Chapter 1.2: Perceptions

Sunday, February 8, 2065

The Old Mint of San Francisco, located at 5th and Mission, is one of the oldest buildings in the city. “The Granite Lady”, as it had been called in another life, was one of handful of structures in the city to survive the 1906 earthquake and would soon be one of the elite few to mark a bicentennial. In a city defined by dizzying booms, crushing busts, and cataclysmic change, the Old Mint had accomplished a feat that almost unheard of for a resident of San Francisco: remain.

That isn’t to say the Old Mint itself was completely resistant to change. For a building that resembled a block of stone with some Greek architecture slapped onto the front, the Old Mint had been surprising flexible for the city. When its life as a mint ended at the close of the 20th century, it flipped back and forth between a history museum and a venue for special events, usually depending on what the city’s wealthy desired at the time. Finally, in 2052 in what might have been a last gasp of legacy building, the city’s old internet money set up a financially secure trust to permanently establish a Museum at the Mint for the exhibition of Bay Area and California history.

San Franciscans immediately truncated the name to MaM.

The continuing annual February heat wave had brought out locals and tourists alike to the steps of the MaM. Some walked up for an afternoon in the galleries while others simply lounged in the warm sun enjoying iced coffees and frozen treats. Street performers entertained the crowds and vendors hawked their wares to whomever happened to glance their way. Virginia took the whole scene in as she waited for Morgan. However, it wasn’t Morgan who approached her but instead by an older woman dressed formally and wearing a very severe expression on her face. She was wearing the kind of dress Virginia might have expected her mother to wear on an afternoon out, which only served to unnerve her.

“Virginia?” the woman asked.

Virginia’s eyes widened. How could this woman possibly know her name? Was she a friend of her mother’s!?

“I’m sorry, ma’am, do I know you?”

“Yes, you do.”

Virginia looked at the woman, agape. She certainly didn’t recognize her, but that didn’t mean the woman was wrong. As an old Southern family of wealth and influence, the Burgesses had a network extended far and wide. The number of faces Virginia had been introduced to her at her debutante ball alone had been staggering.

“Virginia, my dear. This is Morgan.”

It took Virginia a moment to process what the woman had just said. She looked the woman up and down.

“My goodness,” was all she could manage.

Without thinking, Virginia reached forward to touch the woman’s coat. Her fingers went right through the fabtic and she felt them touch a simple cotton shirt beneath. The action also produced a shimmer of light around her hand. She yanked her hand back and looked around; no one seemed to have noticed.

“That is very impressive. Is this an indicator of the magic your people are able to perform?” Virginia asked as she held her hand.

“We can do a great deal. Many can do more than I can.”

Virginia took in the whole illusion before her. Of course, impressive as it was, Virgina wondered why Morgan had felt the need to disguise herself for a simple museum visit.

“… and what exactly is it that you want to see at the museum?”

“I was just interested in getting to know you and the museum seemed like a good place.”

Virginia raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. She certainly got the impression Morgan was interested in her, but certainly not in any kind of romantic sense. She also could tell that Morgan’s answer was an evasion to the question. So, if only out of curiosity, Virginia walked beside Morgan up the steps to the museum entrance. Banners draped from the Doric facade advertised the exhibitions currently in residence at the museum. There was a gallery of paintings produced in the city during the long economic depression of the 2020s, a history of craft beer advertisements, and a collection of modern art from indigenous, first nation artists. These three very Californian exhibits made the fourth, “Nazi Memories from Beneath Paris”, stick out like a sore swastika.

Morgan and Virginia meandered about the museum and passed through each of the galleries. While Virginia studied the exhibits, Morgan made mental notes of the floor layout and exits. Finally, they reached the Nazi exhibit. Morgan walked slowly along a collection of items contained in long, clear case against a wall. There were pamphlets, books, and small pieces of Third Reich propaganda written in French. Then, finally, Morgan’s eyes fell upon a large tome that seemed completely out of place. The first thing she saw was that it was much larger than any of the books stored in the case; a thick, leatherbound beast of a thing. The tome’s cover looked faded and cracked, though there were very few would have been able to read what was on the cover even if it were in mint condition. Across the leather face were the runes of a script which Morgan recognized from other mystic items she had seen. Some of the script looked familiar, but she couldn’t make out enough to have a hope of reading the cover.

