Case1

Virga: Entry 1d

<PREV MISC INDEX NEXT>

A VIRGA MYSTERY
The Invisible Girl: Entry 1d

Dan didn’t lunge though. He stared at Melissa for a moment, then he laughed out loud. It wasn’t a very nice laugh.

“So, you figured that much out, did you?” he retorted. “Damn. You’re better at your work than others give you credit for. It was your last question of me on Friday that gave it away, I suppose?”

“It confirmed my suspicions,” Melissa acknowledged. “But even so, there were lots of little things I’d wondered about before. For instance, why such a vague description of Danielle to me that first time? You didn’t even mention her glasses, yet you could provide information about her nail polish when asked. And why would Danielle have a name so close to your own in the first place? It made me question what might be closer to the truth… a reasonably good looking boy creating a shy young girl to have someone to play with… or a shy young GIRL creating a tall, handsome man to help her feel safe.”

I looked from Melissa to Dan to Danielle. “You’ve got to be kidding,” I heard myself say. “You mean Dan is imaginary?”

“Right,” Dan grunted, seemingly more to Melissa than me. “So when you asked about my first bully, and I couldn’t answer…”

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

“Yes, well, even setting aside your lacklustre attitude through this case, and the way you seemed to base that answer on what would win me my bet… anyone with a memory for nail polish and blue blankets should have had a better recollection of their first tormentors. Unless, of course, the tormentee hadn’t existed yet, at that point in time. Those blue blankets, they really were Danielle’s, I presume.”

“I… I don’t understand,” Danielle murmured. “What’s she talking about, Dan?”

Dan rolled his eyes. “She means you’re real, dope. I centred in on you a long time ago, not that I’ve ever let you remember.” He smiled nastily. “You were the invisible girl, Danielle. The girl no one ever noticed. After appearing in the guise of your imaginary friend a few times, it was easy enough to switch places with you. My only concern was your parents, but it wasn’t hard to convert their minds. They’d always expected a son, blue blankets and all.”

“Hold on,” I cut in. “Does that mean that if Danielle becomes real again, Dan returns to… where, exactly?”

“The other side,” Melissa remarked. “Supernatural balance. Of course, this exchange shouldn’t have been possible in the first place, not without Danielle’s permission.”

Dan grimaced. “I should have simply eliminated the girl when I had the chance,” he grumbled. “If only her etherial form and childish nature hadn’t been so useful to me… and now I’ve been a human for so long, I can’t do the required magick to take care of things myself. So I gambled on being able to manipulate your agency. Still, I’ll be damned before I let anyone take me down after all this time!”

He lunged for Melissa then, but I think she’d been anticipating that, as she easily dodged to the side. Her size helped to make her a small target. I barely got out of the way myself, before Dan was at the door. I figured on him charging through, maybe locking us in, but instead he grabbed the block of wood Melissa had used to keep the door open. He heaved it back towards one of the upright mirrors.

Of course. If any of the mirrors were shattered, this realism ritual was toast.

“Declino!” Melissa cried out, extending her palm.

There was a small flash of light and the wood spun off course, smashing the overhead lightbulb instead. (Declino meaning essentially ‘deflect’, by the way. Like Melissa’s last name, “Virga”, she draws spells from the latin.) The door, no longer being propped open, now clanged shut.

Then Melissa’s flashlight clicked off, and the room went dark. If there was another light source, I hadn’t seen it. So, Dan was still in there with us. Ready to attack. Except, for right now no one was moving – it was taking all of our eyes a moment to adjust.

“He’s sizing me up,” I heard Melissa whisper during that moment. I jumped. It sounded as if she was leaning in right next to my ear, but when I put my arm out, it encountered nothing but air.

“James, I’m talking to you using a form of ventriloquism, so there’s no point whispering back,” she continued, as if reading my mind. “But listen very carefully to what I say next.”

Melissa began to speak a lot faster, yet still in hushed tones. “I can’t attack Dan directly while he’s in a human form, because I’d be forcing magick on him and would thus suffer consequences myself,” she explained. “There are related issues with casting on myself. So, Plan A, I’d like your permission to give you a quick burst of strength for about 10 seconds. That should allow you to take Dan out. Call out if you accept this!”

I was still trying to process that, when I heard Dan make his move just off to my right. Meaning no time to ask about Plan B. Fine, what the hell, you only live once, right? Besides, it may be that a part of me figured I had to do something to make it feel like the night hadn’t been a total wash.

“I accept,” I called out, jumping to intercept Dan.

“Convalesco!” Melissa shouted just before Dan plowed into me. (Another crude translation for you is ‘to gain strength’… personally, I’m now thinking I should pick up latin as an elective course.)

Anyway, Dan struck me, and more or less rebounded. Stumbling a bit myself, I heard an exclamation of surprise. To Dan’s credit, he not only stayed on his feet, when I next jabbed at him in the face, he must have seen my hand coming up because he was able to dodge back.

The next thing I knew, Dan’s fist connected with my gut, and I doubled over, falling to the ground, the wind knocked out of me. Great, whatever strength I’d received didn’t last long, I thought. But even on the floor I didn’t immediately give up, moving to sweep my leg out, in an attempt to take Dan down.

