|The Night Cafe
Author: Tawny Owl PM
Morgaine Blackwood is a witch. With a name like that she couldn't really be anything else. Welcome to The Night Cafe. You don't have to be a cliche to work here, but it helps.Rated: Fiction M - English - Parody/Supernatural - Chapters: 22 - Words: 116,780 - Reviews: 281 - Favs: 162 - Follows: 37 - Updated: 07-14-09 - Published: 05-18-08 - Status: Complete - id: 2519237
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I don't believe in magic. Belief implies I have a choice, and that I could just disregard the idea if I didn't like it. I don't believe in magic, but I know it exists. Sometimes it's hard to ignore.
"Are you going to let me in, or not?"
All I can see of him through the gap I've left in the door is his face, but I know his type: angst ridden, well groomed, undead.
All around me the bookshop creaks its curiosity. An occult bookshop obviously, but with a partiality for Jane Austen; I keep finding copies of Emma in amongst the biographies of Aleister Crowley.
"Well? Are you?"
He is bouncing up and down in the doorway desperate to push me out of the way, and knowing full well that his curse means that he can't.
"Are you Morgaine Blackwood, or not?"
I am, but it's not my fault. That's what I was christened, honestly.
"What's that got to do with it?" I snap. I'm usually only this rude to people who have woken me up in the middle of the night. Or to vampires. He is unfortunate in that he ticks both categories. I can't help it: vampires creep me out with their too smooth skin and impeccably white teeth.
He steps back and fumbles in the pockets of his trench coat, leather obviously, until he finds a piece of paper. He thrusts it at me and I take it carefully to avoid touching the slener fingers and impeccably clean nails.
The Night Café
Tired of feeling like the world doesn't understand you?
That you just don't fit in?
Come and relax in a place where everyone is as unique as you.
Proprietor Morgaine Blackwood.
I read it twice, and then move away from the door yelling for Harmony to get her organic, vegan arse down here right now.
"Will you et me in!" The vampire has a tinge of desperation in his voice now, but I'm really too angry to notice.
"You know I'm Morgaine Blackwood," I tell him with much more assurance than I feel. After all, I am wearing a pink fluffy dressing gown and bunny rabbit slippers, "so you know that if you touch me you'll regret it, but not half as much as if you touch my friend."
"Not half as much as if I stay out here," he mimics.
"Come in." If I wasn't angry and sleep deprived it might occur to me that whatever has a vampire this scared is bound to be trouble. Instead I just turn back to the stairs behind the counter and shout for Harmony again. Behind me the vampire slams the door and begins sliding the bolts closed.
"Morgaine? What's happened?" Harmony comes gliding down the stairs. With her long blonde hair and white night gown she looks suspiciously like she has escaped from a gothic horror novel. The ethereal effect is rather ruined by the cheery jingle of her ankle bracelet.
"Oh hello," she says it without shame as she sees the vampire, who is now pulling a box in front of the door. "Can we help you?"
"Stay," I point viciously at the vampire and grab Harmony's arm so I can steer her through the shop. It's squeezed into an alleyway between two other buildings, making it long and thin. It rambles through the space left by its neighbours, claiming hidden corners for it's own. Most unusual is the small wilderness in a courtyard at what I presume is the back of the property. At some stage my Great Uncle Percival managed to squash a Victorian Style Orangery into it, which he then turned into a place for chairs and tables, serviced by a small kitchen pressed into the main building. I sit Harmony down on one of the cheap plastic chairs and hand her the leaflet.
"Oh!" She turns it over in her hands and then fixes me with her wide blue eyes, "surprise!"
"Yes, it's definitely that. Please explain."
"You were just going to knock it down, and that seemed such a waste because it's such a quaint building. I had a think and decided that bookshops and coffee shops go hand in hand these days, and this would be an ethical one. The students would love it. Especially the ones in the Pagan Society. Dusty old books for the hard core wiccans and organic herbal tea for the rest."
I gape at her positive smile.
"I've been crashing in your spare room for weeks," she continues, "and I wanted to do something nice to pay you back."
"Did you actually read the leaflet before you gave it out? There's a vampire in the shop."
"Well, then you shouldn't have invited him in. Honestly, Morgaine, everyone knows that."