Julia had been right, after all. Resting in this case was what at least looked to be the largest and oldest mystic book Morgan had ever seen.

Morgan had to be sure, though. She had to be thorough in a way Julia hadn’t. It was entirely possible that the book was some elaborate forgery. Morgan had heard of a number of foolish mystics that had paid large sums of money for incredible magic items on auction sites only to find out they were well-made forgeries. It was amazing how well old cook books could be made to masquerade as old tomes.

Morgan took a deep breath and opened her senses to perceive the astral plane. Normally this would be a trivial task, but Morgan also wasn’t normally in a room full of artifacts related to one of the most cruel and genocidal regimes the world had ever known. The items in this room would undoubtedly be echoing all of the pain, fear, torment, and hatred of the Nazis and their victims. As soon as Morgan opened her senses to the astral plane, all of that hit her like a ton of bricks. A cacophony of every possible evil and fear practically overwhelmed her. With great physical strain, she forced herself to remain focused.

The book was very different from anything else in the room. It shone with a calm yet vibrant aura of many colors. Morgan recognized some of the hues to be representative of magical elements, though there were others that were new to her. Morgan fought her urge to pull back from perceiving the plane just so that she could continue to study it.

A strange whimpering noise caught Virginia’s attention and pulled her away from looking at a collection of French Resistance firearms. She turned to see Morgan, still in disguise as an older woman, quivering with fists tightened at her sides. She was letting out a soft, but noticeable sound of someone straining to keep it together. Virginia glanced around and saw that people were beginning to notice. She quickly rushed to Morgan’s side and maneuvered herself in front of her.

“Um, Miss Morgan?”

Morgan blinked in surprise. The sudden appearance of Virginia in her field of view was enough of a shock that it forced her senses back from the astral plane. Morgan reactively looked around and was greeted with the stares of the concerned and the perturbed. She let out a long breath and apologized softly.

“I’m sorry.”

“Are you feeling well? We can leave if the museum is proving too tiring.”

“Sorry, there’s just a lot of negative energy in this room,” she said, matter-of-factly.

“Negative energy? Of what sort?”

It took Morgan a moment to remember that Virginia was still very new to all of this. Her question was akin to a child asking ‘what noise?’ in a room full of screaming animatronic cartoon characters.

“Have you ever perceived before?” asked Morgan in a lower, quieter voice.

“Perceived? Perceived what? With my eyes…?”

Morgan looked around again. “This is not the best place for it. In fact, this is definitely not the best place for it. Let’s retreat to the outdoor cafe.”

Virginia escorted Morgan out of the museum proper to its cafe, which was situated just in front of the museum’s south wing. They each ordered tea and had a seat at a small table. Morgan took a few, calming sips from the tea and attempted to calm herself as much as one could after being assaulted by the echoes of warfare and genocide.

“So, Virgnia,” she finally began, setting down the cup of tea on the metal table. “Tell me more about yourself.”

Virginia found it hard to think of the woman in front of her as Morgan. It was even harder to take the question as anything but one of evaluation.

“I’m at Stanford to study business. My parents have been involved in many business endeavors over the generations and hope that I take up the legacy. However, my… other interests… are unsavory to them, so I have been endeavoring to investigate them on my own.”

“Other interests? You mean, magic?”

Virginia nodded. “My family has been very much against that which they feel is changing humanity. Cybernetics, augmentation, and magic. They feel these is things are uncouth.”

Morgan tilted her head. “But how do you, Virginia, find them?”

“I find them interesting. I find myself drawn into magic whether I care to or not considering certain… well, how I seem to be…”

Virginia stumbled on the words. She had never really given voice to these opinions before. It wasn’t as if she had had someone to speak with about any of these matters before, let alone so plainly and in public.

“… I seem to be drawn toward this world whether I wish to be or not.”