I put all the force I had into that move, knowing it would probably be my only chance, and to my surprise, when I connected with Dan’s lower legs it was like he’d been whacked with an iron bar. Whereas I hardly felt anything at all. He collapsed to the ground with a shout of surprise and I heard a thwacking noise as his head hit the floor, as he had not had enough time to break his fall.

“I’m still strong,” I blurted out in surprise. And then just like that, I knew I wasn’t, as the dull ache in my gut became an explosion of pain. I’m pretty sure I groaned.

Melissa’s flashlight clicked back on, illuminating both me and Dan’s unconscious form. “Knee jerk reaction of your body to fold when hit,” she observed matter-of-factly. “Just because you have increased strength, doesn’t mean you can disregard your natural instincts. Or your need to breathe. Still, you got the job done, that’s good. Now, can you help me with this mirror?”

“Geez, you’re welcome,” I wheezed back sarcastically, clutching at my sides.

She blinked at me with her gorgeous, yet at that point quite uncompassionate, green eyes. “You’ll be in a lot more pain in 56 seconds if we don’t get this mirror repositioned,” Melissa said after a few more moments of staring.

I blinked at her, then to where she was gesturing, namely where the timer was still counting down on the natural gas pipes. “Oh heck,” I groaned, stumbling to my feet.

“Danielle, where exactly does this need to be?” the brunette detective asked, turning the one mirror away from the wall. The short blonde didn’t respond, and I saw now that she had simply sat herself down on the floor mirror and was staring vacantly into space.

“This was meant to be a surprise… for our mutual birthdays…” Danielle murmured abstractedly. “And now… well, no wonder we have the same birthday…”

“Danielle?” I called out to her, even as I moved to help Melissa.

“Never mind, lost cause,” Melissa sighed. “She’ll get a good chunk of her memory back though, after the transition. Anyway, pretty sure I can figure out where this needs to be…”

“Pretty sure? Melissa, isn’t the fate of the physics building, not to mention our very lives, hanging on the line here?!”

“Panic isn’t helpful, James. Now, help me shift the glass a bit this way, and angle it thusly,” she replied calmly (obliviously??), after training her flashlight beam around the room. She then moved next to the timing device (27… 26… 25…) shining the light onto the mirror in question.

The angle was such that the beam reflected down onto the mirror beneath Danielle, back up to the second upright mirror, and then, seemingly impossibly, back to where the light was striking the first mirror. Like a bizarre never-ending triangle had been created – the glass on one mirror must have been warped in some way.

“Good enough,” Melissa decided. She scooped her purse back up and pulled out a necklace of some sort, which then she pulled over Dan’s head.

“Banishing amulet?” I wondered.

“Exiling spell,” Melissa said. “Cheaper, even if at sixty-three dollars, it still puts me in the red. But what can you do? Now let’s get out.”

The last she said in her firm, no-nonsense tone, so I was backtracking even before I noticed the timing device ticking down past 7 seconds. Melissa was hot on my heels, all the while chanting something in Latin which was pretty incomprehensible – I won’t bother to reproduce it.

I got to the door, we both charged through, and Melissa concluded her spell by spinning back towards the doorway, throwing out her arms in some mystic gesture. At that point I heard clearly, “Die dulci fruere!” (You can look that one up yourself.)

The papers Melissa had placed around the frame lit up with a bright glow just as the explosion went off. The door, which had been swinging closed again, was jarred off it’s hinges by the force of the blast, tongues of flame licking out from around the metal.

A few of Melissa’s paper wards caught fire. In fact, I could feel the whole building shake, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I probably screamed.

Then just like that, it was over.

Scorch marks were visible all around the remains of the doorway, and in fact when the little pieces of paper ceased their glowing, the smoking door itself collapsed right down onto the floor in front of me. As Melissa would have, had I not reacted quickly to catch her.

“Melissa! Are you all right?” I cried out.

She resembled a long distance runner who had just completed the marathon in record time. Her eyes were closed, she was breathing hard and there was a sheen of sweat causing some errant strands of hair to stick to her face in a bizarrely erotic manner. (Again, the sort of thing that would have worked better under different circumstances… I suppose you’ve gathered by now that I seem to have developed a bit of a crush on her.)

Melissa’s eyelids flickered open. “Geez, what in the devil did she use for the explosive?” the mystic detective muttered. “Containment spells shouldn’t be so hard to control.” With my help, she got back on her feet.

I was soon distracted by a quiet coughing, as Danielle stumbled out of the destroyed room. Her dress was in tatters, her glasses askew, and a bit of flying glass had apparently caught her in the arm – oh yes, the mirrors turned out to be quite destroyed – but otherwise she seemed none the worse for wear.

Danielle collapsed back against the wall. “I… I feel… I feel real again,” she murmured in a daze.

“You ARE real,” Melissa assured Danielle, wiping her arm across her own forehead. “Always were. What Dan took from you has been returned. In fact, no one outside of this limited area will even be aware of the switch back. You can live your life as if none of this had ever happened. Though there may be some questions as to how a female managed to get placed into the all male wing of a dorm.”

