319: Privileged Communication

on November 21, 2008 in Book 12

In Which A Case Is Made For Caution

I suppose I shouldn’t have been shocked that my spate of relatively restful slumber came to an end, after watching a piece of demonic soul possess the most scarily competent of my friends and then use her to attack my chief lover. As nightmare fodder went that was some pretty rich fare, and my brain didn’t let any of it go to waste.

It wasn’t Dee who was chasing me all around the campus in my dream, though… it was Mercy. She rode a black chariot being pulled by a pair of slavering man-beasts that had to be her “pet” half-demons. She wore an armor like Puddy’s and carried my pitchfork like a trident. Crackling red and black energy surrounded her gray skin like a halo.

It wasn’t one of those dreams that had a real story, or even a beginning and an end. She was just chasing me. Over and over again. Sometimes they caught up to me and she threw the pitchfork at me or turned loose the team, but then the whole thing was going again before anything actually happened. There was no sense of starting over… I fell, she closed in for the kill, and then I was up and running again.

The dream continued until I woke up, panicked and starved for air, beside Amaranth. I felt more tired and edgier than I had been before we went back to bed. I tried to sit up, but my arms and back weren’t quite there yet.

Outside the blanket barrier, the fridge door closed.

“Two?” I said. My throat felt constricted and my mouth was dry, so not a lot of sound came out. I tried again. “Two?”

I had a fleeting vision of Mercy pushing back the curtain, but then Two said, “Yes, Mack?” and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Why was Mercy my bogeywoman of the moment? She was out there, but she wasn’t an immediate threat to me… it was the pitchfork that should have been weighing on my mind. It had featured in the nightmare, of course, but it had hardly been given the starring role…

But of course, that was it. The pitchfork couldn’t come after me on its own. It was only dangerous when it was in somebody’s grip, or vice versa.

“Mack?” Two said questioningly.

“Just… just seeing if you were awake,” I said. Beside me, Amaranth stirred a little but didn’t wake up. Sleep seemed to be something like a leisure activity for her, but when she did it, she did it for real.

“Oh, okay. I am,” Two said.

I disentangled myself from the blankets and from Amaranth and slipped out of bed. Two was already dressed. She’d poured herself a glass of milk and was peeling a banana from the bowl.

“Did you have a good nap?” she asked.

“Not really,” I said. “Would you mind giving me the room for a minute? I really have to talk to my lawyer.”

“Okay,” she said, picking up her glass of milk with a napkin and heading for the door. She stopped when she got there, one hand holding a half-peeled banana and the other with the glass. I went to help her and then realized I’d gone back to bed naked, not taking the time to change.

“Hold on, let me throw on some clothes,” I said. I pulled on my shirt and underwear and then got the door open for her. The sliding part on the doorknob still seemed to be sticking more than normal, I noticed… it occurred to me that I may have stretched a few definitions in focusing on an unintended defect as a functional property to be enhanced. It sticking around could be the universe pushing back, saying, “Oh, you think this is supposed to work this way, do you?”

It was annoying, but a comparatively minor side effect for a comparatively minor transgression. Maybe I’d be able to use it as an example when I started taking more theoretical classes.

I closed the door behind Two and locked it again, then picked up my mirror and flipped it open. There was no sense putting off telling Lee any longer… especially when nobody was around to talk me out of it.

What was I going to tell him, though? I kept calling him “my lawyer”, but it wasn’t like I was paying him a huge retainer to solve all my problems. He was helping me with my case against the school with the idea that he’d get paid out of whatever settlement we got. At the same time, he’d be the first one to tell me that he needed to know about the pitchfork, as it touched on the case… and I hoped he’d want to see something done about it.

But telling him the whole story would involve bringing him into the loop about Tender Mercy’s. Unless more had gone on that I didn’t know about, I hadn’t broken the law… but how would he feel about continuing to represent me when he knew about that? Of course, I’d be leading with the information about the possession and the pitchfork… so he’d hear about it with the understanding that it hadn’t been me… but still…

It was the possibility of being judged that I was afraid of. Lee was my advocate, my ally… the one person in the world who was supposed to be completely on my side. If he dropped me, I wouldn’t know where to go or what to do.

Unless he decided he wanted a full blow-by-blow accounting of everything over the mirror, I’d leave out what had happened during my possession until we were face to face. That way I’d have time to work up the nerve, he’d have time to digest the fact that I really hadn’t been myself, and if the worst case scenario came to pass he’d have to actually throw me out of his office instead of just terminating a reflection.

On second thought, was that actually better?

I sighed and asked the mirror for him. Maybe I’d get lucky and get an echo trap.

I did.

