After a quick dinner of Mrs. Sanchez's tasty tamales and salsa, Cooper and I and the two animals piled into the Dinosaur -- Cooper's big, black, much-tinkered-with 1965 Lincoln Continental. Smoky hopped onto the back seat while I sat shotgun with my ferret in his walking harness and leash.
Cooper talked to Smoky over his shoulder as he drove. The white terrier seldom made any noise as he replied telepathically. Familiars almost never seem to be "talking" to their masters, so the masters' sides of the conversations can seem a little schizophrenic if they don't remember to think instead of speaking out loud. I know of several witches and wizards who just can't keep their mouths shut; when Bluetooth headsets came on the market, a lot of chatty Talents ran out and bought them to reclaim some of their dignity.
"Yes, about midnight," Cooper said. "What? No. You have to pee? You should have said something earlier. No, you'll just have to wait."
With a heavy, long-suffering sigh, Smoky lay down on the black leather upholstery and covered his snout with his paws.
I felt my cell phone buzz in the right thigh pocket of my cargo pants. I pulled out my phone and flipped it open.
"Hello, vibrating pants," I said into the receiver.
The woman on the other end burst into laughter. "Jessica, you are such a weirdo sometimes!"
No one still called me Jessica but Mother Karen, an older white witch I had met through Cooper. "Pot, kettle, black, Karen. How are you?"
"I'm fine. What are you two doing tonight?"
"We're off to drown some farmers' sorrows."
"Calling a rainstorm? Good girl, my morning glories are starting to wilt. Well, I was doing some baking tonight, and thought I'd invite you two over if you were free."
"Who's that?" Cooper asked.
"Mother Karen. She's baking."
"Ooh!" Cooper's eyes lit up. "I want me some haish brownies," he said in his best hillbilly accent. "An' summa thet cherry pah!"
Karen heard him, and laughed. "Tell that man he is not to so much as sniff my cannabis brownies ever again. Last time he got stoned he turned my kids into spider monkeys and they broke half the dishes in the house. But I will save him a cherry tart or two."
"You get pie," I told him. "Las drogas es verboten."
"I never get to have any fun." Cooper pouted.
"Speaking of breaking things, did you want to ride with me to hapkido practice this week?" Mother Karen asked.
"Yes, thanks. We're doing knife and sword defenses, right?"
"Right you are. And don't remember that belt tests are in three short weeks."
"Oh, cool, I totally forgot!" I was up for my purple belt; I figured it would be at least another year before I was ready for my black belt test, mostly because I kept missing class.
Mother Karen laughed. "Ah, to be young and still excited about belt tests. Meet me at my house around 6 on Tuesday?"
"Okay, sounds like a plan."
I said goodbye, turned off the phone and slipped it back in my pocket. Then I realized Cooper had taken I-71 south toward downtown Columbus. "I thought we'd be doing this someplace out in the country, near the farms."
>> Go on to Spellbent: Chapter One, Part 5