“Oh,” Danielle murmured quietly. Her brow furrowed. “Is that why I remember what he did now? That is, it feels like… like I did what he did. That is, everything he’s done since we were in grade school, I’ve done… that is…” She raised a hand to the side of her head. “I-I’ll need some time to figure this out…”

I peered back towards the scorched room, but didn’t see anyone else visible amid the carnage. “And Dan?” I mused aloud.

“He’s become spiritual again,” Melissa said absently as she set about retrieving the few mystic papers that remained undamaged. I wasn’t sure if it was so they could be reused, or simply to not have evidence of the supernatural lying around. “I’d have liked to banish him permanently, but the exiling spell – activated by his transition to a non-corporeal form – will at least keep him out of our realm for years,” Melissa explained. “If not decades. After all, nullifying it requires intelligence, and he didn’t seem to have too much of that.”

Danielle gave me an uncertain look, the confusion of her situation obviously becoming too much for her. I decided an explanation wouldn’t be of any help. “Let’s get your arm looked at, then you can go lie down,” I suggested to the blonde, venturing a reassuring smile.

“The sooner the better,” Melissa agreed, turning back to both of us. “After all, this building could still blow sky high. James, could you phone someone and tell them that there’s a natural gas leak here in the basement?”

“A… what?” I retorted. “But… your papers, the spell…”

“A containment spell won’t shut off a gas line, it just temporarily seals a room,” Melissa shot back, rolling her eyes. “The pipes themselves are now dangerously compromised. So, are you going to call it in, or will I?”

I think at this point I was opening and closing my mouth randomly, prompting Melissa’s sigh of, “Fine, I will. I suppose I would have anyway, if you hadn’t come along. Now, both of you, hurry up and get out of here!”

She physically pushed me and Danielle out towards the stairs. At that point our instincts took over, and we rushed outside. Once there, I turned around to say something else to my roommate, but she had already hurried off to parts unknown. Presumably to make the phone call.

*-*

There isn’t much more to tell, really.

I got Danielle to the campus centre for her arm, and when she arrived back at ‘her’ dorm, she found a room transfer notification on her door. I asked Melissa about this, and whether we should be doing something more for Danielle, but Melissa considered this case closed. Reality was just reasserting itself based on the supernatural events that had occurred, she explained idly. As to the explosion, the campus newspaper headlines read ‘small earthquake causes natural gas leak’, and it barely made local news.

That’s actually part of the reason I asked Melissa for permission to write this all down. It feels like there should be a record of what really happened somewhere.

Now, I’m not certain if I’ve done this case justice – in fact, I’m fairly sure I haven’t – but perhaps I’ll improve on that in time. If you’re willing to keep reading. I am only a first year student, after all. And, unless I want to become a chicken instead, I’m stuck rooming with Melissa too. At least her cases seem liable to be just as interesting as they are strange!

END CASE 1

NEXT CASE: Net Worth

<PREV MISC INDEX NEXT>
Advertisements

Virga: Entry 1c

<PREV MISC INDEX NEXT>

A VIRGA MYSTERY
The Invisible Girl: Entry 1c

“And that’s it,” Melissa concluded, having laid out the tale of how she met Danielle. She cocked her head to the side. “And I don’t think I missed out on noticing anything after all. Good.”

It took me a moment to find my voice. “All right, wait, hold on, did I hear you right? Are you saying there’s some sort of bomb in the physics building that’s going to go off this weekend??”

Melissa nodded. “Probably in the evening on Saturday. Or rather, this evening, seeing as I guess it’s already early Saturday morning.”

“And you’re OKAY with that?” I demanded. I was incredulous.

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

“Of course not,” she sighed back. “Given your good memory, I’ll have to assume you weren’t listening. I DID say that altering the new residence plans and moving physics into engineering wasn’t an ideal situation.”

“But… but you told Dan we had too many buildings. And you didn’t want Danielle to tell you where this device was. Or even what she’d set the timer for!”

“Of course not. Not with Dan standing right there with us,” Melissa replied, saying it as if her reasoning was the most obvious thing in the universe.

She raised her arms over her head and stretched, an action which might have otherwise caused my gaze to wander, but I was so mixed up after what she’d been telling me that, at the time, I hardly noticed.

“I might as well go to bed,” my roommate concluded, lowering her arms again and rising from her chair. “Again, let me know if you hear anything about amulets, would you? Once your hearing improves? Though the point will be moot by about six o’clock this evening.”

“No. Melissa, you just stop right there,” I objected. “You can’t leave me hanging this way… what are you going to do about this situation? How will the amulet help? For that matter, what was the point to your question about Dan’s first tormentor?”

Melissa lifted an eyebrow. Then she smiled. “I like you, James. You’re not dismissive, you assume there’s method to my madness. And to be sure, there is.” She then waggled her finger at me. “But how do you ever expect to develop your problem solving skills if I simply give you all the answers? Anyway, I’m not a hundred percent sure about how it’s all going to wrap up, and I’d hate to look like a fool on the first case you’re witnessing. So sleep on it. Tell me what you think in the morning.”

With that, she retired to her bedroom, closing the door behind her.

