Lost by Magic
The eggs on the pan sizzled as Frankie Walker attempted to flip them. He was simultaneously trying to review the paperwork he needed to present to his latest clients. They were purchasing a 1950s colonial on the west side of Erie. So far, the sale had been a nightmare, but Frankie didn’t know if that was more because it was one of his first or if it was due to the people involved: the sellers and the sellers’ agent included.
The odor hitting his nose turned his attention away from the paperwork. He looked down and saw that the eggs had taken on a much darker hue than they should look. Even as he turned the burner off, they had already started to blacken.
“Damn it!” he muttered to himself as he moved the pan away from the burner.
“What’s that smell?” Frankie’s daughter Samantha asked as she came into the kitchen.
“I burned the eggs.”
At the toaster, she said, “And the toast! Dad, this is smoking!” She reached and pulled the plug from the wall, then grabbed her father’s stack of paperwork and began fanning the tendrils of smoke away.
Frankie leaned back against the counter and rolled his neck. “This is what I get for trying to multi-task. I just wanted you to have a good breakfast before your first day of college.”
Samantha fished in the fridge and came out with a tub of yogurt and a carton of strawberries. “I appreciate the effort, but really, I don’t need a big fanfare. I only have two classes today.”
“But it’s still a thing to celebrate,” he said. “My baby girl’s in college! I’m so proud of you.”
“What’s that smell?” Frankie’s other daughter, Kathy, came into the kitchen wearing her pajamas: a T-shirt and plaid shorts.
“Dad burned breakfast.”
“Again?” she asked. “I know you want to play all the parental roles, but why don’t you accept the fact that you’re no good in the kitchen? I think it’s time that one of us takes that over.”
“She means me,” Samantha said from the kitchen table. She was cutting up strawberries to add to her yogurt parfait.
Frankie dumped the ruined eggs in the garbage, then set the pan in the sink. “I just don’t want to overwhelm you girls.”
“Dad, I have two classes today and then I’m done,” Samantha said.
“Wrong. You’ll have homework that you’ll want to get ahead of so you don’t fall behind.”
She popped a strawberry in her mouth. “You know me. I’ll have a schedule for myself sooner than later.”
Kathy laughed. “Of course you will.”
Frankie fished out the charred pieces of bread from the toaster with a butter knife. “You could stand to learn a thing or two from her. This is your senior year. Make it the best yet.”
“Hey, my grades have been doing better.”
“But still not your best.” He gave her a look. “You’re capable of so much more, Kathy. You just need to focus.”
She poured herself a bowl of cereal. “Yeah, yeah.” Turning to her sister, Kathy asked, “Are you nervous for your first day?”
“Really?” Frankie asked.
“Okay, maybe a little.”
“I could drop you off on my way into the office.”
“No! I’m not having my daddy drop me off on my first day of college.” Samantha shook her head. “Nope. Not going to happen. You bought me a car this summer. Let me get your money’s worth out of it.”
“Yeah. It’s not like she ever lets me drive it,” Kathy complained.
“Oh please,” Samantha said. “Like you have big plans today.”
“What are your plans for today?” Frankie asked his daughter.
Kathy tapped his spoon against her bottom lip. “Hmm, let’s see: it’s my last week of summer before school starts, so I’d say I’m going to lay around the house, maybe go see Trisha, catch up on Family Ties. You know, the important stuff.”
“Didn’t you have summer reading to do?” Frankie asked.
“I finished that the first week of summer,” she said. “I knew I wouldn’t want to do it so I got it out of the way. And the paper that went along with it.”
Samantha finished up the last of her yogurt and then rose to her feet. “Okay. I have to get going. I’ll see you all later.” She brought her bowl to the sink and then grabbed her bag from the chair. She walked out, then returned and muttered, “Forgot my keys.”
“Sam, you’ve got some schmutz on your face.” Kathy pointed to her own face to indicate where.
“Oh, shoot.” Samantha grabbed a paper towel and wiped at her mouth. “Better?”
