THE MAGIC AUDITOR by Lauryn Mercredi 

I couldn’t help feeling a thrill as I entered the gate of the Pacific National Exhibition. It was a few hours after dusk on a busy weekend, and the air was thick with the scents of barbecue, fried dough and cinnamon. It was a clear night but the stars up above were outshone by the multi-coloured lights of the fair. The midway hummed with light and sound. Screams and music came from the rides, and the calls of carnies from the games. There was magic in the air. Literally.

I wore the red cap and red uniform of a fair security guard, and my belt was full of what looked like normal security tools—walkie talkie, pepper spray, first aid kit, taser—but was actually a complicated array of defences against magical beings. I had garlic spray, a silver dagger, and other assorted oddities. Everybody hates an auditor, and when you’re auditing werewolves, vampires and wizards… you’d better come armed.

I felt self-conscious, but nobody looked at me twice. Carnivals often hire female security guards because we’re less likely to trigger aggression from drunken fairgoers. But I was on an assignment that the real carnival security knew nothing about. My walkie talkie contained a specialized computer, and a satellite phone to my real boss. Jerrod looked sort of like a classic geek: late twenties, thick glasses with tape in the middle, and an assortment of mismatched clothing. The kind of guy who looked like he might live in his mom’s basement and play video games. Which was a cunning disguise for the world’s most powerful magical assassin. And actually I think he did live in his mom’s basement and play video games.

“Rosalind,” said a husky voice beside me. Oh God, it was Eddie. 

I hadn’t sensed any vampires nearby, but the old ones were good at avoiding detection. “What are you doing here?” I demanded. 

My ex-fiancé gave me a sad smile. You’d never guess he was a vampire from his slight tan and sandy blond hair. Vampires don’t burst into flame in the sun like everyone thinks, although if they stay in direct sunlight it will drain the life out of them. Eddie went out in the sun for a short time each day to age himself. He had died when he was nineteen, but for certain reasons he preferred to look about ten years older.

“I figured you would be here tonight,” Eddie said. “Thought you might need backup.”

I bit back the standard ‘I can handle myself’ reply. He knew that. And I’d seen enough movies to know that anybody who uttered those words would soon need rescuing. I didn’t want to tempt fate.

“I know you’re strong and well-trained,” he said. “I just thought I’d stay nearby. And you know, see the fair: play some games, ride the roller coaster, drink some blood.”

I couldn’t stop the corners of my mouth twitching up. But I was still mad at him.

“How did you know I would be here?” I demanded. The group I belonged to, the Order of Caufryn, was notoriously secretive.

“Just a guess. With the reports of odd sightings, it was likely the O of C would have someone here. And it would have to be somebody junior since it’s the full moon and the senior members have to monitor the weres.”

“Hm,” I acknowledged. He was a smart guy, and distractingly handsome. His lean face showed a few days’ worth of stubble, which did nothing to obscure the thin, pale knife scars on his lower left cheek. One of them bisected his upper lip. He could have hidden them with a beard, but Eddie had grown up on the streets of nineteenth century London and was proud of his scars. I remembered the feel of the slight ridge of his scar against my lips when we had kissed.

I felt my face heating up and I started walking again. He walked alongside me, his hand briefly brushing mine, then jerking away.

“Silver,” I said. I was wearing silver rings on each finger, silver bracelets, necklaces and earrings. 

“Roz, my love, we need to talk,” he said. “It’s been two months.”

I stopped and glared at him. “What is there to talk about? You flayed my father alive.” 

He looked down. My accusation wasn’t technically correct because my father was a vampire, thus not “alive.” But Eddie wisely didn’t dispute my choice of words.

“It was that or execution. You know I had no choice.” 

I kept walking, not looking at him. Eddie was the Director, the highest-ranking vampire of Vancouver. He carried out sentences of the vampire court. And the court had found my father guilty of breaking the highest law of the undead: Do not contact your mortal relations. 

Mortal relations. In other words, me.

“How is he doing?” Eddie asked.

I paused. “Healed, at least physically.”

“I’m sorry. Again.”

I bit my lip.

“Roz, I know you miss me. I see how you look at me.”

I took a deep breath. “You’re right,” I said. “But I need time. And I need to work. If you’re going to hang around, stay back. Fairs are full of supernatural folk who can tell what you are, and it will seem weird for you to be walking with a security guard.”

He nodded. “I’ll be within call. I love you, Rosalind.”