Morgan nodded. It was a sentiment she had heard before. Like it had been at other times in its history, San Francisco was once again a haven for the ostracized, the dispossessed, and those simply seeking their true selves. Virginia was another in a long line of lost souls who had come to the city after hearing its siren song of sanctuary.

“You asked me what I was doing earlier,” Morgan finally said. “Take a deep breath. Relax.”

Virginia closed her eyes and obediently took the breath.

“Try to take in the world around you, but not with your eyes.”

These instructions reminded Virginia of the technique she had learned in a private krav maga session, where she could extend her perception of the world out from her and feel movement all around her. She used this as a basis to start from but, this time, kept pushing. At first, she heard the chatter around her, the clinking of ceramic mugs on metal tables, and the sound of cars rolling by. The longer she persisted though, the more she became aware of other sounds like the wind rustling nearby trees. Finally, other sensations that she lacked any real vocabulary for began to arise. Virginia slowly opened her eyes and realized that she could now see Morgan was illuminated by an aura of white light. It wasn’t especially bright, but it shimmered and sparkled around her. She also felt like she could see Morgan beneath the visage of the severe Southern woman she had been assuming. It was so bizarre that it started Virignia out of the trance.

“I think I just saw something around you. Just now.”

Morgan smiled. “You saw my aura?”

“Your aura? Surely that is something the hippies believe in.”

“Well, welcome to the hippies.”

Not sure how to respond, Virginia simply took a long drink from her tea. Morgan decided to continue probing Virginia now that it was quite evident that Virginia possessed the Gift and at least some talent with it.

“So, if you don’t go into business, what do you see yourself doing with your life?”

Virginia set her teacup down, but did not lift her eyes from it.

“My family has certain expectations that they will be sure come to pass. The Burgesses would not be where they are now if they were prone to letting their sheep go astray.”

“Are you not in control of your own life?”

“No.”

The curtness of the answer surprised Morgan. Virginia had seemed to be fond of using longer forms of speech and taking her time to get to the point. This, it seemed, was a cold, hard truth that couldn’t be dressed up by any amount of colorful metaphor or graceful turn of phrase.

“What if you could be something more?”

Virginia looked up. “It would require quite some doing to extract myself from that which has already been planned for me.”

“Of course, you could play the front of being the honorable business woman and have other interests on the side. There are so many wonders in this world to experience.”

“This is true. There are also many demons that lurk around its edges.”

“If you really want to see one of those, you can walk into that room of Nazi exhibits and perceive them as you did me. It’s not pleasant.”

Those weren’t the sort of demons Virginia meant. Hers were far more mundane but no less dangerous. The demons of politics, purse strings, and familial obligation could be just as terrifying to a young heiress.

“I am here completely at the mercy of my family. If they were to discover that I was not acting according to their wishes, they would summon me home summarily. My apartment and tuition is paid for by their kindness. There is also a man that they claim is in the area to act in my interests, but I know he is more than he seems.”

“The golden handcuffs. Still a prisoner, but in a way you can complain about.”

Virginia didn’t answer. She found herself distracted by a street performer, painted completely in silver, performing robotic gestures on the sidewalk behind Morgan. Morgan, meanwhile, was fascinated that a woman she had seen kill four muggers could now be so reserved. Virgini; clearly possessed power and ability; it was just a matter of the will.

“Tell me, Virginia Ann. Do you consider yourself a law-abiding citizen?”
——————————————————————————————

In his clinic, Maxwell shut the door behind his most recent patient and let out a very long, exasperated groan. He had had to lance boils. So. Many. Boils. He tried to shake the memory from his mind and pulled out his phone to message Wisp. Maxwell really wanted to hear that she had been able to collect some cheek samples from her mystic friends. Unfortunately, that was not the message he received several minutes later.

Still working on it.

Maxwell sighed, but told himself it would be unwise to push. He decided it would be best to simply respond with an affirmative.

Ok.

Then

Let me know.

Then

Thanks.

He was wondering if he should fire off a fourth message to at least drive home how important this was but yet how much he appreciated her assistance but he really needed those samples when he suddenly heard a knock at his door. Maxwell put his phone back into the pocket of his pink labcoat and slid open the door’s eye shutter. He found himself looking at a short, thin hispanic man.