Frankie reached for his oldest daughter. “Honey, come here.”
Samantha sighed as her father pulled her in for a hug.
“You’re going to do great today. Just relax and try your best.” He kissed the top of her head.
She squeezed him back tightly once, then let go and rushed out the door.
After the front door closed, Kathy looked at her dad and said, “You trust her driving when she’s obviously a nervous wreck like that?”
“Part of being a parent is knowing when to let go,” he said. “You’ll figure that out when you have your own kids someday.” He grabbed his coffee carafe, a banana, and his paperwork, then leaned down to kiss Kathy on the top of her head. “I have to get to the office. Don’t burn the place down.”
“I’ll try not to!” she promised as he left.
The whole way into the office, Frankie thought about Samantha and hoped that she would do okay. He knew she was ready for college, but he also knew that she had a tendency of taking on everything herself without asking for help from anyone. He just hoped that she would be able to have the frame of mind to accept help from other people as she went through college, and beyond.
Frankie spent the morning reviewing the paperwork he had tried to read over during his failed attempt to make breakfast. It was probably a good thing he waited, because there were several errors he had to correct, which required him to retype the whole thing on his typewriter.
By the time he was done, he needed a break from typing and broke out the list of former clients his boss, Arthur Freeman, had given him. He said every once in a while, if a new agent had a hard time getting new clients, that they would go through an old client list and call them up to “check in.” In other words, put the idea in their heads that they might want to sell their house.
As if that was a decision to be made on a spur-of-the-moment phone call.
But, nevertheless, Frankie was getting desperate and the cold calls were the only way he could seem to improve his portfolio.
The phone calls were just as he’d expected: a waste of time. He got several hang-ups, two people who were “not interested,” and one woman who wanted to divulge her whole life story. Frankie was grateful to see his friend Gary walk into the open office just to get the woman off the phone.
“Thank you for showing up when you did,” Frankie told Gary after he hung the phone up.
“Rough day at the office?” Gary took a seat in the chair across from Frankie’s desk.
Frankie half wondered if there was a layer of dust on the chair, seeing how there had been so few of his clients sitting in it. “You have no idea.”
“So, are you happy you made the switch?”
The two of them had met when Frankie was working for the City of Erie in the Public Works Department. Gary, who was a police detective, had his offices in City Hall as well. Over lunchtime chitchat, the two had formed a natural friendship.
Six months ago, Frankie made the switch from Public Works to real estate. Setting his own hours and potentially earning more money were the alluring part—especially since he had his duties as a witch to maintain—but at the moment he was regretting his decision.
The look Frankie offered his friend said as much without a word having been spoken.
“That bad, huh?” Gary asked.
“I’m still trying to build a client base. I’ve been making phone calls to people asking if they want to sell their house.” Frankie rolled his eyes. “As if that works.”
“You sure this real estate thing is a good fit for you?” Gary asked quietly. “You were typically outside, working job sites—working with your hands. Now you’re pushing papers for a living and wearing a tie. It’s not really your style.”
Absently, Frankie flattened his tie against himself. “It’s what I thought would be best for my family.”
“And has it been?” Gary asked, then quickly added, “Sorry. None of my business. Sometimes it’s hard to turn my detective brain off.”
Frankie sighed. “It’s fine. Truth be told, it hasn’t been. I’ve taken a financial hit since I started this. Burned through the buffer in my savings that I had built up for myself before making the move. In all honesty, if I don’t make a decent sale soon, I may need to take a mortgage out on the house. Hey, you’re not looking to sell your house, are you?”
Gary laughed. “No can do, sir. My wife would kill me. But look, if there’s any other way I can help you out, just let me know.”
“Thanks. I’m trying not to tell the girls all of this. I don’t want them to know how bad things are. I mean, I just bought Samantha a car. I don’t want to have to take it away from her too. And I’d like to buy Kathy a car next year when she finishes high school, but that’s just not going to happen as it stands right now.” He sucked in another deep breath and sat back in his chair. “It’s just been very hard.”