Feeling thoroughly exasperated, but not sure what else to do at this point, I turned off the office light and stumbled back into my own room. I glanced at my clock by the nightstand in passing. It was after three.

“Why did I let my curiosity get the better of me?” I recall groaning to myself. Surely any sane person wouldn’t have taken Melissa’s bait, no matter how pretty her smile was.

It must have taken me at least a half hour to fall asleep again.

*-*

Melissa was already gone by the time I woke up Saturday morning. (I slept in, no surprise there.) So I made myself some breakfast and tried to get some work done on one of my first university assignments.

However, my mind kept coming back to Dan, Danielle, and most of all, Melissa. What was the story with this case of hers? Ridiculous or not, it nagged at me. So, with the help of my memory, I sketched out some of the main points of the conversation from the previous night. Trying to understand where Melissa’s logic had been coming from.

I couldn’t make any sense of it. (Well, at least those notes proved useful for writing up this case.)

Exasperated, I tried approaching the conversation from Dan’s point of view, instead of Melissa’s. There, at last, I clicked into something. He really did know an awful lot about Danielle. He knew which of his friends she’d spoken to, had known of her goal to become real, knew how she’d planned on doing it, he even knew about the colour of her nail polish… yet he hadn’t seemed to know a thing about the actual setting of the explosives and the use of a timer device.

Why had that caught him off guard?

Danielle had often looked towards Dan before answering too, something Melissa had picked up on. Near the end, the supernatural detective had even asked Danielle not to think about his reaction. Could it be that Dan was still controlling her somehow? My pencil began tapping on the page.

See if you can follow my reasoning. Suppose that you have an imaginary friend who suddenly becomes real. Suppose further that he or she isn’t a mischievous spirit, but someone more like Danielle, who constantly looks to you for guidance. Would you or would you not take advantage of that fact? Ordering her to do things for your own amusement?

“Yet Danielle no longer needs his guidance,” I murmured aloud. “She set up these explosives by herself, in pursuit of a plan to become corporeal. So, if I were Dan, I might find that irritating.”

Also, he sure didn’t mention that goal of becoming real to Melissa up front. For that matter, we only had his word that Danielle’s reappearance was recent. And would a guy like that actually consult with any scientists, like he said? Again, we only had his word.

Just like that, I was seeing Dan in a whole new light.

What if Danielle wasn’t the dangerous one here? What if it was HIM? Granted, my reasoning didn’t explain everything, like why this guy was seeking to banish his imaginary companion rather than regain his control over her, or why he had chosen to come to Melissa for help in the first place.

Perhaps he’d suddenly had an attack of conscience? And was holding back information out of guilt? In which case, was Melissa trying to make him sweat a bit, to ensure that this lesson would stick? After all, she’d deduced the existence of the explosives. She might also know where they were already, and how to deal with them.

Resolving to ask my roommate about it, I finally found myself able to concentrate on my homework.

*-*

“Very nice,” Melissa said, after I outlined my thinking.

She was sitting behind her desk, leaning her chin on her palms and smiling broadly at me as we discussed the situation later that afternoon. And I know I should stop injecting this colour commentary, but she really does have a pretty smile.

“I like your reasoning, James, you’ve really thought about this. And doesn’t it feel a lot better, having worked through this problem by yourself?”

“Then I’m right?” I asked eagerly.

“Eh. You’re getting there,” Melissa countered. “I’ll admit up front that I don’t know exactly where the explosives are, nor exactly when they’ll go off. And there’s still the matter of the third question I asked of Dan, hm?”

My balloon deflated somewhat. “I thought maybe you were just trying to keep him off balance with that one,” I said.

“I suppose that could have been a side benefit. But don’t get discouraged, James. You’re on the right track with the way Danielle has been manipulated. Now, tell me, where do you think she originally came from?”

Again with the threads that I felt I should be able to follow, but couldn’t quite. “Came from? You mean, out of Dan’s imagination?”

“Children have imaginary friends all the time,” Melissa elaborated. “Most of them don’t manifest themselves and start interfering with our lives. Why is that happening here?”

“Yes, well… I suppose Dan’s been dabbling in your ever present supernatural forces?” I hypothesized. “That somehow he used them to create Danielle?”

“Could be,” Melissa replied, her voice suddenly quiet. “Though Danielle is very atypical – there aren’t many supernatural manifestations who would willingly take orders from a human. I don’t like to admit it, but this Dan… he does worry me. He worries me a great deal.”

She paused for a moment, as if to let the impact of that sentence settle over me. But it could equally be that she was thinking about whether she’d eaten lunch. Given how the next thing she did was ask me for the time.

I glanced down at my watch. “It’s five to six.”

She stood. “Time for me to go then. You’re welcome to come, though it may be dangerous.”

“Go?” I asked. “Go where?”

“To the physics building, of course,” she replied matter-of-factly, grabbing her purse and moving for the door.

“But I thought you said you didn’t know where or when the explosion was set to occur,” I protested.

“I don’t,” she acceded. “But Dan does, and I wager it will happen sometime soon. So it’s a matter of following him when he arrives.”

“But if Dan knew, why was he so surprised?”