I can't believe she is blaming me for this. I can believe that she has accepted that there is a vampire in the shop without blinking an eye. Harmony believes in everything. When I told her I was a witch she said that it was nice. She didn't change her mind after she had met my family, and my Grandma is a traditionalist. She insists on putting eye of newt in everything, or at least claiming that she puts eye of newt in everything. After twenty-seven years of having eye of newt gravy with Sunday lunch I'm rather sceptical.
"Never mind. Do we have any garlic?"
I don't ask for crucifixes because any brand of Christianity that Harmony buys into will probably have Mary Magdalene as the Holy Grail.
"I am still here, you know?"
The vampire is clutching the doorframe looking exactly how you would expect a vampire to look. At least a certain type of vampire that likes to be confused with the romantic poets. He's wearing a frilly white shirt, open at the collar naturally, long, curly hair and expertly applied eyeliner. He has the body for the tight black jeans but I'm surprised he can move in them.
"In your uncle's day," he adjusts his lacey cuff casually, "the welcome was much warmer."
"My uncle is dead."
"Yes, I did hear the rumours. Tell me, did they ever find all the body parts?"
"I'm Harmony Fraser. Pleased to meet you." She gets up quickly. "Gosh, your hands are cold."
"Brand. Yes they are. It's because I'm dead."
"Oh, I am sorry."
"Don't be. I've been told it was no great loss to society."
"That's enough," I take Harmony firmly by the shoulder and sit her back down, "why are you here?"
Then someone knocks on the door.
"I swear," Brand throws up his hands, "I wasn't doing anything. Just minding my own business and he jumps me. He isn't even Government Registered. They're supposed to bring us in not just stake us in broad moonlight. In front of the living!"
The knock turns into a bang, and I can feel the shop diverting its energy to the door hinges. As if to make the point further it drops plaster on our heads.
"Harmony, keep Brand here and get the garlic."
"Please," he has settled himself cross legged on a table, "why do women think that just because I'm a vampire I'll stick my fangs in anything with a pulse?"
"If he comes near you," I ignore him, "stab him with this."
"You do know that's a bread knife?" he points out helpfully.
"It will still hurt," I reply, "I'll go and sort out Van Helsing."
"Thank you." He says it quietly, and with far less attitude then he has said anything so far. It almost sounds sincere, and makes me realise how young he looks. Not that its any indication of how old he is now, but there is a scrawny edge to him that would be quite endearing if I wasn't fully aware of what he'd be capable of given the right provocation.
"Don't be. I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet."
I'm aware of Harmony giving me puppy dog eyes, and I leave quickly before she asks me if we can keep him.
It takes me a while to decide what to do, but I have by the time I reach the door. Vampires do creep me out. Vampire hunters: now those I really hate. On the surface you can convince yourself that they are doing it to selflessly rid humanity of a rather nasty pest. Which they are. However the hours are long and unsociable, it's dangerous and the money is rubbish. Nobody does it unless they like it. Some of them like the image: the motorbikes and the heavy artillery. Others like the killing. I suppose vampires are better than killing real people, but some of the thought they put into it is scary. The crossbows with lines so you can reel them back in, the exploding holy water grenades, garlic presses.
Bring back the doddery old priest with nothing but a wooden crucifix and his faith, that's what I say.
I open the door and find myself confronted by a casually held crossbow. It's sleek, black and has a flashlight attached to it. I hope the person holding it has read the safety manual because the point of the bolt looks very sharp.
"Can I help?" I ask as I try to stop myself feeling like a stunned rabbit.
"It's more a question of whether I can help you?" The voice doesn't quite boom, but then it doesn't have to. It is heavy on both calm and authority, and makes me feel like a schoolgirl. Which in turn puts my back up straight away. The vampire hunter lowers the crossbow, but only slightly. I expect him to peer at me over designer sunglasses and I'm pleased to see that he isn't actually wearing any because they may look cool, but it is still three o'clock in the morning. He is wearing a muscle vest and an awful lot of knives that clank as he pushes his way through the door. I feel the shop tense slightly, and realise that it has never done that before. Not even when Brand came in. The hunter's big well-polished boots thump on the carpet as he swings the crossbow so the flashlight picks out the shelves.
"Excuse me," I pull myself up, "what are you looking for?"
"Vampires," he says without a pause. I wonder how to play this. To act dumb and shocked, or just tell him who I am and see if he knows his witches as well as his undead.
"Well, you won't find one here."