“Do you have an appointment?” asked Maxwell.

“No, but I’m not feeling well.”

“Yes, that would be why most people come to a clinic. Can I get your name?”

“Jose,” the man responded.

“Well, let’s see. I’ve got a patient coming in 10 minutes. Can you come back in 30?”

“Sure, I can do that.”

Maxwell closed the shutter and pulled out his phone again to check his appointment schedule.
——————————————————————————————

“Tell me, Virginia Ann. Do you consider yourself a law-abiding citizen?”

The question caught Virginia off-guard. Until a few weeks ago, she would have given an unequivocal ‘yes’ and even taken offense at being asked the question. However, killing four people, even in self-defense, and injuring an innocent bystander, even by accident, does a lot to shake unequivocal answers.

“Well, one who has a certain place in society as my family does… I certainly try to. But the events of the evening we first met are certainly hard to ignore.”

“So you didn’t report it to the police? Interesting.”

Morgan sipped her tea. Of course, that was what she expected. The day someone with power and status walked into a police station to confess to something they could get away with would be the day Morgan died of shock.

Morgan suddenly felt her phone vibrate. She quickly glanced down at the device and saw a message from Maxwell.

How is the sample collection going?

Morgan sighed and quickly typed that she was working on it, despite the fact that she most certainly wasn’t, and subtly slipped the phone back into the pockets of the pants she was wearing beneath the illusion.

“If you could be something more than what your family lets you be, would you take it? Or would you just live up to all their expectations and none of your own hopes and dreams?”

Virginia was suspicious of where this conversation was going. Suspicious and anxious.

“… perhaps.”

Then, after some thought: “It would depend on what those dreams are and if they are even passable acceptable. It would not behoove me throw away what I have for a pipe dream.”

Morgan took another sip of her tea. By this point, she had felt her phone vibrate several times, but had chosen to ignore it. She could deal with Maxwell later. Virginia seemed to be a woman on the edge, but the fear of falling was holding her back from jumping to the next branch. Morgan felt Virginia just needed a reason.

“One thing we can work on is subtlety. Magic need not be all flashy lights and explosions. It can help you in the business world. Find out more information about your partners and clients.”

“That is my hope, yes.”

Morgan leaned forward and lowered her voice. “Alright Virginia, I’ll be straight with you. I didn’t come here just to take in the exhibits. There’s an item here of great significance which I was hoping to get my hands on.”

“One of those books you were so enamored with in the Nazi gallery?”

“Yes. That book is the biggest magical book I, or anyone I know, has ever seen. The Gathering needs it. It could so do much to boost our understanding of our own powers and maybe even ourselves. What do you think of that?”

Virginia didn’t answer immediately. What Morgan was suggesting sounded like theft, pure and simple. If she were caught, that would be the end of everything. However, this book seemed like the very thing Virginia herself was looking for. And perhaps she herself could learn some of Morgan’s tricks and spells which allowed her to present herself as someone she wasn’t. It was a risk… but perhaps it was a risk worth taking.

“I think that I would be interested in assisting you. If I can learn some things about myself.”

“I can certainly teach you,” Morgan said with a grin before standing up from her seat. “Let’s take another walk through the museum and see what kind of guards and cameras are present.”

“Ok…”

Virginia told herself there was nothing inherently illegal in counting cameras and security guards.

The pair proceeded back through the museum. Virginia studied each room as they did so, noting the positions of the cameras and watching the security guards. It was clear they were nothing more than ill-trained private forces who were bored and distracted at their jobs. She doubted any of them had fired their sidearms more than a few times in their entire lives. The museum likely didn’t want to spend extra money on better trained personnel and instead opted to rely on its other security measures like alarms and locks.

It was early evening when they finished. Virginia and Morgan hugged and exchanged contact info. Morgan told Virginia she would contact her as the project progressed. Virginia simply nodded, then left. She was excited with anticipation and fear. She wondered if she was making the biggest mistake of her life.