She paused with her hand on the doorknob. “He didn’t know then. But it was inevitable that he learn of the location. After all, one warning by me to Danielle is hardly going to undo the months, perhaps even years of mental programming that Dan’s instilled into her. No, as soon as Dan knew that she was actually going ahead with her plan, he would stop at nothing to find out the details. And now that he knows, he is going to try to interfere. So it’s up to me to see that Danielle’s plan succeeds.”

I could scarcely believe what I was hearing. “Melissa… if Danielle succeeds, the physics building will blow up,” I reminded her.

Melissa pursed her lips. “Yes, well, I still hope it doesn’t come to that,” she remarked, opening the apartment door. “Now are you with me, or not?”

*-*

If you were to ask me now, I couldn’t tell you why I went with her. I had met a few other people while on campus, frosh like me, most of whom would have jumped at the invitation of a trip to a bar that Saturday night. Why give that up for the chance to hang around with ‘Weird-gal’, when I only had her word for it that an explosion might be involved?

I can say that it wasn’t because I believed all the supernatural stuff she’d been telling me, not then. I didn’t think it was a joke exactly, but I didn’t really believe it either. It also wasn’t because I found Melissa attractive. As that wouldn’t have been enough, and I hope I haven’t come across as being very shallow for my earlier remarks.

Thinking back, I suppose what it came down to was that, to hear Melissa tell it… well, if I didn’t go, I’d somehow be missing out. Even someone less naive than me would have felt this way, I’m sure.

However, after three hours of nothing, even I was starting to have my doubts.

“I thought you said it would happen soon,” I whispered to her, crouched as we were in the bushes only a short distance from the dread physics building. “Exactly what definition of ‘soon’ were you using?”

“I can’t be right all the time,” Melissa answered in a similarly low tone. “At least it’s a clear night. Look, even with all the light pollution you can still see lots of stars.”

“Some of them are there when I close my eyes,” I grumbled. “We should have eaten before we left.”

“I have a leftover candy cane in the pocket of my jeans if you’re desperate,” she offered. After peering at her face to verify that she was serious, I refused, on the obvious grounds that it was September.

Just then, a figure moved towards one of the side doors of the building. It wasn’t hard to identify Dan, given his build.

“We’re on,” Melissa asserted, moving out of the bushes to follow him. “Stay back and follow my lead.” I indicated agreement.

We proceeded through the door after him, down into the poorly lit basement area, to a door marked “Restricted Access”. Don’t ask me how Dan got a key to that room, but he had it.

The door was swinging shut ahead of us until Melissa grabbed a nearby block of wood and slid it into the path of the door. We both held our breath as the door rebounded slightly and remained ajar, but Dan did not investigate. Probably because he had been distracted by what was inside.

“Oh, please… please don’t do this,” came the voice of a girl behind the door. I could only assume it was Danielle. It sounded like she was practically in tears. “Please Dan, don’t stop the explosion.”

“You don’t understand,” Dan replied. His voice sounded like it had more of an edge to it, as compared to when I’d first heard him. “You’ve never understood.”

“But it’s so late at night that there’s not many people here,” Danielle pleaded. “Plus I scared a few away less than a half hour ago, and the rest might have time to evacuate before the building completely collapses. Doesn’t that make things all right?”

“You stupid girl. Don’t you get it yet? I don’t care if you kill a hundred people,” Dan scoffed. “Hell, some of the things you’ve done for me have probably assisted in doing just that. I can’t let you go through with this because of what would happen to ME if you succeed.”

“But… how would you get in trouble?” Danielle protested. “A-And what do you mean when you say I’ve helped you to k-kill?”

“Nice mirrors,” was Dan’s only reply. “Wonder what would happen if I did this…?”

“Oh, stop!” Danielle shrieked. “It took me so long to set those up, because I had to concentrate so very hard to move them. And they have to be aligned just right. No, Dan, what are you doing?! If you turn it that way so many more people could be hurt. Even I could be killed!”

“Oh, I was hoping you’d say that,” Dan replied.

“Stop, stop, no, no, stop! There’s only five minutes left, I’ll never get them put back… Dan, you could die here too!”

“Oh no, not me,” he laughed. “I’m out of here.”

“I think not,” Melissa countered, now swinging the door open wide. During Dan and Danielle’s conversation, she’d been pulling labelled pieces of paper from her purse and pasting them up around the door frame. I couldn’t read them. I hoped they were meant to be protective wards, or some supernatural equivalent.

“You!” Dan said.

“Expecting someone else?” Melissa mused, stepping forwards into the room.

She had a flashlight with her. This was useful, given that the regular lighting was so dim. Admittedly not as useful as an offensive weapon might be, but Melissa’s said she’s not too fond of things like guns.

Anyway, it was by the light of her flashlight that I saw two mirrors in the room – or rather, three, if you counted the one on the ground. The others were standing upright in swivel frames, resting on what seemed to be several crates and boxes. One of the uprights was facing a wall. The other was angled down towards the floor mirror. Dan was standing by this one, with Danielle standing on the one on the floor.

I did wonder momentarily as to why access into the room was restricted, which was when I saw the pipes at the back reading ‘Natural Gas’, and the timing device on them counting down from 4 minutes, 45 seconds. My mouth went dry.

