Tangled Tales: The Price of Love

The Price of Love

a short story from Marla Todd

“He stole my heart,” she said.

I looked up at the pretty blonde woman in the pink silk blouse. She brushed back a pretty curl that had fallen across her big blue eyes. I had no time for her kind. 

“I don’t deal in love potions or revenge. If you’d like I know a few other Witches I could recommend. They’re quite good.”

“You don’t understand, he literally stole my heart. I was supposed to have a transplant a few days ago and the bastard stole my new heart.”

She opened the top few buttons of her shirt to reveal a long line of stitches. “I was on the operating table, ready to have this pitiful damaged heart of mine removed, when the donor heart vanished. It literally vanished out of thin air, right there in the hospital, in front of the doctors. He said he’d steal my heart, but I never knew the bastard could actually be so ruthless.”

Then I noticed the oxygen tank she was wheeling behind her. 

She pulled up a barstool and sat down next to me. “I know your rates are extremely high, but so is your success rate. I want my heart back. Will you take the job?”

————————

Her name was Ava. She looked exhausted, and frankly, extremely ill, so I offered to take her home. 

“How’d you know I didn’t take my own car here?” she asked.

“I’m a Witch. I know things. Besides, you’re in no condition to drive, and you don’t seem like a reckless person.”

Ava’s home was a modest house in a modest middle class neighborhood. Across the street a couple of guys were working on what looked like a 68’ Charger.  Four middle school aged boys sat on the porch next door eating ice cream bars. Scooters and bicycles lay on the lawn in front of them. Two cats, an orange tabby and a solid black kitty sat on Ava’s doorstep. They both stood up when they saw us. I reached down to pet them.

“Meet Mr. Snickers and Mr. Darcy.” As the black one wound around my legs and meowed, Ava scratched the orange one behind his ears. “Hey Darcy. How’s my sweet baby?”

I helped her inside with oxygen tank. She kicked off her shoes by the front door, and I left mine by the door as well. We were greeted by a tall brown eyed guy, about 30 years old, with brown wavy hair and a short, neat beard. 

“Devin, this is Isolde. Isolde this is my fiancé, Devin. Isolde is the one I told you about. She’s going to help find my heart.”

They led me to a living room filled with midcentury modern style furniture all done in blues and yellows with touches of orange. Original art and 1970’s movie posters hung on the wall.

I look at family photos on a bookcase shelf.

“That’s my brother Blake,” said Ava. “He’s in the Coast Guard.”

I smiled. “He looks like you.”

“Our parents passed away from Covid-19, early in the pandemic. If I die…I’m all he has. We don’t have any other family.”

“I’ll find your heart Ava,” I said. “Blake won’t be alone.” I wasn’t sure if that was going to happen but I had to stay positive.

I sat in a blue chair. Devin brought out beers for him and me, while Ava had a glass of sparkling water. 

I started in on the questions. “Ava tell me why you think Jon Blanken might have stolen your heart. What was your relationship? What happened to make him want to take your heart? Who are his friends and associates. Are they also into the occult or magic? Do you know where he is now?” 

Ava had mentioned his name in the bar and again in the car. She told me Jon Blanken dabbled in the occult, but his name didn’t ring a bell with me.

Ava gave an uncomfortable glance at Devin. 

“It’s ok honey,” said Devin, taking Ava’s hand.

Standing in the corner was the faint image of a woman wearing a black dress and rather long colorful scarf.  I knew Ava and Devin couldn’t see her. 

“Go on Ava,” I said, ignoring the apparition, who was now waving her hands at me.

Then Ava took a sip of water and told me about Jon Blanken.

It was the age old story of a young woman swept off her feet by a charming handsome man who seemed as rich as he was sexy. 

Ava didn’t have any clear photos of him. Blanken refused to have his photo taken. He’d laugh it off and make jokes about it.

When they were together, he’d take her phone, saying something about his business and that he didn’t want to be tracked. 

Jon Blanken dazzled and bewitched Ava with his charming ways and his wealth. He controlled her every move. He changed the way she dressed and fixed her hair. It was as if he was grooming her to be his own perfect woman. He demanded perfection in the most loving of ways, or at least his version of perfection. Ava was in an abusive relationship that had come on so slowly and methodical that she didn’t even know it. 

