Characters: Harry, Anna Murphy
Word count: 1,733
Summary: Saturday morning shopping trips are extra fun with a wizard around.
Author's notes: Written for the 'spirit' challenge at dresdenflashfic.
“Your legs are too long,” Anna Murphy panted at me.
I stopped short on the pavement and tried to proceed with smaller steps so she wouldn’t have to race along to keep up. She was taking two or three steps for every one of mine. She nodded an approval of my new gait and we carried on down the street.
We were out running errands on a Saturday morning. Anna had been unexpectedly dropped off since Murphy was called in on a major case. I took the fact that she trusted me with her kid as a sign of a healthy relationship. I was going to put off the errands until later, but Anna wanted to come and I decided that showing her a bit more of my world (which she and Murphy were becoming an increasing part of) would be fun. Or insanely stupid. Whichever.
I stopped in front of a hole-in-the-wall, out of the way shop, very similar to my own hole-in-the-wall, out of the way shop. The sign said ‘Open’ and through the window in the door, I could see a young man bent over a counter. I put my hand on Anna’s head, briefly, to stop her entering and gave the door a few loud knocks with my other hand. The man looked up from his work. I waved. He smiled, removed the hearing aids from his ears and waved me in.
Mason Renwyck is a repair genius. He’s only maybe 27 or 28, but he is an absolute wizard (pun intended) at fixing anything that’s broken. Mason does with tiny screws and springs what Beethoven did to a bunch of dots on some lines. He makes them sing.
“Hi Harry,” he said, loudly.
“Hi, Mason,” I answered back, loudly. “This is Anna.”
“Hi, Anna,” he said.
“Hi,” Anna said. She looked somewhat confused at the yelling, but didn’t hesitate to join in.
“Is she your daughter?” Mason asked.
“A friend’s,” I said.
He tapped one of his ears and shook his head.
“She’s the daughter of a friend!” I yelled.
Communicating with Mason is always a treat. If he leaves the hearing aids in, I break them, and if he takes them out, we yell at each other. It’s kind of like being at a rock concert.
Mason nodded, giving me a thumbs up to show he understood. “What’d you break this time?” he asked.
“My watch,” I said.
I shrugged and pulled the object from my pocket, walking over to hand it to him. A small ball of fur was batting at some gears spread out on the counter. In what was obviously a practiced ritual, Mason picked up the ball of fur, moved it to the edge of the counter and let go. The ball of fur landed safely on the floor, with a rowl of protest, and then jumped up to climb the side of the counter again. Until Anna got a hold of it.
“Kitty!” she cooed.
“You got a cat,” I said, stating the obvious.
“What’s his name?” Anna asked.
“Rook,” Mason said. “He’s a brat, don’t let him fool you.” To me, he added, “I thought it might help me bond with Caro.”
“How is Caro?” I said.
“Upstairs, I think,” he said.
Before I had time to repeat the question with better enunciation, a somewhat transparent, pale shape floated through one of the walls and was followed by a smallish shape of similar appearance. Shape One was a young girl of ten and Shape Two was her cat.
“I am right here, Mason,” the girl said, in a willowy tone.
“There she is,” Mason yelled, helpfully.
I gave him a thumbs up and he turned his attention to dismantling my watch. Caroline Carrington, the girl ghost, smiled at me, and Davey, the cat ghost, came over and made the motion of rubbing up against my legs, despite the fact that he wasn’t corporeal enough to do it. My shins went numb.
“Hello, Mister Wizard,” Caro said. “I knew it was you because Mason only yells when you’re around.”
“Hey Caro,” I replied. “How’s it going?”
“Quite well, thank you,” she said.
“Uh, Harry...?” Anna said.
I detected the note of panic in her tone and realized, belatedly, that I probably should have warned Anna about the ghosts living there. I hadn’t forgotten about Caro and Davey, it just hadn’t occurred to me that Anna might be freaked out by them. I live with a ghost everyday; sometimes I forget that not everyone does.
Caro noticed Anna and looked alarmed, swooping behind Mason’s back. He was too busy fiddling around in my watch to notice her there. She peeked around his shoulder at us.
“Anna, this is Caroline,” I introduced the two girls. “Caro, this is Anna.”
Caro shot me a questioning look and I nodded at her. She came out from behind Mason, around the counter to where Anna was. She bobbed a quick curtsy to Anna. “Hello, Miss Anna.”
“Hi,” Anna said, uncertainly. She looked to me. “She’s...”
“A ghost,” I confirmed, in what I hoped was a gentle, non-patronizing tone.
