In "The Mix-up Part I" Dev Starkhart acquired her magical learning permit, and is now on the road to getting her Jinn License. She was assigned her first client, only to discover too late that instead of a Level One she was assigned to a Level Five client. Now Dev has to figure out how to grant three wishes to a rich and skeptical human who has no idea what he wants.
"The Mix-up Part II"
10337 Briar Avenue, Penthouse
Ian O'Connor stepped into the elegant penthouse apartment that he now shared with his fifteen year old sister and her legal guardian Donna Evens. He had never felt comfortable there. The country house had always been home to Ian. The penthouse was just the city residence his parents used when there was business in town that had to be personally taken care of. He and Katie had never spent much time there. The penthouse held none of the sights and smells that he associated with his parents. Ian had felt the strong ache of homesickness ever since he set foot back in the city, and the penthouse just wasn't cutting it. The incident downstairs had left Ian rattled, and the one thing- the only thing -that could have calmed his nerves had been burned out of existence.
He slunk quietly down the hall, knowing that he was later than Katie would have liked him to be. She would have a fit if her friends caught sight of him. Not that any of them knew who he was, at least it wasn't likely. Teenage girls didn't follow business tycoons the way they followed Hollywood stars. And even if they did, Ian hadn't been on the scene in quite some time. Not since his father had died. After that, he lost interest in… well, everything: business, work, life.
That was another thing that bothered him. The woman downstairs had known his name but not his face. Usually it was the other way around. People used to come up to him and say, "Gee, you seem familiar. What's your name?" Most often it was because someone had seen a photograph of him and his father in passing while skimming a magazine. No one outside of the business world had ever recognized his name without a picture next to it.
But what really had Ian spooked was the fact that he had told no one he was back, not even his father's old business partners. How did a strange woman, who looked like she was ready for a night on the town, know the name Ian O'Connor, track it to the Le Lumineux, and most importantly why had he told her where he lived? She could be a reporter for all he knew. He had just uttered the truth in a moment of surprised panic. Now that he had time to collect his thoughts, he realized someone must have leaked the information, someone who knew he was back. There were only two possible suspects, but Ian had a sinking feeling he already knew who the culprit was.
"There you are," Katie hissed as he tried to sneak into the kitchen. The sound of giggling teenage girls wafted from the living room. She glanced behind her surreptitiously and pulled Ian aside. "You are so late. Quick, in the office before they see you!"
"But I'm hungry-"
Katie shoved him through the French doors leading to their late father's office and pulled the curtains shut.
"I had Donna save you a plate of honeyed ham, potato soup, and Caesar salad. It's on the desk."
"Thanks. And that's Mrs. Evens to you, be respectful."
Katie rolled her eyes. "Yeah, whatever," and quietly pulled the doors shut, leaving her brother to dine by himself.
Ian tried to relax and picked up the bowl of soup. He couldn't bring himself to sit in the black leather chair on the other side of the desk. It was still his father's place. He wondered as he ate, how long Katie's friends would be here. Were they spending the night, and if so, did Katie intend for him to sleep in here? Being homeless for five years or so, Ian couldn't really complain. But he had to admit, now that he had had a taste of a nice warm bed, he would be loath to give it up again.
The bell rang, signaling someone downstairs was requesting to come up. Probably another of Katie's friends. How big was this dinner party supposed to be? There must be twenty girls in the apartment already. Ian shook his head in amazement and finished off the soup.
The sound of the office door opening made Ian jump and nearly choke on the spoon that was still in his mouth. Katie poked her head in, glaring at him shrewdly.
"I thought you said no one knew you were back in town," she stage whispered. Ian arched his eyebrows in surprise.
"They don't, or they shouldn't. Unless you've told someone…" he trailed off. Katie's jaw dropped slightly at the accusatory implication.
"Why would I do that so close to my birthday?" she asked, her voice rising. "You think I want to share the spotlight with my brother?"
"Don't worry," he muttered and picked up the plate with the ham on it. "The spotlight is all yours."
