“And would you?”
“Nope, nope, don’t think so. Not in this lifetime, that’s for sure.”
“Ah, so do we have more lifetimes?”
He grew serious. “I believe that we do have something. The soul. Heart and soul. Whatever makes us unique. Whatever that is about me—nope, nope, still no. Just not my type. I love redheads. Especially when they have just a trace of an old accent.”
Jenna started to speak, but the band abruptly stopped playing and the microphone gave out a sudden loud shriek. “Ouch!” the speaker said.
He was dressed as a Native American, and looked good in the outfit. It was Councilman Yates.
“Welcome, one and all. The good sisters and brothers of the Coven of Light have allowed me to address you all. First, welcome, and thank you all for coming out for this wonderful ball, and for supporting our children in their need!”
His words were met by applause and shouts of approval.
“Secondly, we know that the area has been deeply concerned by some horrible things happening, and despite the fact that they have a suspect in custody, an investigation is still ongoing. I want to warn you all to be smart and practical—well, I mean as far as your personal safety goes! With the cops—be open and honest. Give them everything that they need. We’ve come a long, long way! We don’t give in to superstition, and we don’t condemn a man until he’s been proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. That said, I know you’re all still going to whisper about recent developments, but while you’re doing that, be helpful and be careful. And that’s all I have to say, except, Blessed Be!”
The audience responded with applause and the band started up. Dancers drifted to the floor again. Jenna took a long swallow of her drink, which wasn’t half-bad.
“So, they’re all whispering. We’ll hear what they have to say,” Sam said, nodding to Jackson. The two, apparently, had found an instant and easy rapport.
“I’ll drift toward horned god number one,” Angela said.
“Think we’ll make it to all twenty of them?” Jackson asked.
Jenna adjusted the lace and black velvet eye mask she was wearing and drifted casually toward the stage. She’d noted that Councilman Yates had come down from the stage and was speaking to an outstandingly beautiful peacock.
He kissed her, and by moving a shade to her left, Jenna could see the peacock’s face. As she had expected, it was Councilman Yates’s wife, Cindy, the same woman she had seen on the playground the first day she had arrived chastising the children.
The same woman who seemed to hate Pastor Goodman Wilson so much. The mother of David Yates.
She decided to move closer.
“Why were you so late?” she heard Yates ask his wife.
“Me? Where were you when I was trying to get our daughter settled with the babysitter?”
“Cindy, you know I have responsibilities.”
“To everyone but your family!” Cindy replied.
She must have noticed Jenna near them because she looked right at her, frowned and turned away. Yates watched her go, letting out a weary sigh.
Jenna started to move on.
The microphone screeched again. The band stopped playing, the lights blinked and a spotlight shone on the dance floor.
Couples cleared off.
And a scantily clad snake charmer appeared. Samantha Yeager.
She was stunning with her long black hair, ribbed abs, and jeweled harem costume. She wore a gold snake crown around her forehead and held her boa high and undulated like the snake as she moved through the crowd. She swayed and sashayed with lithe talent, and a hush fell over the crowd.
She went from man to man, but she’d also draw women out onto the floor and try to entice them to dance with her.
At the end, she found Sam. She reached out with a free hand, touched his face and drew her hand down the length of his body before doing a sleek fall to the ground.
“Madam Samantha! See her for all your mystic needs!” the lead singer from the band cried out.
“It wasn’t my idea!”
Jenna turned to see that Ivy, lips pursed, was at her side. She looked at Jenna and grimaced. “She paid a lot for that performance.”
“Well, she’s getting a lot of applause. It will prove to be the ball of the season, I’m sure.”
“Slutty twit!” Ivy said, and, shaking her head, walked back toward the door, ready to welcome any latecomers.
Jenna was ready for another Wiccan’s Brew. As she headed over to one of the bars, Madam Samantha—in all her half-naked glory—cut in front of her. “Ah! Jenna Duffy. It’s not a party until the cops…er, Feds show up.”
“Incredible performance,” Jenna said. “Where’s your snake?”
“Oh, back in the cage…this is a lot of stimulation for a snake, you know.”
“I’m sure your snake is used to stimulation.”
“Food, sex, good wine…slinky pets!” Samantha said to her. “Oh, you’re not angry, are you? Your man is a stud, you know.”
“Why would I be angry?”