I blinked and he was gone. Vampires can’t just vanish so I knew he was around. I took a deep breath and continued walking, getting my mind on my job, scanning the exhibits and people around me. Everything was normal, until I was almost past the Funhouse. A strange misty light came from the exit, and I felt my lips tingling as I drew closer.

There was nobody supervising the exit to the building, so I waited until it was clear and slipped inside. I was fully human, but an oddity because I had been fed vampire blood as a child. This had left me with unusual physical strength and a sensitivity to magic. Qualities that made me ideal for the Order of Caufryn.

The last exhibit in the Funhouse was a hall of mirrors. My enhanced vision revealed a halo of light around one of the mirrors. My whole face tingled as I got close to it.

I took a device from my belt that looked like a thermometer, but instead of mercury it contained a metallic liquid not found in the mortal world. The digital readout displayed a 6. 

“May I help you?”

I spun around. A man had come in silently behind me. He was Caucasian with a pleasant face and short brown hair. He looked ordinary, almost nondescript. But to my enhanced vision, a halo of purple light surrounded him. A witch. He was staring at me intently.

“I’m Fasar,” he said. “May I help you?”

“I’m from the O of C. This mirror is a Class M prohibited object.”

He shook his head. “Jerrod knows about it. It contains silver from an Angelic realm and shows viewers a glimpse of their true natures.”

I could sense a probing presence in my mind, and I managed to push it out. “What are you doing?” I demanded.

“I’m a telepath, but I can’t read you. Do you have Gypsy blood?”

I shook my head. I’m of half Irish and half Chinese descent, but people in the magical community often asked if I was Gypsy. “You’ll have to take the mirror down until Jerrod advises me otherwise.”

“You don’t have that authority.”

I put my hand in my pocket and took out my auditor badge. 

He looked at me defiantly, crossing his arms, and I stared right back. Finally he sighed. “I’ll take it down,” he said. He leaned forward and took the mirror from its wall mount. “By the way, if I were you, I would check out the casino.”

I raised an eyebrow. Supernatural beings avoided casinos. Using magic when gambling had been outlawed for centuries.

“I know,” he said. “But something is going on there.”

“Thanks for the tip.” I left the booth and explored the rest of the fairgrounds without finding any other violations. Finally I came to the casino, which was housed in a long, low building. Outside the main entrance was a woman in a pink blouse talking to a boy around twelve. Minors were not allowed inside.

“Can we please go home, Mom?” the kid said. “I’m tired.”

“Just a little longer.” She pulled a wad of cash out of her pocket and peeled off a twenty. “Here. Go get yourself a corndog.” I noticed her hand was shaking.

“I’m not hungry. I had pizza. You’ve been in there for hours.”

“Just go on some rides then.” She pressed the twenty into his hand, then hurried back inside.

I followed her. Inside the casino, the air seemed hazy and the skin on my face itched. I walked around. There was magic in the air, but it was diffuse. I couldn’t pinpoint a source.

The woman I’d followed went to sit at a blackjack table. Her face bothered me. It was strangely blank, her eyes feverish. Was this what a gambling addict looked like, or was this a compulsion spell? 

I looked around and saw other faces with the same look. Anger ignited inside me. I hated it when magic was used to prey on humans. I decided I couldn’t just file a report. I had to break the spell. 

Glancing around, I noticed a small red box on the wall just inside the corridor to the washrooms. A fire alarm. I thought of my training: the solution to a magical problem doesn’t always need magic. I walked over and pulled the lever and was rewarded by loud ringing.

The gamblers groaned and argued as casino security herded them out of the building. Fair regulations.

Outside, the ringing was a bit quieter. The woman in the pink blouse stood beside me, blinking as if waking from a trance. She took a few purposeful steps away from the casino, but then a man blocked her path. 

“You need to come with me, Mrs. Dunn,” he said. He wasn’t a big man but he looked intimidating, with a shaven head and dark eyebrows drawn into a scowl. He wore a black polo shirt with the casino’s logo, and his upper arms stretched the sleeves. His gold metal name tag read “E. Morris.” Which meant he was someone important because the other employees had just their first names on their tags.

“I need to leave,” said Mrs. Dunn. “My son is waiting for me.”

“First, we have to discuss repayment of your loan.”

I tilted my head. I was sure it was against carnival regulations to lend money to fairgoers. Not to mention unethical.

I sidled closer until I was standing behind Mrs. Dunn. In the crowd, the man didn’t notice me. When I looked at his hands, I saw a deep greyish glow, something I’d never seen before. Intriguing.

“I have to go,” said Mrs. Dunn.