Katie huffed and glared at him a second longer. "The front desk called. It's for you," she told him grudgingly and made a show of stomping back to her party. Ian frowned and set down his dinner. It crossed his mind that this could possibly be the woman from outside. Half of him wanted to leave her standing down there, but the other half insisted this would be a perfect opportunity to clear things up.
He left the office and called the front desk, instructing that the visitor be escorted to the elevator. A few moments later, there was a ding from the door and, sure enough, it opened to reveal the same woman who had stopped him before. She stood there in a sparkling periwinkle tank top that flowed loosely down to her hips, and skin tight jeans. Three gold bangles circled her left wrist, and two studs glittered beneath her bottom lip. A black pair of strappy stilettos gave her an inch and a half of extra height. She perched her bug-eyed sunglasses on top of her dark pixie hair and looked him over just as he was doing to her.
"How did you get here?" he asked, still wondering how she had managed to associate Ian O'Connor with this place. She raised an eyebrow and gave him a look; the same look he was receiving from Katie more and more these days. It was a expression that seemed to ask, Your brain is fully functional, isn't it?
"On a magic carpet," she said dryly. "I would have scaled the building too, instead of using the elevator, but I'm having kind of an off night." If the whole situation wasn't so stressful, Ian would have laughed. Instead, he sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"What do you want?" he asked, cutting straight to the chase. At this, a mischievous smile graced her lips. Ian stood up a little straighter and moved his body to block more of space between her and the rest of the hallway.
"It's not what I want, but what you want," she said and gave him a coy grin.
Ian snorted derisively. "Look, I don't care if you're some sort of weird hooker or just trying to sell me a magazine subscription. If you don't get out now, I'll call security." He jabbed the close door button and watched the door begin to slide shut. The woman's jaw clenched in annoyance, and she shifted her weight, crossing her arms until she completely disappeared inside the elevator. Ian breathed a sigh of relief and turned around to head back to his dinner in the office, only to nearly bump into the woman in the sparkly blue top.
"Gah!" He jumped back and clutched the side of the hallway table. "What… h-how did you…" he stuttered, looking back and forth between the woman and the closed elevator where she should have been.
"Why didn't you tell me you were Ian O'Connor when I asked?" she demanded, glaring at him suspiciously.
"H-how did you do that?" His voice broke as he stared at her, wide-eyed.
"Oh, right," she said, rolling her eyes and reached into her clutch. "The introduction, I almost forgot. Don't think you've avoided answering my questions, though." She pulled out a folded piece of paper and attempted to smooth out the creases without dropping her purse. Finally, she held it out in front of her and squinted. "Congratulations, Mr. O'Connor," she began, reading mechanically. "You are the lucky recipient of three wishes. My name is Devan P. Starkhart, and I will be your Jinn - uh, genie in this case - until said wishes have been fulfilled. Before we get started, there are three simple rules we need to go over."
Ian finally came to his senses and realized he was gaping at her, jaw dropped. Was this really happening? Maybe Katie was secretly having him filmed, and he'd end up seeing this encounter on America's Funniest Home Videos.
"Hey," the woman - Devan - said, waving her hand in front of his face. "Are you paying attention? The rules are sort of important."
"Rules?" Ian was vaguely aware that he sounded like he was choking on something. "What rules? What's going on?"
"They're pretty straightforward, actually," she said in a bored voice and crossed her arms. "If you've ever seen the Disney movie Aladdin, it's basically the same thing. I can't bring anyone back from the dead," she ticked off the first rule on her finger, "I can't make anyone fall in or out of love, and you can't wish for more wishes."
Ian sucked in a breath to say… well, he wasn't sure what he was going to say. Katie interrupted him, though. She came storming quietly through the kitchen and into the front hall. A few blond hairs had managed to escape her high ponytail, and they were beginning to curl around her face. Her brown eyes looked like they were on fire, and her cheeks were a livid shade of red.