He turns slowly to face me. "Morgaine Blackwood, I'm sure you are very good at all that Hocus Pocus stuff, but you witches know shit about vampires."
He probably has a point. It's not like I go out of my way to speak to them, and when I do it's not usually to let them hide in my kitchen. Any way it's the principle of the thing: if anyone is going to stake Brand it's going to be me because now he's in here he's my responsibility, and it's his fault I'm in this mess.
"They are not to be taken lightly," he tells me with a deadly seriousness, "a mistake that I believe your family have made before with creatures of dubious humanity."
"I think I need to see some identification."
He snorts. "The government knows as much about dealing with these bloodsuckers as you do. Tagging them? I mean honestly. They're not bloody stray cats. Now where is he?"
I don't respond, but he must see my eyes flick to the kitchen because he turns on his heel and begins to stride towards the door. I follow him, bashing my knees nosily at every opportunity. The hunter stops theatrically in the doorway before pointing his flashlight at the tables until it reveals Harmony perched on her stool, clutching a bread knife and smelling faintly of garlic.
"Harmony, pleased to meet you."
"Where is he?"
"Who? The vampire? He left actually. Remembered an urgent appointment," she pauses for dramatic effect, "at the dentist."
"I see." The hunter doesn't lower his crossbow. He does however look back at me like he can't quite believe she is for real. I smile and shrug.
"I suppose," he says carefully, "you thought he was handsome, didn't you? That he talked pretty, and that the love of the right woman could change him?"
"Oh no," Harmony shakes her head, "he seems fairly confident about who he is. I did explain that it was wrong to wear leather though."
We both look at her, and then above us someone snorts out a bark of laughter they've clearly failed to keep to themselves. The three of us follow the beam of the flashlight upwards until it reveals Brand balanced precariously with his limbs braced against the rafters of the orangery.
I pop the bulb in the flashlight. It's fairly easy: magic is just manipulation of energy and matter through intent after all. I hear The Hunter swear, and the bolt crashes a hole in the roof. Harmony, to her credit, doesn't scream as I step forward twisting the crossbow away from me.
"Did it never occur to you," I hiss going into witch mode, which basically means that you act like the power of the elements are at you command even though you can barely summon a light drizzle, "that he was only here because we invited him."
"You stupid witch." I think he says witch; it could be bitch. They're easily confused sometimes. The crossbow clatters to the floor, and I'm aware of the hiss of a knife being drawn. I'm dimly beginning to realise that I should do something about it when a breeze grazes my cheek. It's caused by something moving incredibly fast in the dark.
"Can't stand not being at the top of the food chain, can we?" Brand says calmly as he sends the knife the way of the crossbow. Unfortunately the hunter has a spare, and he is about to put it to good use when Harmony hits him over the head with a frying pan. Twice. And quite accurately for someone who has to hide behind the sofa sometimes when we're watching cartoons.
"Bloody freelancer," Brand murmurs as Harmony turns on the light.
"Do you think I hurt him?"
"Yes," I tell her.
"Well, thank you for a lovely evening, ladies."
"You realise," I tell him, "that the welcome mat was a one off, don't you?"
"Until our official opening," Harmony chips in, "tell your friends."
Neither of us have the heart to point out that he probably doesn't have any. Instead he gives her a very artistic bow and leaves.
"He was sweet."
"He was a vampire." I say from the floor where I'm searching the vampire hunter's pockets. He must be an eccentric millionaire to have this many gadgets, or have an eccentric millionaire backer.
"Doesn't mean he can't be sweet."
"He sucks people's blood. As a vegan how do you stand with that?" I say it distractedly. There isn't a wallet, just keys for the motorbike and a business card. It's unassuming and black, but with a large silver pentacle embossed on the front. There's no phone number, or name, nothing. I put it in my dressing gown pocket for later.
"I don't get all dictatorial at you for eating burgers," Harmony says, "you shouldn't be so judgemental."
I raise my eyebrows at her.
"You know," I reply while I get a good grip on the hunter's boots, "I'm really going to need someone to actually run this café for me. Have you thought about that?"
"I help with the food and bills, but don't pay rent, and I'd like at least three weeks off a year." She gives me a bright grin.
"All right, but you're expected to help with the cleaning up as well."
"Of course." She grabs the hunter's shoulders, and after much negotiating of bookshelves we dump him outside next to the bike.
©Copyright Tawny Owl 2008 Fiction Press UserID 5928305