Home > Magical Midlife Madness (Leveling Up #1)(15)

Magical Midlife Madness (Leveling Up #1)(15)
Author: K.F. Breene

“Probably best not to mention that to anyone else,” I told Mr. Tom. “Maybe just…keep it between us, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Of course, madam. Whoever has lost their rocks will never hear a peep out of me.”

“What time is it?”

“Ten o’clock, madam.”

“Ten? Crap.” I struggled to sit up, hurting too much to worry about my tight tank top and lack of a bra. If Mr. Tom cared, he shouldn’t have let himself into my room without an invite. “I have to get moving.”

“Not at all, madam. I have not been up long, myself. People in this community keep slightly different hours than Dicks and Janes. They stay up to embrace the magic of the night and sleep through the uneventful day.”

It was a great excuse, I’d say that much.

“I’ll let you get up and showered. The coffee will be waiting for you.”

“Thank you.” He’d need to cut out this waiting on me stuff, lest I get used to it and not want to leave when Diana’s auntie came home, but today wouldn’t be the day.

I waited until he left before trudging to the bathroom. The shower helped somewhat, though it was clear the day would completely suck. There was no getting around that.

A cup of coffee, glass of water, and bottle of aspirin sat on a highly polished silver tray, arranged just so on the little table by the large bay window. A single white rose leaned from its porcelain vase, removed a little from the tray but clearly fresh, with a little dew still on the petals.

I smiled through the pain and glanced out the sunny window, looking at the expansive gardens below, stretching to either side with paths and benches weaving through them. Beyond the gardens loomed the large plant labyrinth that should’ve been so weird but somehow fit this place. Before I could feel too contented, I caught sight of Edgar walking across the grass, dragging a half-naked body behind him.

I flinched, bumped the table, knocked over the vase, and overturned the chair as I bounced to my feet.

“What in the—”

He was using the man’s socked ankle as a means to pull his body through the carefully tended grass. The man’s skinny jeans hugged his thin thighs, keeping in place despite the way he was being dragged along the ground. No shirt adorned the man’s upper body and a dribble of blood ran down his neck and onto his pale chest. His arms flared out to the sides and his head bobbed against the lumps on the ground.

“Oh my God,” I said, breathless, running around the table to the door. I stopped, quickly grabbed a couple of the aspirin with shaking hands, and tried to gulp them down with coffee. After burning my tongue, I swallowed them with the water instead. Priorities.

The next moment, I was running down the stairs with my phone clutched in my hand, my heart in my throat, and my fluffy white robe dancing around my calves.

“What is the matter, madam?” Mr. Tom said as I took the last couple steps to the foyer.

“Edgar is dragging a dead body.” I couldn’t believe what I was even saying. “I need to get a picture for evidence. Call the cops!”

“Oh no, I’m sure there is some logical explanation for this.”

I ripped open the door. “Call the cops!”

“Wait, madam—”

I ran across the front lawn and around the side of the house, confronted with a tall wooden fence with a large metal handle. I charged through, realizing too late that the gate led to a path of tan-colored rock dotted with little cement squares.

“Ow,” I said, the sharp points of the decorative rocks jabbing into my bare feet. “Ow. Dang it. Ow!”

“Madam, where are your slippers? I left them just below the robe.” Mr. Tom kept tight to my heels. It was probably good in case Edgar lashed out.

“Should’ve brought a weapon,” I said, half limping and half jumping to each little cement square.

Edgar reached the edge of the grass, coming my way. I hurried to intercept.

“I’ve caught you.” I pointed and shouted before unlocking my phone. “I’ve caught you red-handed. I’m calling the cops.”

Edgar halted his advance. He dropped the leg and raised his hands like he was being robbed, his nails much too long and quite yellow. “What’s happening?”

“What’s happening?” I repeated in disbelief, balanced on one of the cement squares, my feet and head both pounding with pain. I tapped into the camera. “That’s happening.” I pointed at the man laying haphazardly at Edgar’s feet. “Get my back, Mr. Tom, in case he charges.”

“His charging days are long over, madam,” Mr. Tom replied. “He’s more inclined to hobble. At best he might haltingly shamble. He really isn’t what he used to be.”

Edgar looked down at the man he’d been dragging. “No, no, he won’t run. He’ll be out for another few hours, at least.”

“I meant you. You charging is what I’m worried…” I tapped into the phone app and hit nine before Edgar’s words filtered in. I lowered the phone marginally. “Another few hours?”