"Oh. My. Gosh," she hissed, practically spitting. "Shut up!" At the sound of many giggling teenage girls, Katie's hands clenched into fists. Ian noticed several of her friends peeking their doll-like faces around the corner curiously and snickering behind their manicured hands. "Take it in the office," she growled and pointed, like a mother banishing a naughty child to a time-out.
Ian felt his face flush, but now was not the time to scold his little sister. Still running on autopilot, Ian grabbed Devan roughly by the wrist and dragged her back to the office.
"Time for the grand tour already?" she drawled, stumbling over her shoes. Ian slammed the doors behind them, making the glass shake. He turned around slowly, his face burning from embarrassment and simmering with rage.
"Listen," he said, his voice dangerously low, and ran a hand through his hair, "I don't know what your deal is, but -"
"Seriously?" she interrupted. "I just told you what my deal is."
"Just sit down!" he snapped. Devan's eyes widened and she jumped up on the desk, mutely. Ian patted his pockets, searching for his cell phone. What had he done with it? He gave up finally, and snatched the cordless from the desk.
"What are you doing?" she asked softly, and eyed him as he punched in the numbers.
"Calling security," he muttered. She snorted and rolled her eyes, but didn't say anything. She even chuckled a bit once he hung up. Ian narrowed his eyes at her, but she just swung her feet back and forth and continued to grin like the Mona Lisa. "Stay in here," he said gruffly and left the office.
The Hall of Processing and Records
Brian Lampa sat in the grand foyer of the HPR, his foot tapping impatiently against the marble floor. He had made his first appointment with the Director of Processing and Records in the hopes that maybe he could nab Dev's file before it was passed on. The heel of his sneaker struck the floor with a staccato popping, as his mind raced through worst case scenarios. If he couldn't get Dev reassigned, she would be stuck with Ian O'Connor for who knew how long. And what would happen to him once this error was discovered. It was his job after all, as an advisor, to make sure everything was in order before Dev secured the Magical Restraint.
"Mr. Lampa." Brian looked up from his worrying hands. A middle aged receptionist who appeared to be more preoccupied with zapping away the gray hairs on her head, gave him a brief glance as she said, "Mr. Barkley will see you now."
Brian jumped up and wiped his palms on his jeans once more for good measure, before making his way through the mahogany double doors. The hallway was long and foreboding. With its tall ceiling, marble floor, and dark woodwork, it echoed the essence of the foyer. However, the narrow walls and low-hanging chandeliers made Brian feel a little claustrophobic. Ed Barkley's office was at the very end of the hall, with a silver plaque that read, "Director" in jet black script.
"Come in," called a wheezy voice before Brian even had the chance to knock. He poked his head in curiously. Even when he had worked for the HPR, Brian had never had a reason to visit the director. The man sat in a tall, black, leather chair, one hand resting on his rotund belly as he contemplated a stack of papers sitting on his desk. Brian noted with amusement that Barkley, while high in status, appeared to be short in stature judging from the fact that his shiny black shoes barely touched the floor. The director was also suffering an unfortunate comb over atop his exposed scalp.
"Ah," Barkley sniffled and wiped his red button nose with a limp handkerchief. "You must be Mr. Lampa." He braced his short, pudgy arms against his chair and heaved himself into a standing position. It took all of Brian's self-control not to smirk as the one button on Barkley's suit that strained across his middle stretched even tighter as the director waddled around his desk.
"Yes sir, that would be me," Brian said and smiled in a way that he hoped didn't look mocking.
"Ed Barkley, director of the Hall of Processing and Records." Barkley thrust his meaty hand forward and seized Brian's in an enthusiastic handshake. "What can I do for you, son?"
The million dollar question, Brian thought and took the seat to which Barkley gestured.
"I've got a little bit of a problem," he admitted somewhat sheepishly. "I'm afraid there's been some sort of mistake."
Barkley smiled and wiped his nose as he hoisted himself back into his leatherback chair. "I gathered that much," he wheezed. "Now let's see if we can clear this up, shall we?"
