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Opening my cupboards, I look through them. It’s a little sparse, and I feel like eating cereal for dinner in front of my brother is a bad idea. He’d just report back to mom and I’ll get all kinds of worried phone calls. Text messages, too, if she enlists the cousins. I grimace at the thought, knowing that she would.
Macaroni and cheese it is then. Grabbing the box, I set it next to the stove before assembling all the other items I’ll need. I don’t want to wait for the water to boil, so I give it a mean look and watch as it bubbles to life. It’s only after pouring the noodles into the pot that I notice that they’re dinosaur-shaped. The vague memory of the wacky noodle shapes being on sale floats around my mind, but I decide not to worry about it. Theo can make fun of my dino noodles if he wants to.
* * *
“Dinosaurs? Really, Ollie?”
The nickname sounds weird coming from him, but I’ll take the small victory as I lose any credibility I might have gained from him all because of a few noodles.
I shrug, and he starts to eat. When I handed him a bowl earlier he didn’t protest for all his earlier claims of not being hungry. He seems to have forgotten all that now.
Nibbling on my macaroni, I watch him polish off the bowl and go back for seconds. I know that once he’s finished he’ll tell me what’s up.
With one last bite, Theo sets his fork down and catches my eye. “The family was wondering if you’d help us with something.”
My fork stops halfway to my mouth, and a triceratops or two fall back into the bowl. “Wait, like Magicbuster stuff?”
He clenches his teeth at my name for it. “Yes.”
I scoop the dinosaurs back up and take a bite to give myself a minute to think. This was weird. “What do you mean? Did your secretary get sick? I am not going to take calls and keep track of files for you guys.”
Shaking his head, Theo starts to rub his temples. “No, our secretary is fine. We, uh, we have a slight problem.”
Now this was intriguing. I lean in, maybe a little too eager to hear how my big brother and the family were having difficulties.
Seeing my actions, his mouth curves downward, but he doesn’t comment. “There’s a rogue necromancer that we think killed her supplier a couple months back.”
“And?” I prod, knowing there has to be more to the story. Necromancy is generally looked down upon in the magic community, especially because practitioners of the art usually use humans as errand runners for supplies and then as test subjects after mysterious deaths. While this is pretty gross, I don’t see how it has anything to do with me.
“She’s slipped out of our grasp one too many times. It’s making the business look bad, and we think she’s going to kill again.” Theo winces as he says the words, as if the admission of failure is physically hurting him.
I still don’t see what I have to do with anything. “And?” I repeat.
He sends me a pained look, as if he doesn’t want to admit the real reason. “She’s come up with a way to guard against incantation magic.”
“Oh,” I say, and eat the last bite of cheesy velociraptors. Incantation magic is a Floros thing; it’s what the family magic is built upon. They access magic through words, some ancient and some more modern.
I say ‘they’ because I was never any good at it. While Theo might have the mind for memorizing countless spells, and the ability to write new ones, what I do is more organic. I feel around for threads of magic and then when it feels right, I pull. It’s inexact, and works better for small things like moving Mr. Bun and my sparks, but it works.
Then something dawns on me. “Are you asking me to catch a necromancer for you? A necromancer that’s murdered someone?”
By Kira Lubahn