Then one day she told him she was going to a job interview, for her dream job, and Jon Blanken said no. Then Ava evaluated the situation and left.

Jon Blanken begged her to return, then he began to use threats. Then he vanished.

Ava moved on with her life. A year later she met Devin. It clicked. She became ill. Devin stayed with her. Then Devin asked Ava to marry him. 

Jon Blanken contacted her when her name was put on the donor list. He was angry she’d become ill, especially after all he’d done for her. What he said didn’t make any sense to Ava. She refused to meet with him. He threatened her, then it was over. She didn’t hear from him again, but she was still frightened and more than frightened – she was angry. 

I asked her where he was now. Ava didn’t know. She and Devin had looked and done the usual Internet searches, but they couldn’t find a trace of Jon Blanken. It was as if he never existed. Ava and Devin even drove by Blanken’s house or where his house used to be. The large home had burned to the ground, the beautiful gardens that once surrounded it were now dead. None of the neighbors knew what happened or where he’d gone. Property records lead nowhere. The Blanken house belonged to a family trust with apparently no living members since 1954. The state was trying to find heirs with no luck, and if no heirs were found, the property would eventually be put up for public auction.

At that point I was going to ask why Ava thought Blanken was into the occult when Mr. Snickers and Mr. Darcy started playing with some beaded fringe on my bag. The two cats knocked it open and out rolled my crystal ball. 

“You know my dear,” said a voice behind me, “you ought to be more careful with your orb.”

Ava and Devin gasped, and both looked shocked as if they’d seen a ghost. I smiled. They had seen a ghost. It was Charlie, the ghost who sometimes resides in my crystal ball.

Charlie, who refuses to go his given name of Charles, looks like the dashing leading man right out of a 1930’s romantic comedy. He stood with his million dollar smile, pencil thin mustache, and dark hair brushed back off his face, and bowled us all over with presence. At least that was his goal.

“Oh, right. Ava, Devin, this is Charlie. He helps me out sometimes. Charlie is a ghost,” I said.

“Sometimes? Oh please, Isolde, I help you out ALL of the time.” Then he turned to Ava and Devin. “I’m so sorry to barge in like this. I know it is such a surprise to see a ghost. Unfortunately, there is a ghost in your house that you can’t see. Her name is Asia. Dear Ava, she is your heart donor.”

Then Charlie took Asia by the hand and they both vanished into the crystal ball. I didn’t wait for Ava or Devin to get over their shock.

“My heart donor? Wait, I need to talk to her,” said Ava, almost in a panic.

“No,” I said. “You don’t need to talk to her right now. You need to get some rest. In the meantime, I’m going to need some help finding your heart. You’ve given me a lot of useful information but since we’re dealing with something far more sinister than an asshole of a former boyfriend I’m going to consult with a friend of mine.”

“Who? Will it cost more?” Ava asked.

“The price will stay the same. My associate, my friend, can find anything.”

“Tell us about him first,” said Devin.

“My friend was once tasked with finding Marie Antionette’s jewels. Aren’t we all. Everyone thinks there are jewels out there, but most are just rumors and wishful thinking.”

“Did he find them?” Devin asked.

“Well, no,” I said, “but he did find a box of trinkets that belonged to the headless queen. There were a few ribbons, a child’s ring, a lock of hair from a lover along with a poorly written but extremely explicit love letter, and a few more milder love letters, and small items such as buttons, and a collection of tiny ceramic animals. There was also a vial full of brownish gray water.”

“No jewels?”

“Of course not.”

“So nothing,” said Devin. “What was in the vial? Was it Marie Antionette’s tears?”

“It wasn’t tears,” I said.

“What was in the vial then?” Devin asked impatiently.

“Marie Antionette’s soul,” I told him.

The was a hush in the room as it something had sucked all of the air out of it.

“Her soul? That’s ridiculous,” said Devin.

“Not any more ridiculous than Ava’s heart vanishing into thin air as she lay on the operating table with her skin peeled back ready to have her chest cavity cracked open.”

Devin downed the rest of his beer and stood up. “Sorry, I’m having a hard time processing all of this. It’s bad enough that Eva needs a heart transplant, but…I don’t know…” His eyes watered up and he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. 