“Oh yes, he’s just stunned.” Edgar smiled at me reassuringly, his yellow teeth stained with wine, probably similar to mine, making his canines seem disproportionately long. “He had too much fun.”

“It’s the drag of shame, isn’t that right, Edgar?” Mr. Tom said.

Edgar’s brow furrowed. His arms were still raised.

“Rather than the walk of shame, it’s the drag of shame, get it?” Mr. Tom prompted. “Because you’re dragging him? After a night of partying?”

“It’s not funny if you have to explain it,” I murmured, peering at the man. “But…he’s got blood on him. And he’s not moving. You’re dragging him, for criminy sakes.”

“Oh, the blood.” Edgar looked down on the man again. “Yes. That. That’s because…” He paused. “He…hurt himself.”

“Did he fall down the stairs or something?” Mr. Tom asked.

“Yes!” Edgar pointed at Mr. Tom. “Yes, exactly. He hurt himself falling down the stairs. Dicks tend to be clumsy. I was just walking him to get a…”

“Band-Aid,” Mr. Tom said.

“Yes! Exactly. A Band-Aid. So there, you see? All is normal.”

“We are—ow!—a long way—oh—from normal!” I gritted my teeth over the last couple of feet of rock, my phone held out like a shield, and sighed when I got to the grass. “Get back!” I shifted my phone up, pointing it at him like a gun. It had many uses, all of the current ones imaginary. Thankfully, Edgar complied easily, his hands still raised as if he were the innocent victim of a hold up.

I placed two fingers on the neck of the half-naked man, his skin clammy and chilled. A pulse throbbed back, strong and sure.

“What’s going on here?”

Relief washed over me. I turned in my crouch to find Niamh near the opened gate, her hands on her hips and her one breast hanging low in her loose shirt.

Before I could tattle on Edgar, she continued, “Edgar, what are you doing with my date? And for the love of the gods, what happened to my rocks?”

“Your date?” I asked.

“Your rocks?” Edgar asked.

“Trespasser,” Mr. Tom shouted.

“Yes. Your date.” Edgar reached down and picked up the man’s ankle again. “I was just bringing him—”

“Getting a Band-Aid,” Mr. Tom said, repeating the ludicrous story.

“Yes, yes.” Edgar blinked like all this was starting to be too much. I was in the exact same boat. “I was just walking him to get a Band-Aid because he…he fell down the stairs. And started bleeding. But then I was going to return him to you. Since…he’s your date.”

“Who took the rocks?” Mr. Tom nodded at me, like I should play along.

“Your date?” I asked again, standing slowly. “From last night? He’s…” I looked down at the twenty-some-odd kid, remembering the two younger guys sitting in the corner of the bar. They’d seemed somewhat lacking in both looks and brains, judging on a few snippets of conversation I’d overheard, and I could imagine they’d be desperate. Alcohol would probably have softened Niamh’s intense scowl. As far as the extreme age gap…well, who was I to judge? If a woman wanted to experience a younger buck, no matter how ridiculous, who was I to say boo? I didn’t like being judged, and so I wouldn’t judge anyone else. Of course, that explained nothing else about our current situation.

“A little green?” Niamh finished for me. “True, but they have more stamina. Harder—”

“Good lord, woman,” Mr. Tom said, aghast.

Her eyebrows shot up. “Secret is out, old bones. And when I say bones, I really mean—”

“No.” I held up my hand. “No, never mind. But…why is he here, being dragged across the grass by Edgar?”

“He said he was handy, so I sent him over to Edgar’s to fix the…thing while I cooked breakfast for the poor wee lad. But it’s time he headed home, Edgar. Quit monopolizing his time.” She stomped forward, peering hard at the decorative rocks under her rain boots as she went.

I wasn’t going to ask about her choice of shoes on a sunny morning. It was just one odd detail too many.

“This doesn’t sound right,” I said as Niamh grabbed the man’s ankle out of Edgar’s hand. “Why would he go to Edgar’s with his shirt off?”

“Oh no. I removed that because of the bite—the blood! When he hurt himself. On the stairs.”

I stared at Edgar helplessly. Niamh dragged the guy toward the rocks.

“At least pick him up. He’ll get all scratched up,” I said listlessly.

“It’s his penance for all the crap he was talkin’,” Niamh said, not heeding my words. “An absolute wanker.”

So it was one of those guys from the corner. That part of the story checked out, at least. I’d left her with them last night.

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