Samantha laughed. “Oh, honey! You can’t be that naive. Maybe he’s got the hots for you, but I’m sure I got a nice rise out him.”
Jenna was glad that the way the woman said the words actually and naturally made her laugh. She probably couldn’t have said or done anything more insulting, and she knew it because Samantha’s face turned a mottled shade or red.
“Sure,” Jenna said. “Excuse me, I was heading for the drink line. Can I get you anything?”
“Yeah. Yeah. You can get out of town. All you’re doing is hurting a lot of good people!”
“Noted. Now may I pass?”
“You going to make me move?” Samantha asked.
Jenna sighed. “I am a Fed, Miss Yeager. Lots of training under my belt,” she said softly.
Samantha moved. But as Jenna walked by, she warned, “You should get out of the state. You need to be careful. Whatever training you might have had, you’re not infallible. You could get hurt. I saw your cards, Agent Duffy. Actually, you could get dead.”
“Are you threatening me?” Jenna turned and asked.
“I would never! I’m telling you what I saw in your cards!”
Jenna continued toward the drink line. She was stunned when her way was blocked again.
Not by Samantha.
By a peacock.
Cindy Yates stared at her with teary eyes behind her jeweled mask. She seemed to be trembling with rage.
“How dare you? How dare you!” she demanded. “How dare you accost my son!”
“Mrs. Yates, I was at the cliff, showing the area to a friend of mine. Your son came to the cliff when I was already there.”
Cindy Yates continued to stare at her, shaking and looking more like a rooster at the moment. “That boy is the devil. That boy could kill us all. You stop trying to hurt our children. You stop what you’re doing—you—you—”
Jenna waited, certain she was going to hear another threat.
“You—you’re the cruelest, meanest person in the world!” Cindy said.
Then she didn’t threaten. She hauled back and slapped Jenna across the face with a startling strength.
Jenna was instantly aware of movement in the crowd. She knew that her group had rallied around her. She felt Sam at her back, as protective as a giant alpha wolf.
She lifted a hand quickly. “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Yates,” she said softly, and she stepped around the woman. Whoever had witnessed the exchange began to huddle together and whisper, but Jenna knew that she had avoided a real scene—or a brawl!
Sam caught her arm. She saw the gray of his eyes beneath his mask. “Are you all right?” he asked anxiously.
“My cheek is stinging, but another Wiccan’s Brew will fix that,” she assured him.
He slipped his arm through hers and led her to the drink line. “Well, we did want to get the lay of the land.”
Angela and Jackson were behind them in the line, as if they’d tacitly decided there would be no more divide and conquer; they would close ranks.
“So, Wiccan’s Brews, four, please,” Sam told the bartender. She looked at Jenna a moment, and then smiled.
“Welcome to Salem,” the bartender said. “Glad to have you here—all of you. Welcome. I mean, come on! We are the original Patriots, too!”
They thanked her and took their drinks. Ivy and Cecilia went up to the microphone the next time the music stopped. They thanked everyone and offered a special surprise performance.
Jenna was startled to see Will, elegantly attired, take the stage. She glanced at Sam, and she realized that he had planned the performance.
“Sneaky like the wolf!” she whispered to him.
“Hey, thought he should garner a nice audience this way.”
Will went through the beginning of his performance with lights and prisms, and then, to her surprise, a light went through the audience and settled on her. “Ah, we have an ancient Celtic queen to join us! Miss, if you’d come to the stage…?”
She wasn’t sure what he was up to, but Sam quickly escorted her to the stage. She’d halfway expected the crowd to boo, but apparently everyone didn’t hate them; she received the appropriate applause as Will welcomed her as his assistant.
“All are welcome here, but we are here due to the benevolence of the Coven of Light. So, we have our Celtic queen of old here, and she’ll crown the two who have brought about this wonderful, giving occasion. Because we know, in modern Salem, that Wiccans believe that all souls have the right to do as they will, as long as they harm no others. No two show greater kindness of spirit than our true queens from A Little Bit of Magic—Ivy and Cecilia!”
Will handed her two beautifully wrought gold crowns surrounded with ivy leaves and flowers. He cast his hand out, and rays of light fell over the two women. Blushing, they headed for the stage. They had obviously not known about this part of the entertainment.
“This is really great of you, Will,” Jenna whispered. “But what are you doing? What am I doing?”