With those words, for the first time that day, Brian truly believed that this situation might work out just fine. Dev would be reassigned to a Level One client, she would earn her Jinn license, and he would move on to tutor another student. "You see Mr. Barkley," he began, "my advisee Devan Starkhart is working her first training assignment so she can get her Jinn license. Well, you know how excited genies can be - she, um… sort of attached the Magical Restraint before fully reading through her file.
"I realize I should have stopped her," he said hurriedly, seeing the look of disapproval on Barkley's face. "But sir, I don't think this kind of mistake has ever happened before."
"And what kind of mistake would that be?" asked Barkley, who sounded more than a little skeptical.
Brian gulped. "Somehow sir, Devan Starkhart was assigned a Level Five client." He expected the director to blanch, or choke, or scream at him even. Barkley's actual reaction was much more terrifying than Brian could have imagined.
At first it was just a small chuckle, but then it grew. Barkley's belly wobbled, straining that middle button on his jacket dangerously. His fleshy face changed from mildly flushed to beet red. Brian shifted uncomfortably, wondering if the man was about to suffer a heart attack.
Finally, Barkley managed to control himself and wiped the tears from his merry cheeks. "Is that all?" He guffawed again and slapped the top of his desk. "Well don't look so serious, young man. Just let me put in a few calls."
Brian slumped back in his seat. For a moment, he thought the news of such an error had caused the director to go daffy. It seemed though, that this mistake wasn't quite as catastrophic as he had supposed. Barkley certainly didn't appear to be worried. He sat across from Brian, chortling as he spun the dial to call whoever it was that solved these things.
The situation was starting to look up. He couldn't wait to tell Dev.
10337 Briar Ave, Penthouse
"Sorry to bother you with this," Ian said to officer Dennis Wazowski.
"Not a problem, Mr. O'Connor." Wazowski was young, around Ian's age. He was shorter than Ian, but had a stockier build. He figured in a hypothetical fight, they would be pretty evenly matched. According to Donna, Wazowski had only started working at the Le Luminous a few months before Ian's return, but he had proved to helpful and competent. "You said that you left her in here?" Wazowski pointed to the office door.
Wazowski put a hand to his belt, just over his gun and threw the door open. Ian braced himself for a commotion, but the penthouse was oddly silent. Silent except for the giggling and screaming teenage girls, that is. Ian turned back to Wazowski, only find him peering curiously into the office and wearing a frown.
"What is it?"
The officer seemed hesitant to answer him, but eventually said, "Are you sure this is where you left her?" Ian looked over Wazowski's shoulder. The room beyond him was empty. Ian swore under his breath. Wazowski turned to him cautiously. "Mr. O'Connor, how dangerous would you say this woman is?"
"She's not dangerous," Ian growled. "I just want her gone!"
"Okay, okay." Wazowski held up a hand, trying to calm Ian down. "We'll search the apartment. The penthouse elevator requires a key, so she has to be here somewhere."
They began in the office: looking underneath the desk, beneath the chairs, even behind bookcases. Next, they turned the master bedroom over but found nothing. Ian searched Katie's room while Wazowski hesitantly asked a startled Donna Evans if he could search her quarters. Finally, the last place to be thoroughly checked was the living room. Ian could practically see the steam escaping through Katie's ears as he ushered he into the hallway to make his request.
"Absolutely not!" she said, forgetting her resolve not to raise her voice. Her friends must have been listening to the encounter very intently, because their chatter had faded to muted whisperings. "You're telling me that you let some strange woman into the house and lost her, and now you want to ruin my birthday party?"
"I promise I'll make it up to you," said Ian, trying not to groan. "Just let us take a look around, and then the living room is all yours again."
"Where am I supposed to take them?" Katie stomped her foot and put her hands on her hips. "There isn't anywhere else we can all fit!"
"The veranda might do," Wazowski said thoughtfully. At the suggestion that she escort her friends outside onto the porch, Ian thought Katie's head might explode.
"Five minutes," he pleaded. Katie shot him her most venomous glare. Ian was certain he would have rather been facing down an angry, fire breathing dragon instead of his little sister at that moment.