“Come discuss this in our office.” He took hold of her arm just above the elbow. She seemed to slump as his hand gripped her arm, and she allowed him to lead her away. I followed.

Morris led Mrs. Dunn past the casino and through a gate to the rear parking lot, where several trailers were parked. I followed them through the gate and just as I shut it behind me, the fire alarm stopped ringing and the gate clanged.

Morris turned and saw me. “Only casino employees back here,” he said.

“Fair security is looking for this woman,” I said, pointing to Mrs. Dunn. “Her son was unattended.”

He looked at his prisoner who gazed at him passively. She hadn’t responded to the mention of her son. 

“Fine. Come with us,” he said. 

I stepped up beside them and noticed a sudden movement as Morris brought up his free hand in an uppercut to my jaw.

I collapsed to the ground with my ears ringing. The punch would have knocked out most humans. After a few seconds I lifted up my head to see Morris and Mrs. Dunn hurrying toward one of the trailers. 

“Help!” I shouted. 

By the time I got to my feet, Eddie was beside me.

“You okay?” he asked. 

I pointed to Morris. “Get him.”

So fast he was a blur, Eddie darted forward and grabbed Morris. I ran towards them.

As I ran, I became aware of something I’d never felt before. The only way to describe it was evil. A kind of black halo surrounded the trailer that Morris had been heading for. Dread suffused me, and my whole being seemed to vibrate. I slowed to a walk and stopped a few paces from Morris who was struggling with Eddie and had released his hold on Mrs. Dunn. She was blinking, looking dazed.

“Go find your son and go home,” I ordered, and she glanced at me once before running back towards the gate.

Meanwhile Eddie had got Morris on the ground, face down with his hands behind his back. I knelt beside them and spoke into Morris’ ear.

“What’s in the trailer?” I asked breathlessly. I was panting not from exertion but fear.

Morris just shook his head. 

Eddie bounced his face on the concrete. “The lady asked you a question,” he said.

Morris craned his head around to look at me. With his nose gushing blood, he laughed at me, and it was not a pleasant sound.

Eddie slammed his head on the concrete and Morris was silent.

“For God’s sake,” I said. “You didn’t kill him, did you?”

“Knocked him out.” Eddie let go of him and got to his feet. His eyes as he looked at me were gleeful. He was loving the excitement. He looked over at the trailer. “Let’s see what’s inside,” he said. “Smells like dark magic.”

I stood up. “Maybe we should wait for Jerrod.”

The moment after I spoke, a kind of weak noise came from the trailer. It sounded like a muffled human cry. I ran towards the trailer, and Eddie joined me. The sense of dread intensified as we opened the door.

Right inside the door were two men, bound and gagged. Beside me was an Asian man who looked around forty, and the other was a Caucasian man around thirty. The air was thick with incense and the sharp tang of fear and something even darker, something that made my stomach turn. I removed the gag from the Caucasian man first as he was closer to me. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“Please get us out of here,” he pleaded. “There’s a monster.” He nodded to the far end of the trailer.

I didn’t doubt him. I could see in the dim light from the door that the back of the trailer was empty, but I could feel the dark magic from that direction like a cold wind, and everything was suffused in the black glow I’d noticed outside. “What type of monster?” I asked. 

“Please,” he begged. He was shaking, his eyes wide.

“We need you as witnesses. We’ll protect you,” I said. 

Eddie had removed the gag from the Asian man. “They told us this will encourage us to pay our gambling debts,” the man said. “There was a woman here. The creature took her.”

Something behind him caught my eye. A wooden table with a box on it. I took the flashlight from my belt and clicked it on, then looked in the box. Incense, candles, a box of salt… and a bloody dagger. My stomach clenched.

“Demon summoning,” I said, my heart pounding. 

Eddie nodded. “Sounds right. The humans are the sacrifice. It smells like they did it right here.”

I took a few steps deeper into the trailer and shone my flashlight into the far end, at the floor. There was a salt circle big enough to accommodate several people, with a symbol drawn in it, and stains of fresh blood inside.

A being rose out of the floor inside the salt circle. It was something out of a nightmare: eight feet tall, with burgundy skin, a vaguely human face, and bat wings. It stank of sulphur and its eyes glowed red.

“Stay outside the circle!” Eddie shouted.

No problem. I was paralyzed with fear. I had dropped my flashlight when the demon appeared, and it had gone out, but I could see clearly in the unholy glow. I didn’t know if any of my weapons would work against a demon. My right hand drifted to a pouch on my belt that contained a stick of magical chalk blessed by a Wiccan and a Christian priest. Its purpose was to draw boundaries that magical beings could not cross. I fumbled open the snap on the pouch.

