. Slightly modified, since a witch would be more inclined to warn a family member, versus another member of another group.”

“Okay, great. So now we’ve got something.”

Melissa grimaced. “All we’ve done is trade the problem of tracking the spell casters for the problem of tracking their families. It’s no easier.”

“No, see, we don’t try to track the families down,” I countered. “We go the other way. We check for witches and other people we know in the area, possibly through our old case files, and then see which of them are most likely to be connected back up the line to the technological spell casters on your list.”

Melissa tilted her head. “Bit of a long shot.” She smiled. “But it’s a good line of reasoning, and one that I hadn’t considered. Thanks, James. Let’s try it.”

I waved my hand in the air and made a slight bowing motion. “Any time.”

We resumed our walk. Melissa seemed to be heading in a circle back towards our apartment, implying to me that she hadn’t really had a destination in mind, she’d only wanted to have the conversation. So I decided to bring up the other topic on my mind.

“So, uh, by the way, I looked more into the idea of a Chosen One getting married,” I admitted.

Commission from Shirley

Melissa nearly stumbled in her walk. “Yes. Right, sorry, I hadn’t forgotten about that issue either.”

“It’s merely been lower priority?”

Melissa winced. “Don’t put it like that. There’s been a lot on my mind. I actually need to prepare my own communication spell to run at the same time as the tech shuts down.”

“Right, I get it,” I yielded. “Thing is, Zamboni and his priest friend were gambling on their service being at a particular time, using I suspect a particular set of phrases. There really isn’t anything to prevent you being married, if that was something you were still interested in doing.”

Melissa said nothing at first. Then, “Okay, so honestly? The more I thought about it, the more I figured what would come after a promise of an engagement is an actual ring. So if you’ve done the research into it being okay, I mean, you already know I love you and all, so, ah… I guess the next move is yours? Unless I’ve missed a social cue.”

I’m sure I flinched. “That’s… a really good point. I’m sorry. I guess I just… I’m sorry.”

Melissa looked at me again. “You thought that now might not be the best time? Because engagements can last for years, you know. Unless you’d wanted to get married next week? Since that would be more of an issue.”

“No, no, I don’t mean to rush this,” I insisted. “It was more like, I guess I wondered if there were certain magick aspects that I had to make sure to follow through on, given our particular circumstances. Uh, seems not?”

Melissa looked away. “In the end, I really am still just a regular girl.”

“Yeah. Yeah, that’s true. I’m sorry.”

Melissa shook her head. “Stop apologizing. I mean, sure, there are little things to know. Like, I’m keeping my last name. That’s a simple witch truth, we do it even if legal documents pretend to say otherwise. But there’s nothing to stop… that is, don’t let my situation keep you from acting like you normally would. Okay?”


I felt like I’d really messed things up this time. Not sure what else to say, we finished the walk back to the apartment in silence. I resolved to find Melissa a ring.


That night, Melissa came up with a short list of possible casters for the tech spell, which we could cross-reference with our files and local supernatural individuals. The name Lindy Sermo struck a chord almost right away. It took another day before I was able to find the link.

It was an old case, very old. The second one I’d been involved with, in fact. And I hadn’t been there when the lineage spell in question had been performed, I’d only seen the paper after the fact. But the page was still there, in our files.

I showed it to Melissa the next morning, when we went for another walk.

“Lineage spell,” was her first remark, glancing at the page. “Given names, the proper ingredients, and the permission of the person involved, you can track the origin of certain genetic qualities. Such as witchcraft. How does this old sheet help us?”

I pointed at the name at the top, one Annie Potts. “We know her.” And then my finger traced two generations back, to Lindy Sermo.

Melissa stared. “I’ll be darned,” she realized. “You’re right. I would never have made that connection. Annie’s mother never wanted to practice, didn’t even keep her last name. So the magick information was never passed on to Annie, and she also took her father’s name. Good work, James.”

“Thank my memory,” I remarked. “Also, in a sense, Annie’s ex-boyfriend, who had created that online file, which acted as a beacon for the spirits to go after Annie herself, bringing her to us.”

“Let’s NOT thank him,” Melissa corrected. “Even if he was Odi et Amo.”

For your reference, Annie had been a victim of stalking by an Internet entity, who had sensed her spell casting potential. Annie – who must have sensed her own capabilities too, based on her cat and choice of reading material – had ultimately helped in casting the spell to vanquish the entity.

“The only question is whether Annie and her grandmother are close,” I concluded.

Melissa chewed on her lower lip. “They can’t have been that close back then,” she deduced. “Since Lindy never spoke to Annie about magick prior to her association with us. But perhaps, if Annie decided to continue doing witchcraft on the side afterwards…?”

“I figured there was no harm in looking her up and asking.”

Melissa nodded. “Agreed. As I recall, she was a year ahead of me… except she wasn’t keen on technology either, thus probably won’t be easy to track on the web. One might hope she’s still in this city, of course.”

I nodded. “I didn’t turn up anything on an initial search. I thought I’d talk to you before checking in with Trixie’s bag of, er, tricks.”

“Mmm. Unless finding the spell itself, this should be a simple enough job for Trixie, if she’s not at a critical point in her studies. Rather than disturb her unexpectedly, do you know if she still surfaces to eat?”

I considered the last few days. “Eat, yes. Though I’m less sure about her showering, and I think she even had some of your shrimp and asparagus soufflé the other night without complaint.”

“She must be getting close, it’s making her more manic,” Melissa mused. “I’ll see if I can turn up anything first.”

Melissa got a list of a few ‘A Potts’ from the online phone book, which she planned to call the next morning. I happened to see Trixie later that day, wearing the same cropped top, skirt and stockings that she’d been wearing for two days. I mentioned the situation, in passing.

Trixie apparently was pleased to have an easy diversion for a few hours, as the next day, one of the names was circled in red with a smiley face next to the phone number.

We were in luck. Annie didn’t mind the call “to check in”, even if it was years later.

Okay, so she was briefly concerned about there being some new entity in the area that might menace her, and I slipped up in terms of saying it was Melissa’s Agency, but once we got past all that, Annie was more than happy to invite us to drop by to talk.

And by that I mean she said she wanted Melissa to take a look at something. So we headed right over that afternoon.

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