“I know. I can’t imagine what it’s like being a single parent. At least your girls are old enough to understand everything you’re doing for them.”
Frankie shrugged. “That does help.”
“Look, I just stopped by to see if you wanted to go to lunch,” Gary said. “But it seems like you’re busy, so I’ll try again tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ll keep my ears open for anyone I know of who is looking to buy or sell their house. You’ll be the first guy I call.”
Later that afternoon, Frankie had grown tired of the fruitless cold calls and decided to call it a day. Everyone else had already left, including the office manager, Sherry, who was notorious for being the last one out the door.
Frankie hoped he could get home quick enough so he could have some time alone with Samantha to talk to her one-on-one about her day before Kathy got back from Trisha’s. Samantha was usually much more willing to open up about her struggles when they were alone.
Frankie stuffed the list of old clients in a folder, grabbed his keys, and set out into the parking lot to drive home.
He had parked in the far corner of the lot. As he began to unlock the door, he noticed the reflection of someone behind him in the rear window.
Spinning around, Frankie was face-to-face with a large man with an expressionless look. Frankie was immediately on edge.
“Oh. Hi. Didn’t see you there.” He tried to play it off casually, but the look on the man’s face said otherwise.
Dropping his papers to the ground, Frankie jumped out of the way as the man’s fist came down on the hood of Frankie’s car.
When the man turned to Frankie, fire erupted from his hands, surrounding his fists.
Okay. Definitely supernatural of some sort, Frankie thought to himself as he tried to figure out his options. Attack in broad daylight or let the man run wild with fire burning from his hands?
When the man hurled a ball of fire in Frankie’s direction, the witch telekinetically sent it soaring through the air away from him.
The man tossed another, then another, forcing Frankie back through the parking lot and toward Peach Street. Frankie deflected each attack, fully aware of the potential targets passing by on the street. Not to mention the witnesses. The last thing he needed was to have his magic exposed.
On the opposite end of the parking lot was a garage that the maintenance guy used to store everything he needed for the property. If Frankie could lure the man over to the garage, he could guarantee that there wouldn’t be any fly fireballs hurting anyone.
Except, maybe himself.
On the tree overhanging the parking lot was a loose branch. Frankie eyed it, then flicked two fingers at it, sending it flying down right onto the man.
As he fell to the ground, Frankie sprinted for the garage. He chanced a look behind him as he ran to make sure the guy was still on the ground and when he turned to face forward again, two other men were suddenly standing in front of the garage.
Both of them wielded knives.
Frankie put up his hands. “Whoa. Easy there.”
Both men twirled the knives between their fingers menacingly as they stepped toward the witch. In the next breath, they both threw the knives right at Frankie.
Palms out, he sent the knives flying back toward them, landing squarely in the chests of the two men. Instead of falling to the ground, however, they simply faded into nothingness. Disappearing as if they had never been standing there in the first place.
Frankie looked around, trying to catch his breath. Where had those men come from? And why were they—
Behind him he spotted the first man was back on his feet. This time, both of his arms were surrounded by his supernatural firepower. He raised his arms and the flame shot out in Frankie’s direction.
The witch was quick. He put up both hands, taking a wide stance on the pavement, and sent the flame flying straight back at the man. As the flames consumed him, the man didn’t scream or show any sign of injury. Just like the others, he simply faded out of existence.
Frankie breathed a sigh of relief, then quickly looked around the parking lot to make sure that nobody else popped up out of nowhere. Fixing his shirt that had come untucked, he made his way back to his car.
After picking up the papers and the keys that he had dropped, he opened the car door and was about to get in when he saw another man standing behind him. He wore a black robe and had a long white beard that hung over the front of his robe. His skin was sagging with wrinkles, and the hard arch of his eyebrows conveyed a mean demeanor.
Immediately, his hands went up defensively.
“What do you want?” Frankie demanded. “Why do you keep attacking me?”
“To test you,” the man said. “You’ve passed.”
“A test? For what?”
“We should go somewhere to talk,” the man said. “Privately.”