The street performer who looked to be painted all in silver was now assuming a very still pose. He watched the two women part ways. When they were gone, he dropped the pose and walked away from the museum.
——————————————————————————————

A knock came on Maxwell’s door ten minutes after he dismissed Jose. He opened the shutter again and saw a white woman in her early 60s.

“Ah, Ms. Jennings! Come in,” he said before closing the shutter and unlocking the door.

“Thank you for taking me,” said Ms. Jennings as she entered the clinic. “I think I ate something really bad yesterday. I just have these awful cramps.”

Maxwell frowned. “Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do for cramps. I can give you basic painkillers, but that’s about it.”

“Oh, that would be lovely, thank you.”

Maxwell went to a storage cabinet and returned with a few tablets of ibuprofen. Effective, legal, and most importantly, dirt cheap.

“If it doesn’t go away in the next 48 hours, give me a call,” he said as he placed them in her outstretched hand.

Ms. Jennings accepted the pills but, before pulling her hand away, proceeded to give Maxwell a very intense stare.

“Do you need to take a blood sample from me?”

“No, not for cramps,” Maxwell replied. It would also hardly help his research. He had gotten a sample from Ms. Jennings the first time he had seen her for a chlamydia infection.

Ms. Jennings kept staring at him.

“Is there anything else I can do?” Maxwell asked, finally pulling his hand back.

Seriously, what is it with my patients flirting with me lately?

“No, I think I’ve got what I need,” Ms. Jennings said, suddenly brightening. “Bye!”

Ms. Jennings promptly left. Maxwell shook his head and marked the appointment off his calendar. On the positive side, that had taken far less time than he was expecting, so he get some minor research tasks taken care of before his next patient. Unfortunately, five minutes later, there was another knock at the door.

When Maxwell looked to see who it was, he found Ms. Jennings on the other side of the door again.

“I said if they don’t go away in 48 hours, give me a call. Wait 48 hours,” he repeated.

“What if what doesn’t go away in 48 hours?” asked Ms. Jennings, clearly perplexed.

“Your cramps.”

“What cramps? I never said I have cramps. I have a yeast infection!”

Maxwell balked. “Yeast infection? You were just in here complaining of cramps!”

“No, I just got here,” Ms. Jennings protested.

Maxwell rubbed his temples and, after some thought, let Ms. Jennings back in. He walked her over to his monitor and brought up the footage from a security camera he had watching this very room and rewound it to Ms. Jennings’ first visit. The woman’s eyes went wide as she watched herself enter the clinic.

“That’s not me!”

“What do you mean it isn’t you?”

“I wasn’t here!”

“You were clearly here!” Maxwell exclaimed, pointing at the video.

“That’s not me! I wasn’t here! I don’t have any cramps and I don’t have whatever pills you just gave that woman!”

Ms. Jennings proceeded to empty out her purse, despite Maxwell having never actually asked her to do it. Belongings clattered onto a table and, while there were a number of pill packets, none of them contained the generic ibuprofin that Maxwell had in stock.

“Then who is this?” Maxwell asked.

“I don’t know?”

“Do you have a twin sister!?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Do you have an evil doppelganger?”

Ms. Jennings had to think about that. “No… not that I know of.”

Maxwell looked at Ms. Jennings, then the security footage, then back to Ms. Jennings. With a sigh, he dismissed the matter and asked about the yeast infection Ms. Jennings said she came in for. After a cursory examination and, ironically enough, taking some bloodwork, Maxwell gave her some antibiotics and quickly sent her on her way. Ms. Jennings gave the monitor one last suspicious look before leaving.

Maxwell immediately sequenced the sample and placed it in the fridge. As he waited for the data to come back so he could compare it to the first instance he had of Ms. Jennings’ genome, he realized that the drop-in named Jose never came back.

Probably for the best.

He did, however, receive a call from Wisp.

“Hey, did you get the samples?” he asked before Wisp had a chance to speak. “Remember, just one per ziploc bag, or else they get mixed up and there’s nothing I can do with them.”

Morgan didn’t respond immediately. “… I have a question for you,” she finally said. “Which may help me get you the samples.”