“Hey, uh… Lee,” I said to the little tiny image of him dressed in the smartest of smart suits. “I just learned something about the pitchfork I got from the school labyrinth, and I kind of need to talk to you about it.” I stopped and thought for a moment. Was that enough? I felt weird trying to explain the whole thing to an echo trap, but “I kind of need to talk to you” somehow lacked urgency. “It doesn’t just have some kind of rage curse on it, it’s actually possessed… and the thing that possesses it can possess people. We were going to have it checked out by the diabolism department but we don’t think it made it there.” Once I started talking, the words kept coming in a torrent. “So… we don’t know where it is, and we don’t know what to do, and I thought this might have some bearing on the case and I really don’t want to be blamed if somebody gets all stabbed up with my pitchfork…”

The static image wavered and then I was looking at a very different Lee, from the chest up. His hair was messy and he was wearing a white shirt with no tie and the collar unbuttoned.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” he said. “When was the last time you saw it?”

“Uh… Thursday, I think.” I said. It had been before the date with Steff. “Yeah, Thursday.”

“And it only occurred to you to mention this now?”

“Well, we didn’t actually know what had been going on with it then,” I said. “I had been… acting weird… and didn’t remember doing… some stuff… that I did, apparently.”

“Mackenzie?” he prompted. Yes, his keen lawyerly instincts had seen through my cunning evasions.

“I… I can’t really go into it right now,” I said. “It might be better, in your office…”

“Understood,” he said. “Can you give me an idea how bad it is?”

“I didn’t break any laws, that I know about,” I said. “But… it’s bad, Lee. I could have broken a hundred laws and not done anything worse. But I didn’t remember having done it, and we’d been meaning to get the pitchfork looked over anyway, but we didn’t know at that point… well, we still don’t know a lot.”

“I… see,” he said. “This was on Thursday?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Amaranth went to take the pitchfork to have a diabolist look at it, and she doesn’t remember what happened after that. She didn’t even realize that she didn’t remember until we tried to pin down what had happened.”

“And how did you come to learn that you had been possessed?”

“Dee… Delia Daella d’Wyr,” I said. “She’s a priestess and a subtle artist. She examined our auras… Amaranth’s and mine… to see if she could figure out what happened, and there was a remnant on Amaranth’s that attacked her and possessed her. She was able to defeat it, and learn a few things about its nature.”

“Okay. Here are the problems with her as a witness,” Lee said. “One, she’s a dark elf. Two, she’s been in trouble with the law… trivial transgression, no charges filed, but very public and embarrassing. Three, whatever she is in her homeland, up here she’s a first year student. It doesn’t help that she looks eighteen.”

“You don’t believe me?” I asked.

“I’m thinking out loud,” he said. “I’m outlining weaknesses. We can’t go before the arbiter and say ‘Oh, that pitchfork you told me to keep? It possessed me and made me do bad things. I don’t have it any more, but my friend the dark elf priestess says so.'”

“She can’t testify under geas?” I asked.

“There has been study after study done, showing that people who aren’t inclined to believe a witness’s testimony don’t trust them further under a geas,” Lee said. “They assume the person would not consent to it if they didn’t have a way around it.”

“Okay, yeah… with a human jury, maybe,” I said. “But her words are going to be weighed by a single impartial arbiter.”

“Who happens to be an elven oathspeaker,” Lee said. “We favored an elf because he would not carry an automatic bias against you, remember?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“And you might recall I mentioned that Philomenes has, pardon my elvish, low bullshit tolerance.”

“This isn’t bullshit!” I said.

“No, but if he dismisses it as such, it’s going to affect his judgment of the rest of your case in exactly the same way as if it was,” Lee said.

“So you’re saying we can’t do anything with this,” I said.

“I’m saying we cannot make Miss… Ms. Delia Daella’s testimony the cornerstone of our case,” Lee said. I watched him becoming more and more awake as he went. I could see him thinking as he spoke. “If we can avoid having her testify at all, it would be a good thing. Otherwise we risk the whole thing turning into a pissing contest between her people and the oathspeaker. We’ll have experts investigate this thing from top to bottom, get some thorough findings we can enter into the record…”

“Um… sort of on that subject, my grandmother’s an exorcist,” I said. I knew as I said it that Lee would probably shoot this down… in fact, that’s why I said it. I was looking for a counter to use when Dee brought it up. “Sorry, my lawyer has advised me not to.”

“I was under the impression that you weren’t close,” he said.

“We aren’t,” I said. “Lately. But she is sort of an expert, and so… well, Dee’s suggested…”

“Mack, ‘Dee’ doesn’t represent your interests,” Lee said. “Don’t start taking cues from her, and don’t get your grandmother involved in this. Apart from raising a similar set of bias questions, this is shaping up to be enough of a circus without a famous ex-demon hunter hitting town.”