"Five minutes," she repeated. Katie stalked back to the living room where she made the miraculous transformation from murderous winged reptile to charming hostess, and began herding her guests outside to admire the scenic view.
Unfortunately, it didn't take even five minutes to realize that the mysterious woman was not hiding in the living room either. Wazowski fidgeted, not knowing what to do in a situation like this, while Ian simply scratched his head. How had she managed to escape the penthouse without an elevator key, or without being noticed by himself, Katie, and twenty other girls. Not to mention someone downstairs would have seen her go, as well.
"Well…" Wazowski rocked back and forth on his heels. "What would you like me to do now, Mr. O'Connor?"
"You can go back downstairs, Dennis. I'll call you again if I need you." The officer nodded and headed back to the elevator. Ian tapped on the window and gave Katie a thumbs-up to let her know that the living room was all hers once again. He trudged back to the office with the sinking realization that his dinner was probably cold now. He was hungry enough though, that it didn't really matter. Ian opened the office doors, and for the second time that night he was utterly stopped in his tracks.
There sat Devan P. Starkhart on the desk, eating his honeyed ham.
"Not bad," she said through a mouthful. "It could use a go through the microwave, though." Ian stared, and stared, and stared. Then he blinked; once, twice, three times. She was still there.
"No, no, no," he said, shaking his finger. "This is impossible!"
"Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. I once had a brother who-"
Ian interrupted her by banging his fist against the doorjamb. "Who are you? What do you want?"
She rolled her eyes. "We've been over this. I'm Dev Starkhart, I'm a genie, and I'm here to grant you three wishes." The rising noise level must have started to attract the attention of Katie's guests, for now Ian could hear not just Katie coming to tell him off, but a group of her friends as well. How was he going to explain this? The last thing he needed was for these rich girls to go home and tell stories about Katie O'Connor's strange brother Ian.
"Quick," he said, grabbing Devan by the arm and dragging her bodily from the office. He didn't give her any time for a sarcastic retort before pulling her into the bathroom and shoving her behind the shower curtain. Ian jumped back into the hallway just as Katie and her entourage rounded the corner. "Hi, girls," he said and smiled. A few of them giggled and blushed. "How's the party?"
"Fine, all things considered," said Katie haughtily, and eyed his appearance suspiciously. "What are you doing?"
"I was just showing officer Wazowski to the elevator, not that it's any of your business." He tacked that last bit on in a way that suggested that they were going to have a talk about her attitude later.
"Right," she said disbelievingly. "Well, we're just getting more popcorn." And with that, Katie expertly redirected all of the girls who were batting their eyelashes at him into the kitchen.
Ian slumped against the bathroom door. If this Devan Starkhart was who she claimed to be - and here Ian cringed at the very thought that he might be entertaining the notion - then how on earth was he going to keep this a secret from Katie? He sighed and decided that he should at least let her out of the bathroom.
"That was a close call," said a voice that was becoming increasingly familiar, and a voice that also happened to be standing right next to him. Ian jumped and had to restrain the urge to hit something.
"You have got to stop doing that."
Devan grinned and elbowed him playfully in the ribs. "Does this mean you're going to stop trying to evict me?"
"Oh no. I'll find a way." Ian gripped Devan by the shoulder and guided her to the other side of the hall. "But for tonight, you can sleep in here." He opened a cream colored door to reveal a spacious linen closet. Well, it was spacious for a linen closet anyway.
"Are you kidding me?" Devan gaped at the tiny room. "You don't have a guest room?"
"Of course I have a guest room. But being a guest implies that you're welcome, which you're not."
She pondered this for a moment before she shrugged. "Fair enough," she grumbled and attempted to make herself comfortable on the floor.
Ian smirked at her from above and reached out to pull the cord for the hanging light. "Sweet dreams," he said in a sing-song voice and plunged the closet into darkness, leaving Dev alone. Dev muttered and groaned as she scooted around on the floor, pulling sheets and towels down from the shelves for padding. It helped a little, but not much.
Until reassignment, this job was going to be long and miserable.