“OK.”

“How much do you know about maglocks?”

“I know that they’re magnetic and that they lock.”

“… but do you know how to bypass one?”

Maxwell raised an eyebrow, despite the fact he wasn’t speaking face-to-face with anyone.

“Why do you need to bypass a maglock?”

“If you can find me someone with the skills that can get me past them, then I might be able to get your samples sooner rather than later.”

“I’d prefer if you could get samples from someone you know. I don’t think you should be stealing them.”

“I’m not stealing them. I just need to get past a maglock before I can get to collecting your samples.”

Maxwell frowned. This sounded decidedly like a stalling tactic or, worse, holding what he needed for ransom. There wasn’t much he could do about it though. Wisp was his only connection to the Gathering and his only way out of this basement clinic.

“Ok… what kind of security are we dealing with?”

“Nothing serious. Simply a building that has an item I’d like to acquire.”

“So you want me or someone I know to help you steal stuff.”

“And I have connections in the magical world who can get you the samples you need.”

Yup. He was most certainly being taken for a ride. Unfortunately, Maxwell was in no position to be making demands and Wisp knew it.

“… alright. What kind of building? What kind of security? Is this a private residence or a public building?”

“We can talk at your clinic. I’ll be right there.”
——————————————————————————————

About twenty minutes later, there was a knock at Maxwell’s door. As always, he checked the shutter to see who it was and found himself looking at a severe-looking middle-aged woman wearing clothes that required far more money than most people he knew even had.

“Sorry, I’m not taking patients tonight. You’ll have to come back later.”

The woman raised an eyebrow. “I think you are.”

“No, no I’m not. Come back in the morning.”

Now the woman smiled. “You are if you want those samples.”

“I don’t need samples,” Maxwell replied with growing exasperation. “I have enough samples of people’s diseases. Listen lady, I’m tired. Just come back in the morning.”

The woman said nothing and instead raised her hand into the view of the shutter. She was holding a plastic baggie full of something Maxwell had trouble seeing because its contents were just out of the shutter’s field of view. If Maxwell had to guess, it was probably drugs. When you thought about it, dressing like one of San Francisco’s well-to-do citizens was a great cover. The police wouldn’t dare harass someone like her on the streets.

“I don’t need drugs. I have lots of drugs.”

The woman gave an exasperated sigh of her own. “Maxwell. This is Wisp.”

Maxwell practically slammed his face into the door to try and give the woman who claimed to be Morgan, but who was clearly not Morgan, a much closer look.

“No, you’re not. You’re some random Southern lady. I’m not stupid.”

Morgan, who was of course still under the guise of her approximation of Virginia’s mother, looked on either side. When she saw no one in the corridor, she allowed the glamour to drop. It melted away in a shimmering light from her head down to her toes, as if someone had poured iridescence over her head.

“… holy shit,” Maxwell said, his mouth agape. “What the fuck was that? Ok, magic’s weird, magic is definitely weird. First the woman with the evil clone and now this. Alright, I’ll let you in…”

A series of buzzes and clanks later found the Morgan back in Maxwell’s for the second time in as many days.

“Woman with the evil clone?” she asked.

“Oh my god, my day has been weird. A woman came in with stomach cramps, I gave her some pain killers, told her everything would be fine. She leaves and 10 minutes later she comes back with a yeast infection and, when I confronted her about her previous visit, she didn’t know she had already been here. So, either she was on a lot of drugs or had no idea who her double was.”

Morgan gave that some thought. While Maxwell was clueless about a lot of things, she’d be surprised if he couldn’t tell if someone was tripping balls. He seemed genuinely distressed which, given the sanguine stockpile he was sitting on, made her uneasy. She needed more information.

“Can I get some tea?”

“Uh… ok. Yeah, yeah, just give me a minute.”

Maxwell retreated into a small room attached to the clinic, returning a few minutes later with the cup of tea. Morgan accepted it, took a deep breath, and centered herself over the tea. When she felt her Essence return to her, she opened her eyes and looked at Maxwell.

“Think about this woman carefully.”