“Uh, she isn’t really…”

“Mack, I didn’t take you on because there was a sword to my throat or because the paycheck was too huge to be ignored,” Lee said. “I’m trying to do right by you. If you can’t trust my professional judgment, then maybe…”

“No, I trust you,” I said. I hadn’t been arguing about his judgment, just his knowledge of my grandmother. I wondered if people were just getting her mixed up with some other, more famous person… like the “Brimstone Blaise” Gloria had mentioned… or if this was a case of the media blowing up her quiet little career as a country exorcist into something more sensational. Maybe it was a little of both.

In any case, he’d told me what I wanted to hear.

“Okay,” he said. He shuffled some out-of-sight papers. “Listen, yesterday the courier dropped off that interrogatory I told you about. Can you come by the office tomorrow after your classes so we can go over it?”

“Uh, yeah, that should be fine,” I said. I remembered that we had plans for Two’s party on Tuesday, and despite having been in town for two of the past three nights, I hadn’t got anything for her yet. I’d have to ask the others if we were still on for that. “You’re going to help me fill this thing out, right?”

“It’s your testimony, Mack,” he said. “But we’ll go over it for any problem areas.”

“Okay,” I said. “Um… the other thing…”

“There’s more?” he asked.

“Well, just the pitchfork… but… it’s out there,” I said. “Somebody has it, or it has somebody.”

“Right,” he said. “We’ll send an alert to the Enwich police and the campus security about a cursed pitchfork, to be approached cautiously, and that anybody seen wielding it may be under infernal influence.”

“Is that all?” I asked. I remembered how Steff and I had disagreed over whether the pitchfork had been with me during my missing time. “If it’s possessing somebody, they may not be visibly carrying it.”

“Well, that might be important to know,” he said. “In any event, there isn’t much else to do at this point. I’m sure you’re thinking of your classmates’ safety, but please do not let this information circulate any further than it has. We don’t want a panic. One sentient weapon directing the actions of a single person can’t do a tenth as much harm as rumors of possession in an environment like a college campus. We’ll get what you’re saying confirmed and verified, find out as much as we can, and when we have detailed information about what we’re dealing with and how to find it, we’ll share that with the appropriate authorities.”

“Okay,” I said.

“So, I’ll pencil you in for six, how about?”

“Six tomorrow?” I asked.

“Can’t be today, I’m afraid,” he said. “I’m in Praxis right now on another matter.”

“Praxis?” I asked, surprised. I’d talked to Lee just the day before and he hadn’t mentioned going out of town. “When’d you get there?”

“About a quarter after midnight last night,” he said.

“Um… I have a late history class on Monday,” I said. “And I really can’t skip it.”

“What does your schedule look like Tuesday?”

“You know, I’ve got like a huge block in the middle of the day tomorrow where I don’t have anything,” I said. “I get out of thaumatology at eleven fifteen and I don’t have another class for four hours.”

He consulted something.

“How about one?” he asked.

“Okay,” I said. “One on Monday. Got it.”

“Was there anything else?”

“No,” I said. “Um, bye?”

“Goodbye, Mack,” he said, and waved me away.

“One on Monday,” I repeated. I started to wonder if I should even bother putting an appointment for the very next day in the planner Steff had given me, then I realized that the mirror probably had a function that would make that redundant.

I found the calendar and invoked it, adding the appointment using the illusionary powder and brush. Then I put a reminder to go off at a few minutes after the end of my first class, so I wouldn’t forget and go to lunch or whatever. I added another memo to myself, too, which simply said “TWO’S DAY”.

That made me remember that I’d kicked Two out of the room to talk to Lee, so I headed out into the hall to tell her it was okay to come back in while I checked out the other bells and whistles I could find.

I almost bumped into Sara and Tara on my way to the lounge… I probably wouldn’t have been able to stop in time to keep from colliding with them, if they hadn’t already been stopped in their tracks staring me.

“What?” I asked.

“Nice fashion statement, freak,” Tara said.

Of course… I’d wandered out of my room without any pants.


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4 Responses to “319: Privileged Communication”

  1. pedestrian says:

    I think Mack has very nice legs. Shapely.

    So fudge on the boobsey twins.

    Current score: 0
    • capybroa says:

      …H-how do you know this?

      Current score: 7
      • Ryzndmon says:

        Amaranth thinks they’re great legs. I admit, she may be a little biased.
        Ian hasn’t complained about them, and he can find something to complain about in the middle of a blowjob.
        Steff likes them, and isn’t really into girls all that much.
        Most telling though, is Two has mentioned how all over cute Mack is. And I trust Two, implicitly. If she didn’t find fault with those legs, I never will.

        Current score: 12
  2. BlackWizard says:

    Reminds me of that old saying; “I swear if my head wasn’t attached, I’d forget that too…”

    Current score: 1