“What happened to the vial?” Eva asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “What I do know is that he never opened it, and that it is in a safe place.”

After finishing up with Ava and Devin I went home. With Charlie’s help I did some research on everything I had so far. I consulted with my crystal ball, made a few phone calls, and did a little research on both the Internet and the Dark Web. Then with Charlie and Asia tucked away in my purse (in the crystal ball of course) I headed out to the home of the one person who could help me solve this mystery of the missing heart.

_____________________________________________

After changing into something nice, grabbing a change of clothes for the next day, and a packing couple of good bottles of wine from my cellar, I headed up the road to see my friend, and treasure hunter extraordinaire, Fortunato Alexander Flannigan Orlando Rogers. Don’t laugh. Guys like him rock the long names. Before I left I did a quick spell on the parameter of my house to keep out any intruders. I never know when I’m working on a case like this what might happen when I’m gone. I also brought along Maisey, my twelve year old Golden Retriever. 

As I wound up the narrow road into the hills above Los Angeles Charlie had jumped out of my crystal ball and sat in the passenger seat. Maisey sat in the back with her head out the window.

“This is a tough one, even for Fortunato,” said Charlie. “It would make a great movie.”

“If you weren’t a ghost you could star in it,” I said.

“Write, produce, and direct it too,” said Charlie. Then he let out a big sigh and looked out the window.

We arrived at a house that was a marvel of Arts and Crafts design with a view of the valley and the ocean to the west, and the mountains to the east. As far as I was concerned, and for many more reasons than the design, it was a bit of Heaven on Earth. 

The front door opened with a flood of light into the dark night. A man of average height, but uncommon charisma greeted us. Fortunato kissed me on the cheek, then nodded to Charlie. Maisey wiggled her rump as our host gave her a treat.

Dinner was on the grill out on the deck by the infinity pool. A red tailed hawk flew up and landed on the Catalina tile table next to me. “Hello Aurora,” I said to the bird and stroked her feathers. She was Fortunato’s familiar, the finder of lost dreams, and the finder of the occasional rabbit.

As we dined on steaks, grilled vegetables and a wonderful California Zinfandel, I told Fortunato everything I knew about Ava’s heart. 

He listened without interruption. 

“Tell me more about Ava,” Fortunato said as he leaned back and took a sip of his wine. “What does she do for a living?”

“Ava works for the city. She is in charge of coordinating and implementing improvements and programs to help the city withstand natural disasters. She also helps develop planning and housing policy in the office of economic development. In her spare time she runs a couple of community gardens. That includes outreach to marginalized populations, and programs for senior citizens. Her fiancé Devin is a High School English teacher. He runs creative writing programs for the teens and helps then get published in his spare time. He also volunteers at a cat shelter. That’s where the cat Mr. Darcy came from.”

“They sound like a socially responsible young couple. I’m impressed. Does Ava have any enemies?”

“No. Or at least none that I could find. I checked up on Devin as well. He’s a good guy. Their families are also just nice regular people.”

“Any paranormal connections?”

“None.”

“I haven’t seen you for a few weeks. How are you?”

“Fine I guess. I’ve been going to the dog beach a lot with Maisey.”

“Sound like fun. I need to join you sometime.”

“That would be great. I’ve been getting a lot of business lately from Reality TV stars. Most of them might as well have sold their souls already, but I’m doing my best to keeping it real for them. Anyway, it more than pays the bills.”

“Are you seeing anyone?”

“Not really. You?”

He smiled. “No, I’m not.”

——————————-

Later that night I woke up alone. Fortunato’s side of the bed was still warm. The last thing I remembers was falling asleep with his arms and legs wrapped around me and head against my shoulder. I slipped one of his robes and went out to the den where he often works.

I could see him at the table, in front of a large window with the view of a full moon and the city lights down below. Three cups were in front of him. He had the cards spread out on the table.

“I woke up with a weird feeling about some of the things you’d told me,” he said. “Have a seat.”

“Did you discover anything?”

“I keep getting an overwhelming sense of love from both Ava and her heart donor, as well as Devin. The vibes off of Jon Blanken were not so good. In fact they were disturbing.”

