Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 10
What do you do when you’re running away from the bad guys? Well, if you’re our characters, you set up housekeeping in a well protected luxury condo, of course.
Wizards of Winds and Waves
So the three of us went to Pierre’s condo overlooking the marina, and Runyon made sure that Pierre and I were both going to stay put and follow orders before leaving. Pierre showed me how to operate the alarm system keypad – I noticed that the numerical code for it, 7486, corresponded to the letters in his personal magic code. “This isn’t an ordinary security system,” Pierre was saying. “It has all of the usual security for non-magic protection, but it also has magic protections as well. As long as you’re here, I’m keeping those set to the maximum settings. It’s a very bad idea for you to leave the place.”
“But if I’m staying here, I need some of my things.”
“I have plenty of stuff here that you can use – not just toiletries, but clothing items. But I understand if you’re not into the sort of garments I stock. I can go and get things from your apartment.”
“I need to go, too.”
“No, you don’t. Give me a list. I know women well enough to know what to look for. We can’t risk you being out in the open. Meanwhile, let me show you around the place.”
The parts of the condo that I hadn’t seen yet matched the parts I had. The bathroom did indeed have a fancy multi-nozzle shower, and a separate spa tub big enough for two people. The bedroom was huge, with a king-sized bed, a sitting area in the corner with armchairs and ottomans, two dressers – one for Pierre’s clothes, and one for “loaners” for his guests – two walk-in closets, similarly arranged, a plasma-screen television mounted on the wall where it could easily be watched from either the bed or the sitting area, and at the foot of the bed, an odd piece of furniture that looked a bit like an old-fashioned fainting couch, but not quite. “You can have the bed,” he said. “I’ll take that.” He pointed at the unusual piece of furniture. “It’s a slave bed, where the Southern belle’s slave would sleep, so she would always be available for whatever her mistress needed in the middle of the night. It’s about the most appropriate possible place for me.”
I also noticed that it was about the only piece of furniture in the entire apartment that had any sort of character to it, with a frame of rough-carved mahogany and upholstery of Oriental-style tapestry. “It’s different from the other furnishings here. Is there a story behind it?”
“I bought the condo furnished; this was originally the model unit. I didn’t have much of my own furniture, so it made sense. This belonged to my first wife, Dora, and it’s about all I have left of her, since my second wife took our daughter.”
“So she wasn’t even the kid’s mother, just her stepmother, and she still took her away?”
“She was evil, although I didn’t understand that at the time. During and after the divorce, she wanted to hurt me the most she possibly could. So one afternoon at the daycare center, she got there before I did, took Eliza, and vanished. Early on, I had law enforcement from five states, plus a private detective I’d hired, searching for them, but the trail was cold. And after a few months it wouldn’t have mattered anyway; my life was falling apart, and no court in the world would have seen me as a fit parent to award custody to. Too much wine, women, and song – self-destructive wine, women, and song.”
“Don’t get so down on yourself. You’re not a bad person, you know that, and I know that.”
“Still, the slave bed’s what I deserve.”
“Never in a million years.”
“Well, enough gloom and self-recrimination for now. Get me a list of the stuff you want, so I can go fetch it from your apartment.”
After Pierre had left, I decided that if I was trapped in this gilded cage, I might as well take advantage of the comforts it offered. I went into the bathroom for a shower, losing myself in steam and rich, vanilla-perfumed suds over my body and even in my hair. Ordinarily, I never bothered with hair conditioner, but this time, I decided to go for it, with creamy goop that matched the soap/shampoo’s vanilla scent. After I got out of the shower and toweled off, I found more vanilla in the form of a scented oil to spray on. Then I went into the bedroom to see what was in the “visitor’s” closet.
I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, there were plenty of scanty, filmy garments, but there was also a good selection of comfortable sportswear. I selected a pair of Capri pants and a matching polo shirt with designer labels that indicated that one outfit cost more than my entire wardrobe. I found serviceable, comfortable underthings in the dresser, got dressed, and completed the outfit with canvas deck shoes. I was astonished how well everything fit – surely Pierre was in the habit of entertaining women of more than one size?
Pierre returned as I was tying my shoes. “I see you found something suitable in the closet, after all,” he commented. “I do try to accommodate a wide range of tastes.”
“But not a wide range of sizes?”
Pierre smiled. “There are a few things magic is good for besides saving the world. Whoever walks into that closet, the clothes self-adjust to fit.” He came closer and took a sniff at my hair. “Ah, I’d always imagined you as a vanilla sort.” He set the box he was carrying on the dining table. “There’s still more stuff to bring up from the car. You can start putting these away.”
I looked into the box. In it were nearly all the pans and utensils from my kitchen, certainly all of the important stuff – the coffee maker, the sauté pan, the can opener, the egg beater I used for a mixer, and more. Those hadn’t been on my list! Still, I realized I would be glad to have everything – a touch of home. As I put things away, I also realized Pierre would be glad to have everything too; aside from some very expensive but characterless dishes, glassware, and silverware, his kitchen was practically empty. I had to laugh to myself at the thought of equipment fit for a third-rate student hovel being used to equip a shiny, modern, first-class kitchen.
Pierre returned with a second box containing my clothes and toiletries. “I ran into Mrs. Bullfinch while I was at your place,” he said as he took the box into the bedroom. “She seemed astonishingly glad that you’re taking up residence here.”
“No, absolutely true,” Pierre said, coming back to the great room. “She said she’d seen a couple of shady characters around that gave her the creeps, and she was afraid they meant some sort of harm to you. She said she wasn’t sure what sort of trouble you might be in, and she didn’t want to know, but as far as she’s concerned, it’s way better for you to be in the clutches of a dirty old man than in the path of those ‘evil types,’ as she called them. She even packed up the kitchen stuff for you.”
“Good old Mrs. B.”
“She’s going to keep an eye on your place and let us know if anything more happens. She’ll be bringing your mail over every day, so you don’t miss anything.”
“Bless her. She’s the closest thing to a mother I ever had.”
“I thought you had a real mother until you were sixteen.”
“She never much cared for me. I think she regarded me as some sort of burden. My father was even worse; he tried as hard as he could to pretend I didn’t exist. I almost wanted to send a thank-you letter to the drunk driver who wiped them out. I went through a bunch of foster homes – wonderful, loving people who couldn’t understand why I didn’t miss my parents – and then I ended up at Mrs. B’s place.” I had finished putting away the kitchen equipment, and we went over to the sofa to watch the bay.
“Look at the two of us,” Pierre said. “What a pair we make, broken souls with messed-up pasts.”
“Might the magic forces be responsible for us finding each other? I do get this feeling that really, in the grand scheme of the universe, we belong together – we’re meant for each other.”
“I get that feeling, too. I’ve had it almost since I first met you, but I couldn’t really test it until Runyon ordered me to guard you. And look how badly I botched that.”
“Forget about it.”
We sat together in silence, hand in hand, watching boats sailing up and down the bay. It was a good day for sailing, partly cloudy, with a steady breeze that sent sailboats of all sizes skimming back and forth gracefully in and out of the shadows of the clouds. I wished I could be out there – and I knew Pierre wished it too. Gradually, the exhaustion of the night before overcame me, and I found myself nodding off to sleep.