dean h. wild scrybe
dean wild

This sample is from "Harm None," a short story which appears in Bell, Book & Beyond, published in 2000 by Design Image. Copyright 2000, Dean H. Wild.

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Harm None

by Dean H. Wild

"One simple answer," Wooten looked at him with those sunken, beady eyes of his, "Do you have the power or don't you?"

Dan Kessner smiled even though the old taste, the taste of blood was boiling up into the back of his throat. He sat back and folded his hands calmly so they wouldn't squirm together in his lap. "We all have the power, Mr. Wooten."

"Bullshit," the man strode close to him, hands in the pockets of his wool coat. The door to Dan's apartment still stood open behind him, "I didn't come here for any of that New Age rhetoric you people seem to be so handy with. I want to know if you can help me."

"I'm not sure what it is you need." Dan grinned.

Whatever it was that brought Harold Wooten to his door, however, was nothing good. The taste of blood told him that. He wanted Wooten to go away, but that was not likely. He wanted to ask Wooten to leave but that was not a possibility either, was it? You didn't ask a man with Wooten's influence and Wooten's money to leave, politely or in any other fashion.

"There's somebody I want out of town. For good." Wooten stepped up to the low table that was stubbled with unlit candles. He frowned down at it, an uncomprehending giant over a skyline of waxen pillars. "I want that old Indian off my land and I'm willing to give you all the means necessary to do it."

Dan shrugged, not liking where this was going. "If you've got the means to give --"

Wooten swatted him on the chest, spider quick, and then tugged a handful of shirt material upward, pulling him out of his chair. The other hand produced a folded newspaper from his coat. Dan glanced it, knowing it immediately although he could see only a quarter of the front page. Wooten held it up, making it rattle.

"I didn't come here to screw around, you spiral dancing dipshit. I know all about you, about what you can do, and I need to know if you've still got it. Show me something, warlock boy, show me your stuff."

"Witch," Dan pulled at Wooten's invading, merciless hand. "Warlocks are only in the movies. You ought to know that."

"What do you mean?" Wooten's eyes glimmered. His breath smelled like coffee and tobacco.

"You practiced for a while," Dan said. The images came easily, like silken ribbon slipping through the wet tissue of his brain. He hadn't read anyone for a while. The sensation was connective and somehow sensual. "Your feeble attempts at spells were used to clench business deals, to sway your prospective clients. It was an experiment really, but the results weren't big enough for you. "

"Holy shit," Wooten's eyes glimmered still, but with less energy. His mouth dropped open, dark, like a cafe ashtray.

"Then it got grim," Dan said, not looking at Wooten anymore, "Your intentions got mean. That's not the way. You walked off the path and got lost. Then you quit."

The ribbon was gone. So were Wooten's hands. The man stood back and looked at him, forming a smug grin. "That's a parlor trick, Dannywitch. What about the other stuff?" He stroked the newspaper again, which was in his coat pocket now. "The stuff from Milwaukee?"

"I will harm none."

The teachings of the solitaire all the way up to the mass covens harbored the same message, even a dallier like Wooten should have known it. Harm ye none. But for Dan it had become a deeper promise, and it had become a mental talisman of sorts, used to ward off thoughts of that cloudy fall day when the first taste of warning blood had filled his throat

"That's not what it says here," Wooten unfurled the newspaper now, flashing the photo at him, giving him a painful glimpse of the pillar thick headlines of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. METRO AREA MAN QUESTIONED TWICE IN REST AREA STABBING.

"That was a mistake," he wanted Wooten gone, now. "And I paid for it. Now if it's all the same to you, I don't think I can help you, Mr. Wooten."

•   •   •


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