The city officials had turned the large room with the blackboards into a counting hall and filled it full of tables and folding chairs. They gave everyone who’d shown up to count votes a name badge, had us sit at the tables and proceeded to lecture for an hour.
I fought to pay attention and tried not to wonder when Darnell might show up. If he didn’t put in a appearance, I was going to be sitting behind a table most of the night, and I didn’t want to be the one responsible for a miscount. The first boxes of ballots trickled in about seven-thirty and we got to work.
Most of the polling places were supposed to close at seven, and the majority of the ballots would be at the courthouse by eight. As the time ticked away, I became increasingly nervous. Jason had been placed at another table, and I couldn’t get his attention. He was focused on counting, and my thoughts weren’t getting through.
At five minutes before the hour I gave up and raised my hand. One of the monitors came over and I whispered an urgent need. He checked to make sure I wasn’t carrying any ballots or tally sheets then escorted me to the door and pointed across the hall.
“Bathroom’s over there. Tell the guard when you’re finished and he’ll get a hold of a monitor to escort you back to your seat.”
“Thanks.” I headed across the hall, ducked into the women’s bathroom and hid in a stall. I make it a point never to ignore my intuition and everything in me was screaming not to be in the tally room between eight and eight-fifteen. I sat in the stall as long as I could, paced for a few minutes, and then carefully stuck my head out the door.
The hall was empty and the guard was standing next to the tally room. Sound asleep and snoring. I winced, slipped out of the bathroom and stole across the hall. The guard went on sleeping. I took a deep breath, pushed open the door a crack and peeked inside.
The room was silent except for a voice I really didn’t want to hear. Darnell was chanting and I recognized the spell. He was halfway through one of Gino’s minor ensnares, and the room was under his power. His back was to me and he was walking slowly past the tables, chanting and instructing everyone what votes to record. I whispered a quick protection spell, pushed the door open and walked in. “You can’t do this!” I flicked my fingers and shot three bolts of lighting at Darnell as he spun around.
He ducked and they flew over his head. “Well... if this isn’t a pleasant surprise.” He leered at me and gestured. I flung my hands up in front of my face and spat out a command.
His spell died on his lips and he glared at me. “I should have realized you’d be ready for that. Try this!” He backhanded the air and snarled. Something heavy hit me in the side and flung me across the room. I smashed into one of the blackboards and slid to the floor, my head spinning.
“Didn’t expect that, did you?” Darnell’s voice slid through my ears. The terror from his visit burst forth from the depths of my soul and I felt Jason stir. I looked up at Darnell as he approached and tried to move. A second later, Jason wrapped his arm around Darnell’s throat from behind, and squeezed.
Darnell’s hold on me shattered. I blinked, pulled myself to my feet and gasped. Darnell and Jason had each other by the throat. I grabbed one of the erasers from the chalk board, took aim and flung it at Darnell’s face. It hit him between the eyes, releasing a cloud of white dust.
Darnell jerked, let go of Jason and sneezed.
Jason reacted with a lightning fast uppercut to Darnell’s chin. Darnell fell backward and hit his head on the tile floor with a sickening thud. His body convulsed and lay still.
I walked over to stand beside Jason and looked down at our nemesis. “Did you kill him?”
“I don’t think so... he’s breathing. But he’ll be out for a while. I don’t envy him the headache he’ll have when he wakes up.”
“Speaking of waking up...” I glanced around the room. “We have to get him out of here.”
“Drag him. The guards are all asleep. We need to get him to the car while everyone’s still under.”
Jason looked down at Darnell, glanced at the snoozing guard by the door and nodded. “Go bring the car up to the curb. I’ll drag him out of here and meet you at the door.”
I did as directed and within ten minutes we managed to load Darnell’s limp body into the backseat of my vehicle. The tally folks were already starting to stir, though it might be morning before the guards awoke. I didn’t care. I had what I’d come for and figured the city could take care of the rest of its problems on its own.
We drove carefully away from the courthouse and headed back to the tower, both of us on edge and watching for cops the entire way. I breathed a sigh of relief as the tower came into sight, eased the car up to the curb and put it in park.
“Help me get him out of the car then I’ll go get Gino.”
We dragged Darnell out of the backseat onto the sidewalk and laid him down. The top of his head jutted past the concrete onto the grass and set off Gino’s wards. Every light in the tower flashed on, bells rang wildly and he vanished. A moment later, the lights went off except for one at the very top. I stared up at Gino’s apartment and shuddered.
“I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes right now,” Jason muttered, following my gaze with his own.
I shut the car door, turned to face Jason and wrapped my arms around him. He tore his gaze down from the top of the tower, enfolded me in a tender caress and smiled into my eyes. I sighed, snuggled against Jason’s chest and listened to his heart beat. He leaned his cheek on the top of my head and we watched the moon ascend heavenward then strolled arm and arm to our apartment under its silvery rays.
Robert Browning’s poem ‘The Years at the Spring’ came to mind as Jason unlocked the door, and I smiled. “All’s right with the world,” I whispered, looked up at the moon one last time, and then followed Jason into our apartment... and the rest of our life together.
Copyright © 2006 by Crystalwizard