“Dan, what’s the reporter doing here?” Danielle asked in confusion.

I now knew it was Danielle, based on the description, right down to the glasses she wore. And for a moment, I thought that Danielle was asking about me, until I realized she was looking at Melissa. I suppose that’s why Danielle had consented to Friday’s interview. Dan hadn’t told her that Melissa was a detective.

For his part, Dan ignored his ‘imaginary friend’, glowering at Melissa instead. He didn’t even try to hide his emotions. He must have known the jig was up.

“I should never have involved you in this,” Dan growled angrily. “You with your insipid questions and devil-may-care attitude… why didn’t you just banish her like I asked you to in the first place?”

“Because,” Melissa stated simply. “Danielle’s supposed to exist. You’re not.”

I knew I was definitely going to need some time to process that bombshell. Of course, in the moment, I was rather more concerned with the possibility that Dan would lunge forwards and try to knock us all unconscious.

<PREV MISC INDEX NEXT>

ASIDE: Do you see the logic or are you as confused as James? What will happen now? This case concludes in two weeks!

Virga: Entry 1b

<PREV MISC INDEX NEXT>

A VIRGA MYSTERY
The Invisible Girl: Entry 1b

I heard nothing more about this first case for the rest of the first week of classes. Then, late that Friday night (or rather, very early Saturday morning) after I had already gone to bed, I was awakened by the sound of someone shouting in the next room. In other words, Melissa’s office.

Crawling out of bed and cracking open my door, I realized the shouter in question was Melissa herself, and that she was screaming at someone on the telephone.

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

“Look, I don’t care WHAT time it is!” she stated. “Do you or do you not have a banishing amulet in stock?? … Hello? HELLO…?!” She banged down the telephone into it’s cradle in disgust. “He’s not going to sell ANY merchandise that way! I wish it wasn’t against my ethics to turn him into a frog.”

Not quite sure what to do now, I cleared my throat uncertainly. Melissa turned and blinked at me, abruptly looking quite calm and collected. “Oh, you’re home?” she said with a half smile. There was no trace of anger left in her voice. She was also dressed normally, not for sleep at all.

“Yeah, well, it’s 2am,” I pointed out. “Where else would I be?”

“2am?” Melissa said in surprise. “It can’t be 2am…” She paused to check her wrist, the desk, and the wall, before finally admitting, “Though I guess that’s not out of the question. It would also explain some of that guy’s behaviour. I’m obviously not used to sharing this place yet… did I wake you?”

I gave her a ‘duh, no kidding’ look. When she didn’t respond to that, I eventually replied, “Yes, but I can probably get back to sleep again.”

“I can help, if you like,” Melissa offered. “I know a sleep spell. How do you feel about raw onions?”

“No, look, it’s fine,” I assured her quickly. “Just, uhm, if you could keep the noise down for a bit, that would be great.”

Melissa nodded. “Sure. Suppose there wouldn’t be much point calling anyone else at this time of day. It’s a shame my regular supplier was out of amulets… she’s a lot more understanding when I call her at home, you know. I’m less shouty.”

“Yeah, I’m sure she is…”

“Still, it raises the problem of where I’m going to get one,” Melissa continued, tapping her foot on the floor. “I don’t suppose you’d have any leads? With that memory of yours?”

“Well, no,” I said blankly. “I’m not even sure what you’re talking about, so I think I should just…”

“Oh, it’s a banishing amulet,” Melissa interrupted, oblivious to my lack of enthusiasm. “Good for one shot at handling a supernatural manifestation out of control, and then the item has to be recharged by some mystical procedure I haven’t personally figured out. I know, I know, I should have some in stock, but they’re frightfully expensive. Lucky for me Dan’s footing the bill.”

On the verge of simply backing into my room, I paused, my curiosity once again getting the better of me. “Dan?” I inquired. “The tall, well proportioned guy who was here earlier in the week?”

“The same,” Melissa confirmed. “It’s all going to come to an end tomorrow you know. That’s why I need the amulet now.”

I blinked a bit more sleep from my eyes. “Tomorrow?” I questioned. “How do you know something’s going to happen then?”

“Well, it’s obvious isn’t it,” Melissa stated. “Based on what Danielle said.”

“Danielle…? When were you speaking with her?”

“Earlier tonight. Oh, that’s right, you weren’t there… did you want to hear about how it went?” Melissa inquired, now smiling at me invitingly.

It was the sort of smile that could take a man’s breath away under the right circumstances. Of course, a cluttered office at two in the morning, with the knowledge that Melissa was about to embark on a farfetched tale of mystical happenings, hardly made for the right circumstances. But unlike most, I quelled my first instinct to flee, in the hopes that this would let me understand the habits of my new roommate a little better.

“Sure,” I replied hesitantly.

“Have a seat,” she responded, moving back to sit in her own chair behind the desk. “It’ll probably be good for me to review the facts actually. Make sure I didn’t miss anything and all that.”

She stared at me patiently until I had grabbed my dressing gown (hung behind my door), shrugged it on over my pyjamas, and completely exited my room, sitting in the chair opposite her desk. Then this is what she told me.