Then someone ran past me, stopping just outside the circle. Morris. “Get them!” he shouted.

“I can’t,” answered the demon in such a low tone it was almost inaudible. “Unless you free me.”

Eddie jumped on Morris, knocking him to the floor, but as Morris fell he managed to stretch out his arm and scrape an opening in the salt with his finger.

The demon smiled, showing pointed teeth. He burst out of the circle and grabbed my left arm. 

I screamed in terror and a cold ache suffused my arm. With my free hand I grabbed the chalk. I pressed it against the demon’s clawed arm, and he released his hold on me, hissing. I staggered back and fell down.

The demon was back in an instant, grasping my ankles. I screamed again. Eddie was beside me, and he bent and grabbed my arms as the demon tried to drag me into the circle. I was now being pulled apart between the demon and the vampire. The demon gained ground, inch by inch.

“Gidzadnodeon,” yelled Eddie. “In the name of all the gods of light, I command thee to release her.”

The demon laughed. “You cannot command me, vampire,” he said. “You are impure.”

In desperation, I repeated Eddie’s words, substituting “me” for “her.”

The demon let go of my ankles.

“I command thee to depart!” I shouted, improvising.

The demon backed towards the circle, struggling visibly.

“I command you to stay!” yelled Morris, who was sitting on the floor next to the circle.

The demon looked at him, grinned, and grabbed Morris on its way into the circle. The two of them seemed to slide into the floor. Unearthly cackles from the demon, accompanied by Morris’s screams, echoed from some distant pit before the floor closed over.

I stayed curled up on the floor, shuddering as Morris’s screams of terror echoed in my head. Tears ran down my cheeks.

Eddie grabbed the box of salt, pouring it to fill in the circle. 

I swallowed my tears. “Is it safe now?” I asked Eddie, my voice trembling. Morris’s shrieks still echoed in my ears. I got to my feet.

“The circle should protect us,” said Eddie. “But we need an exorcism.” 

I took out my walkie talkie, forcing my hands to be steady, called Jerrod and told him everything in as few words as possible. “Demon… behind casino… need exorcism.”

“A demon? Good Lord. Are you all right?”

“I am. Demon’s gone. Eddie’s here.”

“Roger that. I’ll be there right away.”

I clicked off and looked back at the scene and the two terrified witnesses, who were still bound. I went to untie them, having a tough time since my hands were still shaking. My Magic Auditor’s training hadn’t included much demonology. I certainly never thought to come up against one on my first solo audit.

“What’s the best way to fight a demon?” I asked Eddie, who was blocking the trailer door to stop the witnesses from running away before Jerrod arrived. 

“The best way is to make sure you never encounter one again.”

“How did you know he was Gidzad—”

“Don’t say his name!” Eddie exclaimed, cutting me off. “He will hear it.”

“How do you know his name? Have you met him before?”

“No, but I’ve heard of him. He’s one of the younger demons, meaning he’s only a few centuries old, and he will make deals with humans. He obviously has an arrangement with the casino bosses where they feed him their intractable debtors, and let the others witness it as an example to encourage payment.”

I felt like vomiting. I took a few deep breaths.

Jerrod arrived, along with two werewolves who also happened to be police officers. The officers took charge of the witnesses, leading them out of the trailer to give statements. It was good to know Morris’s confederates would pay for their crimes of kidnapping and murder.

“This could hardly be considered an ‘observe and report’,” said Jerrod to me, scratching the thinning brown hair at the top of his head.

“Sorry.”

He shrugged. “Sometimes you have to follow your instincts. You did extremely well. A demon at a carnival.” He shook his head. 

“I’d like to watch the exorcism.”

“Not now. You look done in. I’ll describe it to you during your next shift.”

I nodded reluctantly, and Eddie and I left.

“You okay?” asked Eddie when we were back on the midway. “You’re awfully quiet.” He reached over and took my hand, ignoring the silver rings that I knew were burning his flesh.

“I just can’t believe those men were giving other human beings to a demon… all for money. I thought I knew who the monsters were.”

Eddie didn’t say anything but squeezed my hand for a moment and let it go. I looked down and saw the red marks on his fingers from my rings.

I sighed.

“You look like you could use a Ferris-wheel ride,” he said, “and some mini doughnuts.”

A ghost of a smile touched my lips. “Sounds good.” I removed my silver rings one by one and put them in my pocket, then reached for his hand.



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