Today’s Friday Flash Fics reminded me of Mark Ward from the second short story I ever had accepted for publication, “Last Call,” in Mortis Operandi. Mark is a wizard-for-hire (if you know who to talk to) who deals with strange goings on and tries to stop bad people from doing bad things, and in “Last Call” he’s hired by a demon to solve a murder. Things blow up in his face a lot, so when I saw this picture, it made me wonder what it’s like for Mark after he’s dealt with his latest whatever, and thus was born “Aftershocks.”
Mark tucked his legs beneath himself on the plush chair, not caring overmuch if he wrinkled the pants now that the sun was rising. He leaned back, took a few deep breaths, and closed his eyes, exhausted.
Maybe I could go to bed, he thought. Sleep.
A moment later his eyes opened and he knew it was hopeless. His body still buzzed from the use of magic, humming from power he’d conjured and evoked with nothing but his will and a heaping dose of self-righteous anger. It was always like this after some serious casting. The downside to being a seventh son of a seventh son was the aftershocks.
He rubbed his beard, and sighed. He’d be awake the whole damn day. It’d take that long for the feeling to pass. He hadn’t slept at all last night since the the battle with the warlock in question had lasted from sundown to just before sunrise. But the important thing was the hospital still stood, the patients were going to start getting better now that someone wasn’t magically siphoning off all the healing that happened in the building, and the people responsible for the warlock’s work would be learning the hard way what happened when you relied on black magic and then someone like him came along and undid the magic in question.
His phone rang, and he blinked when he patted his pocket and it wasn’t there. He didn’t normally dress up like this, but a hospital fundraiser event had been a hoity-toity affair, and the trustee who’d hired him had gotten him in. He had no idea what had happened to his tie. Had it burned up when the siphoning ward went off in his face? Probably. Whatever. It was just a tie.
He’d needed to see who’d had the ability to get people into the building after hours to set up the seriously impressive—and horrifically aimed—siphoning spells, and so the trustee’s invite. And the suit.
Wait. He’d been wearing a jacket. Had he lost the jacket, too?
Mark rubbed his eyes. This was why he preferred to work in t-shirt and jeans.
Either way, attending the super-fancy party had been the right move. He’d expected that. What he hadn’t expected was for the person responsible to be persons, nor for it to be half the damn board, but it had been pretty obvious from the first glance. Old white men, standing in a row, the flush of magic apparent to his divinations—living strong and bright via stolen life.
They’d probably paid the warlocks a stupid amount of money to siphon health into them.
Gods, he hated warlocks. If he ever met another warlock again it would be too damn soon, and how hard was it to just keep your damn vows, anyway? An’ ye harm none. Seriously. How hard was that?
He finally got his hands on his phone—inside vest pocket, because he was wearing a vest—and answered it without looking so it wouldn’t go to voice mail.
“Hey you.” Connor.
Just like that, Mark’s whole mood turned. “Hey,” he said.
“So, I’m watching the news, and apparently last night there was a weird explosion at the hospital?”
“Reports of an explosion are exaggerated,” Mark said. Somewhat, he added mentally.
“I’m okay. More importantly, so are the patients.”
“Good.” A pause. “You’re sure you’re okay?”
“I’m not going to sleep for a while, and I’m not one-hundred percent exactly how I can make sure the men responsible are brought to some kind of justice, but I’m pretty sure the law of three is handling that right now, since I broke the spell giving them extra life.”
“Yeah, about that. One of the board members apparently had a heart attack, and another had a stroke.”
“Well,” Mark said, trying really hard not to delight in the suffering of others. “Two down, three to go, I guess.”
“I’ve got the kids today,” Connor said. Kids meant the youth he coached at the centre, which meant Connor in his basketball shorts, which meant the world was an unfair place because Mark wasn’t looking at Connor’s legs right this very second. “I’ll come over this afternoon, though. Take-out and a hot bath, maybe?”
“That sounds perfect.”
“Okay. There’s also some loose-leaf tea in your cupboard. It’s supposed to help with the aftershocks. Have some.” Connor’s voice had gentled with every word. “Try to relax and I’ll see you later.”
“I promise I’m going to do nothing but sit here in this chair and read and drink tea.”
“Good.” Another pause. “Love you, Seventh.”
“Love you, too, Medium.” Oh, he was never going to get tired of saying that. Or their stupid nicknames.
They hung up, and Mark eyed the tea service all the way across the apartment from where he was sitting. He was so comfortable. The thought of getting up and making tea was just too much.
“You did promise to stay put,” he said aloud. Then, with a flick of his wrist and an act of will, magic sprang to his command. The burner whooshed on, the teakettle sliding over the ring, full of water from the night before. The teapot lid rose, the cupboard opened, and the tin of loose-leaf tipped and sent leaves through the opening, into the little mesh container and down into the pot itself. Three cups and saucers rose into the air and circled the chair—that was maybe overkill, but he hadn’t been clear enough with his intention, he supposed—and once the kettle started to whistle, it was only a few more moments before everything was ready, stepping, and floating on over to the chair where he sat.
As the teapot poured him a cup, a book floated out across the room and into his hand. He opened it to the bookmark, and the first passage he found had Sherlock dismissing any supernatural forces as completely impossible.
Mark smiled, and let himself drift into the mystery as the scent of tea drifted to him from the floating teacup to his left.