by Michael Ezell
It's always disheartening to find out someone wants to kill you. Especially when it's over
a lousy thousand-dollar fight. Don't get me wrong; to me a grand was a lot of money. It
represented half the rent. But to one of the dudes who watched the fights from a private table, a
thousand dollars was a bottle of champagne. A cheap bottle.
I got the text about my impending murder while I was on break. Of course I wanted
details, but the clocks at work are hexed to shut down cell phone reception at 10:15 sharp.
Break's over, bozos, back to work.
Marked for homicide or not, I had bills to pay, so I sat at my Global InsureCo desk like a
good lad and answered my line when it rang. I worked Customer Service, one of forty agents
arrayed in four semi-circles of ten desks each. Global InsureCo being, well, global, had ten
similar rooms on this floor alone. We were an army. A complaint-taking, antacid-chewing,
Tobias Stentz, Customer Service Manager, sat on a dais that gave him a clear view of
every workstation. Whenever I looked up, those odd, protuberant eyes of his always seemed to be
locked on me. Most likely due to a spell. Management level employees were not allowed to use
spells directly on subordinates, but they were allowed to use magic to increase their own personal
work efficiency. A guy who wanted to make upper management might buy a spell crafted to let
him keep his eyes on all the grubby worker bees at once.
My primary line lit up and I jabbed a finger at it. "Global InsureCo Customer Service, this
is Eduardo, how may I help you?"
"You can suck my ass, Eduardo," said a woman's voice. She sounded old, a little raspy on
the back end. I pictured my grandmother's evil pack-a-day twin.
"Uh, I beg your pardon?"
"You assholes refuse to pay for the damages to my house and I'm on a fixed pension.
How the hell am I supposed to get my roof repaired?" the woman said.
"Ma'am, that doesn't sound like us at all. How long ago was your roof damaged? I admit,
it does take a bit of time to receive the actual check."
"I'm not getting a check! Least, that's what you idiots tell me. It's been six months since
the bitch down the street put a hex on a storm cloud drifting over my house and--"
"Ah, there's your problem," I said.
"Our homeowner policies do not cover damages incurred through use of hexes, spells,
incantations, or any other action that could be considered and defined as 'magical.'"
"You're telling me in today's world you don't believe in magic?" she said.
"Oh no, Ma'am. We believe it exists. We just don't insure against it," I said.
"Eduardo, you are a real piece of shit."
She hung up before I could mount a defense. I flipped over a piece of paper on my desk
and put a tick mark under Piece of Shit. That made twenty-three for the year, taking the lead on
my "List of Compliments." Dickhead ran a tight second with nineteen tick marks.
My phone alarm chimed and I shut down my workstation. I'd put in a request to leave two
hours early for a doctor's appointment. On a Friday. Which raised Tobias Stentz's considerable
eyebrows. Per company policy, Tobias couldn't use a spell on me to see if I really had a doctor's
appointment. However, he could slide the written request under a Seer Glass. In this case it didn't
matter. Since I had an appointment with my witchdoctor, the paper wouldn't show a lie.
I picked up my hat and shrugged into the jacket of my antique Brooks Brothers suit. All
the other men in the office wore the popular style of pullover shirts with fake buttons down the
front. No class, man, no class.
I glanced at Tobias and of course found him staring straight at me. He gave me a wink
and nodded toward the door. Like he was my buddy and we were getting away with something.
Ol' Eduardo "going to the doctor" on Friday afternoon.
I returned the wink so Tobias knew we were indeed old buddies, and then went to find
out why someone wanted to kill me.