It had been hard getting back into her normal life after everything that had happened two weeks ago, but Hope still had bills to pay and that meant going back to work. She spent her days stocking the shelves and waiting on the customers that came and went, but underneath she had the nagging feeling that she would never be content to be a simple clerk anymore. She had seen wondrous and dangerous things, had found happiness only to have it snatched away.
From time to time she would see Jacob walking past the bookstore on his way somewhere, and she always felt a pang of guilt when he did. She knew now that it was she who had put his life in danger, like she had for so many before. Her curse had almost claimed another victim, and he was one of the few really decent guys she had ever met. Hope resolved to learn the source of her misfortune, if only to protect the next person it sought to hurt.
She’d delved into the occult section of the bookstore, but she’d only found books from modern Wiccans who believed in the power of nonsensical poetry and wishful thinking, and an encyclopedia of mysticism that read like bad fan fiction. The library had been no better, and while an online search had yielded a few possible candidates, most were too expensive for her. From what she could tell, however, the answer would not be found in a book. She would have to find a real witch to learn about magic and how to control it. If there even was such a thing. Until then, she would have to continue as if her life was normal.
Today, she was helping Joe, a nice old man who had lost the love of his life a couple of years ago. He was selling off some of his wife’s books, and she was busy scanning them into the system. When she heard the bell on the front door ring, Hope glanced up to see a man on a suit walk in. It wasn’t uncommon to get random business people stopping by even in the middle of the afternoon, so she smiled a greeting and was about to go back to her scanning when a second man enter behind him.
Hope gasped and dropped the book she was holding. It was Sam Dregg, the man who had tried to kidnapped her, the man who would have killed Jacob if she hadn’t stopped him in time by turning her curse upon him. He was supposed to be in jail, not walking around free. She had to run, to get away, but the men were between her and the door. Hope wanted to scream, but the air seemed to catch in her throat. She could only watch helplessly as the two men drew out their guns and pointed them right at her.
A huge dark shape flew by from behind her and she instinctively ducked behind the safety of the counter. Only when she peeked over the edge did she realize what had happened. Every book on the shelves behind the counter had spontaneously launched itself at the two men, knocking them backward into the stacks. It was impossible, but she had seen it happen. Hope watched as other shelves collapsed and fell on top the two men pinning them to the ground.
In the middle of the floor stood Joe, his fists raised as though he was about to throw a punch. In her shock at seeing Dregg again, she had forgotten he was there. When he dropped his arms and turned to face Hope, she saw that he was as white as a sheet. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t think they were real, but here they are, plain as day.” A look of concern crossed his face as the color started to return. “I didn’t hurt you, did I? I can’t really control it.”
Hope could only shake her head in reply. The men were struggling to get out from under the piles of books and shelves, but there was a clear path to the door. Joe quickly left without another word, and Hope chased after him. She had found someone like herself and she wasn’t going to let him get away. She saw him jogging down the sidewalk and she called after him, “Joe, wait! We need to talk.”
“Leave me alone!” he shouted and started running faster. He was surprisingly fast for an old man, but she was more than four decades his junior and quickly caught up to him. “They’re after me now. You’re not safe.”
Hope grabbed his arm and forced him to stop. “They weren’t after you, Joe. Those men were there for me.”
“But I thought…I mean, they looked just like she said they would.”
“Like who said?”
“A girl I met who was going to help me figure out what was going on with me. She said that there have people like me throughout history and that the government was tracking us down. I didn’t believe her. I thought it was just paranoid conspiracy nonsense, but that was before two armed men tried to shoot me in broad daylight. What do you mean they were there for you?”
“One of those men was Sam Dregg. He used to be a cop until he tried to kidnap me two weeks ago. I don’t even know what he’s doing out of jail.”
“I had no idea,” said Joe. “We need to call the police.” Joe pulled his phone from his pocket, but Hope took his wrist to stop him from dialing.
“I don’t know how he got out or who he’s working for. He might still be working for the police or for someone even worse if what you say is true. Until I know what’s going on, I’m not sure who I can trust. Besides there would be too many unanswered questions about how we got away from them.”
“We need to get you off the street at least.” He looked around to get his bearings. “I don’t live that far from here. It’s only a few minutes away. If it’s true that they were there for you, then my place should be safe. At least for now.”
“That sounds like a plan. Lead the way.”
They started walking and Joe said, “I suppose you want an explanation about what happened back there. I’m afraid I don’t have a good one.”
“I could tell you a few stories myself. I think you’ll find we have a lot more in common than you realize.”
To be continued…