“OK…”

Morgan stared into Maxwell’s eyes and, with a few mutters, cast Mind Probe.

“I really wish people would stop doing that to me,” Maxwell said, remembering when the first Ms. Jennings had given him a very similar stare.

Of course, because Maxwell was now thinking of this, Morgan now saw the same thing. Her mind now received the memory of an older woman giving her a very direct stare and muttering something under her breath. She couldn’t make it out because Maxwell hadn’t been able to, but Morgan could tell plain as day that the woman had been casting some kind of spell on Maxwell.

Another mystic had come into Maxwell’s clinic and cast a spell on him. Not good.

“Look, you’re really just too young for me. I’m sorry,” Maxwell protested.

Morgan ended the spell and rolled her eyes.

“Do you have any information about the first woman?”

“Ms. Jennings? She comes by enough.”

“No, the first one.”

“The first woman?”

“The one masquerading as her,” Morgan said, impatience creeping into her voice. This had all the trappings of a horrible comedy gag.

“Wait, which one? Stomach cramps or yeast? I have the security footage if you want to see it.”

“… yes. Everything.”

Maxwell went to his personal terminal and once again accessed the security footage of the first Ms. Jennings.

“Earlier,” said Morgan.

Maxwell scrobbled the footage back to earlier in the day. It landed on the previous patient who had needed boils lanced. Morgan wished he hadn’t gone that much earlier, but she forced herself to wait through it. She saw the patient leave, saw Maxwell putter around, saw Maxwell answer the door, then saw Maxwell open the door again and let the first Ms. Jennings in.

“Wait. Who was that? The first time you answered the door. Who was that?”

“Just some drop-in. I had a full day, so I couldn’t take him.”

“What did he look like?”

“I think he was hispanic? He said his name was Jose.”

Morgan’s eyes closed and she let out a breath she didn’t realize she had been holding.

Please please please please let it be him and not some other mystic snooping around here…

“Give me a moment,” said Morgan as she pulled out her phone. She took a few steps away from Maxwell while she waited for Jose to answer.

“Oh, hi Morgan. What’s up?” Jose asked when he picked up the call. There was a hopeful tone in his voice. He probably thought she was calling to report on her museum visit.

“Hi. Tell me, did you pay the good doctor a visit?”

Maxwell’s eyes snapped wide. “Wait, who are you talking to?”

Morgan didn’t say anything but simply waited for Jose to respond. There was a bit of a silence before his voice came back and, now, much more subdued.

“… are you in his office?”

“Did you pay him a visit?” Morgan repeated.

“… yes.”

“Under the glamour of an older woman?”

“… yes.”

“Understood. Thanks for letting me know,” Morgan responded.

She hung up and placed the phone back in her pocket. Maxwell simply stared at her waiting for an explanation.

“What the hell was that about?” he asked.

Then, he thought better of it. Before Morgan could respond, he grabbed the cup of tea from her and went back into the attached room. He came back without the tea cup but with a bottle of scotch. He dropped into the one chair in the room and took a very long drink from the bottle. Morgan decided that it was best she didn’t say anything and simply savored this rare bit of silence from Maxwell.

“So, what is this about locks?” Maxwell finally asked.

“There’s an old book at the Museum at the Mint that’s very interesting. I’d like an opportunity to look at it in private.”

“So you’re trying to Indiana Jones it?”

“Yes,” Morgan said.

“But it’s already in a museum.”

Morgan gave Maxwell an impatient look. “I just need to unlock the casing it’s in.”

“And if I help you, you’d be willing to introduce me to some people?”

“Yes.”

“Well… I can’t help you the locks. But I can introduce you to a friend of mine who can. I’ll call him and, if he agrees, I’ll have him contact you.”

Morgan didn’t like the idea of bringing in someone else. Worse, the person likely wasn’t a mystic. Still, she needed help with the security system she wanted to do get this run done without raising suspicion or the attention of law enforcement.

“Alright. I want to meet him first, though.”

“Sure. Nick’s a good guy. You’ll like him.”

“His name is Nick?”

“Yeah, Nick Vincenzo.

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