*-*

There had been a call left on our answering machine that Melissa had picked up after her Friday afternoon class. In it, Dan had said that Danielle was willing to manifest herself for a talk between six and six thirty that day, during which time most of the other people at the residence would be having dinner.

However, Dan had only called at five, and Melissa had only retrieved the message at five forty-five, meaning it would be difficult to arrive in time. Melissa even hypothesized to me that Dan or Danielle had been counting on that. But, as it was, Melissa made it to the rendez-vous just after the stroke of six, her broom fitting in well with the janitor disguise she had adopted to get inside.

At this point I interrupted Melissa with the natural question as to whether she meant to imply she’d ridden a broom over to Dan’s place. She said of course not, that she’d only ride a broom a night. I couldn’t tell if she was joking. However, during the day she can get away with “gliding” her broom, which basically means using it like a skateboard… she holds the handle, stands upright on the bristles and basically propels herself along the ground with very little effort.

I have yet to see this, but according to Melissa it’s good for the environment while being faster and more maneuverable than a bicycle. She adds most people refuse to believe they’re seeing her on a broom anyway, believing it to be a segway.

So Melissa got to Dan’s room, dropping her janitor disguise once inside. It was little more than illusion and apparently took some effort to maintain. “Now, where’s Danielle?” was her first question as she leaned back against the door.

At this point the temperature of the room seemed to drop a couple of degrees and a shadowy figure appeared, sitting on Dan’s bed. “There she is,” Dan said, gesturing at her.

Danielle’s outward appearance filled in fairly rapidly, revealing a diminutive blonde, not much taller than Melissa herself, wearing a long dress with a rose pattern on it. Her hair was, as previously described, shoulder-length, she was wearing glasses, and her face was, as Melissa put it “strangely expressionless”. Melissa also wagered that Danielle had become more or less solid at the same time as she arrived, for she noticed creases appear on the bedsheets, implying the presence of actual weight.

“You wanted to speak with me?” Danielle said simply.

“Yes,” Melissa replied. “I’d like to know exactly what you’re doing here.”

“You… wanted to speak with me,” Danielle repeated by way of explanation.

“Mmm hmmmm. Now, what about before our encounter?” Melissa clarified. “Why have you been manifesting yourself over the last little while?”

“Well…” Danielle glanced over at Dan before returning her quiet gaze to Melissa. “Because I won’t be suppressed any longer,” she declared abruptly. “I’m going to run and jump and play out in the real world just like any other normal girl would!”

“Mmm hmmmm,” Melissa repeated. “Not a lot of jumping and playing happening on this university campus, except maybe in the bars. I think you’re a bit out of touch.”

“Am I?” Her gaze fell to the floor. “I’m sorry. It hasn’t been easy, trying to make this transition after so much time…”

“You see what I mean about her being detached from reality?” Dan broke in. “It’s like she’s still ten years old inside. That can’t be healthy.”

Melissa glanced over at him. “Perhaps not, but it doesn’t mean that she’s going to ‘hurt someone’, as you indicated.”

“H-Hurt someone?” Danielle gasped, again looking to Dan. “Oh, no, of course I wouldn’t!”

“Danielle, tell Melissa what it was you told me last weekend,” Dan prompted patiently.

Danielle’s feet kicked out nervously from her bedside perch. “Look, I… I only said that sometime in the near future it might be nice to blow up the physics building and put in a nice flowerbed instead. I mean, it would give me what I want, and make this campus look a whole lot nicer… and Dan’s friend Ron agreed with me!”

“Ron is an idiot,” Dan countered. “Besides, he told me that he thought you were some crazy joke of mine. No sane person would ever suggest such a thing.”

Danielle sighed. “But I know how to rig the proper explosives and everything. It’s one of the few useful things I came across during my research. I’ve even been able to determine the other supplies I need. And it’s not like those science types are really people. They’re all so cold hearted, denying my existence.”

“Okay, hold on now. Back up. What research is this?” Melissa questioned.

“Into how I can make myself fully real,” Danielle explained, the trace of a smile appearing for the first time. “I’ve spent a lot of time in the campus library at night, after it was closed. Finally, I came across a section in one book talking about how a large enough explosion could do the trick. All it requires is that the force of the blast be directed perpendicular to your physical plane.”

“Mmm hmmmmm. And these non-people scientists, what’s the story with them?” Melissa continued.

Danielle shrugged. “Well, they’re such idiots is all. They don’t pay attention to me when I try to contact them… not even Dan could make them understand, when he tried. I mean, why can’t they be more open minded? I just want to live the life I was always meant to have.”

“Danielle, let’s not get carried away,” Dan interjected quickly. He turned back to Melissa. “You see now of the danger I was telling you about, Ms. Virga? I think you know what’s required here.”

“Mmmmmm,” was Melissa’s only reply as she moved to look out the small available window. Silence followed as, according to Melissa, she pondered what the campus would really look like without a physics building.

She apparently concluded that administration would simply convert their current plans for a new residence into plans for a replacement building, the physics department partially taking over engineering in the meantime. Hardly an ideal situation, as she put it.

“Ms. Virga?” Dan prompted. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to look at Danielle’s nails,” came Melissa’s reply at last.