“Like Bob,” I agreed.
I decided not to go into the various states of existences and how Bob is actually on a different plane than Caro is. Bob is as close to our world as you can be without being alive. He looks solid, he has complex emotions, he can write in the air and he still goes through the motions of breathing, blinking and emoting. Caro was a fewer planes back from him, less corporeal looking and sometimes forgetting to blink, unable to interact with our world in any form other than speaking. She isn’t bound to any one location, however, and tends to be an excellent source of supernatural news. For a 10-year-old dead girl, she gets around.
Caro died sometime in the early 1900’s in a house that used be where Mason’s shop is now. I don’t know the details of her death – she seems to have forgotten them. I don’t know how her cat ended up there with her, either. Mason and I first met shortly after he’d moved in to the shop, when he hired me after seeing her a few times. He called me in to confirm that he was crazy and I was happy to tell him he wasn’t. Caro told me, politely, that didn’t she want to leave and Mason was cool with having her stick around, so I didn’t try to exorcise her. She wasn’t causing trouble and forcing someone to the other side is an option that I don’t take if I don’t have to. I let her know that if she ever changes her mind, I’ll help her out, but I doubt she’ll ever take me up on my offer. She’s happy here and children are never ready to die.
Anna and Caro stared at each other. Anna blinked. Caro didn’t.
“I like your shoes,” Caro said, after a long silence.
“Thank you,” Anna said, looking down and scuffing the toe of one on the floor. “My step-mom bought them for me.”
“I saw someone in a movie wear shoes like that,” Caro offered. She looked down at her own feet, which were bare. She always wears a frilly Victorian nightshirt – what she was wearing when she died, I assume. “I wish I had shoes, sometimes.”
“You go to the movies?” Anna asked.
Caro nodded, eagerly. “Oh yes, all the time. I like them very much. Mason says I shouldn’t see the very violent ones, though.”
“I’m not allowed to see them either,” Anna said.
Rook squirmed in Anna’s arms and she let him go. Davey pounced at him and the two of them started to chase each other around the shop. Neither animal seemed to be at all deterred that one of them went around a chair leg while the other went through it. I’ve heard that cats have a paw in each world. I guess it’s true.
“What is this?” Mason asked.
He was chipping away at green goo that had crystallized between some of my watch gears.
“Slime,” I said.
“Slime,” he repeated.
“Well, I didn’t think it was just random slime that crawled out of a sewer,” he said.
“Actually, it was.”
He rolled his eyes and put on those magnifying glasses that dentists sometimes use. We chatted about the various goings on in the city while he worked. Anna and Caro fell into a giggling conversation about movies, agreeing that someone called Orlando Bloom was ‘quite handsome’. Davey and Rook chased each other up the stairs to the living quarters above the shop. It was a very homey, extremely odd atmosphere all together.
“I think...” Mason muttered. He snapped something into place and turned the watch over to look at the face. The second hand began to tick and he smiled triumphantly. “That’s it.”
“Great!” I said. “How much?”
He waved a dismissive hand. “No worries.”
“C’mon,” I insisted. “How do you make money?”
He gave me a pointed look that clearly asked me the same question. “No worries.”
I sighed and set my watch to the proper time, using one of the many clocks in the shop as my guide. “Thanks.”
He nodded. We both looked to where Caro and Anna were whispering together. From the darting glances they were giving me and Mason, I guessed we were the subject of the discussion. Anna said something and they both burst into giggles.
“That can’t be good,” Mason said.
“I better split them up before they try world domination,” I agreed. “Time to go, kiddo.”
“Just a second,” Anna said. She whispered something else that was equally giggle-inducing and then the two girls parted.
“It was nice to meet you, Miss Anna,” Caro said. “And to see you again, Mister Wizard. How is your friend?”
“He’s grumpy,” I said. “As usual.”
She tittered. “Maybe I should visit him?”
“I’m sure he’d like that.”
“Oh, good! I will come soon.”
“Great. You ready, Anna?” She nodded. “Okay, see ya Caro. Thanks again, Mason.”
Ghost and man both waved goodbye. Anna followed me out of the shop, looking back over one shoulder. Caro gave her an extra wave and moved over to look at Mason’s next project.
“That was weird,” Anna declared, when we hit the street.
“Yep,” I agreed.
“Can we come again sometime?”
We fell into our mismatched gait on the pavement again.
“Where are we going now?” she asked.
“Joya’s. I need dragon’s teeth.”
Anna twirled on the sidewalk, a happy smile on her face. “Awesome.”