Ace started getting messages of condolences, as soon as people found out Four was dead. Many of the notes included questions about the jacket. She smiled, realizing that the jacket had a life of its own. Duce stopped by and asked about Tim. She told him he went home.
Things were quiet. No one was getting whacked, on either side. Everyone was waiting for retaliation, for the men Ace had killed, but nothing was happening. No one let down their guard but you can’t stay on high alert for very long. The human brain starts to take things for granted and, therefore, guards and spies had to be changed frequently. Shifts were short and intense.
Ace, wasn’t surprised when the crow flew through the open window and landed on the back of her chair. He cawed softly and rubbed his beak on her shoulder.
“Well, this can’t be good,” she said, turning sideways.
“I told you before. I don’t speak Crow,” she said, running her hand down his back, noticing his beautiful, black feathers. She pulled her hand away. “I must be going insane,” she said, getting up.
“Give me a message or get out,” she said, more loudly than she meant to. “I don’t pet crows, except now I guess I do.” She put her hands over her face. “I don’t know what you are but please fly away and leave me alone.”
The bird dropped to the floor and leaned against her calf. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, and took off.
Ace didn’t know how long she stayed frozen to the spot but her whole body was starting to tingle by the time she moved. She told herself that crows didn’t normally speak but maybe something had changed in the bird world and no one had bothered to tell her. She never studied ornithology, after all, so it was possible that some crows could actually talk.
She saw the envelop on the floor and picked it up. The note read:
I never lied to you. I am a man. I’m also a wizard (I think). I want to come back. Give your answer to crow.
“Fine,” she said. She wrote quickly and gave the piece of paper to the bird. “Go.” she said.
The crow took off just as there was a knock at the door. She groaned and opened it.
“I can’t tell you how….” he started to say but couldn’t stop kissing her long enough to speak. I can’t believe how…. I don’t think I can live without you.”
Two hours later they were in the kitchen eating left over pasta and stale bread. “So, you think you’re a wizard?”
“I do and that’s the reason I’ve never been to Chicago. Chicago already has a resident Wizard and it’s bad form to just show up. Although, I’ve heard that he’s a nice guy. I think he’s working for the Winter Queen now, but the city still belongs to him.”
“Okay. So, are you a traveling Wizard?”
“Maybe. I’m not sure. I’ve never wanted to settle down until now. I’ve always been searching for something and I didn’t know what, until I saw you in the Bus Depot.”
A brick smashed through the window in the living room and a small fire broke out. Tim said a few words and the flames went out. A human-size swirling figure walked out of the smoke and stared at Ace. You killed Mathews. He was my boss.”
“And?” said Ace.
“I’m out of work.”
“You can work for me, if you like. I’ll pay you more than he did and you’ll be doing good things, instead of bad things. It’s a win-win situation.”
“I didn’t expect the conversation to go this way,” said the smoke man. “Do you have a gas stove?”
“Is there a pilot light?”
“There is and your time will be your own, unless you are needed.”
“Can I watch PBS on your television?”
“You can have your own television and your own room, when you’re not in the stove, I mean. You can watch whatever you like.”
“Why did you murder all of them?” he asked, a wisp of smoke breaking off and falling to the floor.
“They tortured and killed my best friend.”
The smoke man nodded. “I don’t like it when they do that.”
“So? Are you going back to them, or staying with me?”
“My name is Smokey. Nice to meet you, Boss.”