Danielle blinked in surprise as Melissa turned back to her. The blonde extended a hand, and Melissa moved forward to grasp it – however, the brunette’s palm passed through Danielle’s as if the girl was a ghost. The blonde immediately pulled her hand back. “I’m sorry, I forgot to concentrate… here try again.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Melissa assured her, ignoring the hand as it was offered once more. “I saw what I needed to. Tell me now, why blue, Danielle?”

Danielle pursed her lips, looking to Dan before replying. “I… I don’t know. I guess I just like blue,” she said. “I think it was the colour of my blankets when I was young.”

Melissa raised an eyebrow. “Young?”

“I had a blue blanket I carried around with me,” Dan clarified immediately. “I would ‘lend’ it to Danielle when we were together.”

“Ahhhh. Is that how you remember it, Danielle?” Melissa asked, cocking her head to the side.

Danielle let out a little shrug. “I guess it must be. My memory… it’s very spotty in a lot of places. I can only remember most of the recent stuff I’ve done with any clarity.”

“Mmm hmmmm.”

“So are you happy now?” Dan interjected. “I think you can see that I haven’t been lying to you. So shouldn’t you start taking this whole matter more seriously?”

“Oh, but I am,” Melissa countered. “In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that there’s already been explosives planted somewhere in the physics building. Hooked up to a timer, set to go off very shortly. That’s the case, isn’t it, Danielle?”

The blonde jumped visibly and looked towards Dan, but Melissa interposed her body in between them. “Don’t think about how Dan will react, tell me, is it true or isn’t it?” she reiterated. I imagine she used that soft but firm tone of hers, while at the same time fixing her eyes on the short blonde.

“It… it might be,” Danielle admitted. “But I don’t think that many people will be hurt, since the timer is set for Saturday at…”

“Don’t tell me when!” Melissa interrupted. “Don’t tell anyone the time, Danielle, that’s your little secret. Okay? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a few more questions to ask of Dan in private. Could you fade back into your astral plane, or wherever it is you go?”

Danielle blinked at Melissa uncertainly before nodding and beginning to disappear. The detective then turned to face an open mouthed Dan.

“Wh-Wh-What are you doing?!” he demanded, pointing. “If she’s really planted a bomb, we have to know where it is. And how to keep it from going off!”

“We’ll discuss that in a moment,” Melissa countered. “First, answer three questions.” She raised three fingers to emphasize the point. “Number one, what did Danielle mean when she said that you couldn’t make the scientists understand?”

Dan hesitated at that.

“The truth, please,” Melissa added. “Or I shant help you at all.”

“Oh, all right, I did speak with some of them back on the first day of classes,” Dan admitted reluctantly. “Before I came to see you.”

“Then you already knew about Danielle’s quest to join our real world.”

It wasn’t a question, it was a statement, but Dan nodded nonetheless. “She did tell me that was why she had come back,” he yielded. “But does the reason really matter though? She’s going to cause a lot of pain to a lot of people! Right?”

“Second question,” Melissa continued doggedly, “Would you be willing to fund the purchase of a banishing amulet? It can be used to remove manifestations from our physical plane, however, it’s a bit pricy.”

“Well, I’m not exactly rich… but if you think it’ll help…”

“A hundred dollars up front.”

“Euhhhh, geez. I can only manage sixty right now.”

Melissa sighed. “That will have to do then,” she stated. She waited expectantly as Dan fished out his wallet and handed over the money, which she pocketed. “Third question,” she concluded. “Could you name for me one of the first classmates who ever teased you at school?”

“I beg your pardon?” Dan said, exasperation returning to his tone.

“A little bet I have going with James,” Melissa shrugged. “He thinks it was a girl, I figure it was a guy. The money involved here can make up the difference in the purchase of the amulet, so what do you say?”

(I of course interjected here that we’d never made any bet, but Melissa told me to hold on, she was almost done with the story.)

“As a matter of fact, it was a guy,” Dan stated.

“Name?”

“Uhhhhh, Bob. Maybe Frank, I don’t really remember… look, how is that at all relevant to the situation at hand??” Dan said, throwing his arms up in the air.

“You never know,” Melissa responded. She moved to pick up her broom, then reached out for the doorknob.

“Whoa, hey, wait a moment!” her tall client protested. “You’re not leaving, are you? What about Danielle? What about her bomb?!”

“Oh, yes, that,” Melissa acknowledged. She shrugged. “Well, if you ask me, Danielle was right in one respect. We’ve got far too many buildings on campus. Call me again on Monday, I should have an amulet by then.”

She flashed him a smile, then quickly crafted her janitor illusion and left the room before Dan could vocalize any response.

I wasn’t sure what to make of it.

<PREV MISC INDEX NEXT>

ASIDE: Originally written in 2003. Do you know what to make of it yet? Any predictions for whether things will end in a bang?

Virga: Entry 1a

<PREV MISC INDEX NEXT>

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!

*-*

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

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…”

“Sit down.”

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?”

“What?”

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?”

“But…”

“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.

<PREV MISC INDEX NEXT>

ASIDE: Originally written in 2003. Like? Dislike? Thoughts about the characters, or what will happen next? Hope you’ll let me know!