“How so?”

“Look at the cups.”

All three cups were filled with red liquid. Blood.

“Oh no.”

“Ava got herself tangled up with a Vampire.”

“Did he take her heart? Why?”

“I don’t know yet. There is also a question of what happened the night Asia, the heart donor died. She comes up as nothing but trouble. She never had any jail time but has come close.”

“What for?”

 “Fights, disruptive public behavior, stalking, and an assortment of other general asshole stuff. Our girl Asia has annoyed just about everyone she has ever met.”

“Maybe we need to talk to her.”

“I was thinking the same thing.”

I got out my crystal ball and summoned her out of it. Charlie also came out.

Asia appeared in a black party dress with a huge wildly colored scarf. Her long dark hair was curled and still messy from her wild dancing the night she died. For someone who was such a social outcast she was surprisingly pretty. Then again so were my Reality TV clients, but come to think of it they had the help of plastic surgery. Asia came by it naturally.

Asia looked around. “Hey, wow, this is a nice place. Look at that view.”

“Asia,” I said, “This is Fortunato. He is going to help me find your heart.”

“Cool,” she said. Then she winked at me. “He’s cute. You doing the nasty with him?”

I just gave her a slight smile. Charlie snorted and put his hand over his mouth to keep from laughing.

Asia kept talking. “So do you guys have any clues yet? I mean, you’re sort of like paranormal investigators or something like that.”

“Something like that,” said Fortunato. I believe something other than human has taken your heart Asia. That is the reason your soul is still locked here in the mortal world.”

“You gotta be effing kidding me. Even now I can’t get a break. I should have known something like this would have happened. Paranormal my ass. This is para-abnormal,” said Asia.

“If it isn’t too painful for you Asia, please tell us about the night you died,” said Fortunato.

Asia sat her ghostly form down in a chair and wrapper her garish shawl around her shoulders and arms. “It isn’t painful at all. I mean, it was at the time, but not now. My boyfriend Quinn and I went to Raven Nest. It’s a brewpub. One of our regular places. Was one of our regular places. A band I like, Tumble Buns, was playing. Have you heard of Tumble Buns?”

Charlie, Fortunato, and I all said no.

“They’re great. Sort of a Rock-a-Billy Emo band. Anyway, as soon as we get there, Quinn ditches me. When I find Quinn he says it is over. He broke up with me right there in front of everyone. What the crap? We just got there. 

I ask him why. He tells me I have no redeemable qualities. I asked him to explain. He says first off that I eat his food. So I steal a fry or onion ring from time to time. So what? Everybody does it. Then he says I dress funny. I have a unique style. I’m artistic and a free spirit. Then he says I talk too much. So, I tell him I have a lot to say. Then he says I’m boring in bed because he can’t get me to, well, you know, see fireworks. That isn’t my fault. I told him he doesn’t know what he is doing. It isn’t my fault. 

I tried to talk to him, but he called me a self-centered selfish freak. Self-centered? Selfish?  I only thought of HIM. It was always about HIM. I can’t believe how mean Quinn was to me that night. We’d been together for, what, six months? Yeah, six months. Almost seven.

After that I went out on the dance floor and danced by myself. I didn’t care who was looking at me. Some girl called me a freak and asked me if I was on drugs. All I did was accidently brush her arm with my scarf. I wasn’t even drunk. Some people are so mean. I called her a bitch and told her boyfriend that I bet she faked it when they screwed. Then Mr. Bitch’s Boyfriend starts yelling at me. And no, I didn’t respond. By then everyone was looking at me so I went to the bar and found a place next to Quinn. He told me I was the worst person in the world and that I was an embarrassment and left. 

No sooner had I sat down on his stool I heard POW POW POW. Some asshole was standing right there with a gun, you know one of those big black automatic things that looks like it is out of some military movie. A couple next to me froze like rabbits. Awww man. I put my arms around them and another chick and got them down on the floor under the bar. I told them they’d be ok and not to be scared. And that was it. The guy shot the top of my head off. Just like that. KABAM. SPLAT. DONE.

Then Quinn has the nerve to blubber like a baby in front of the news cameras because his girlfriend Asia, a true hero, had died. Fuck him.” 

“You saved three people.”

“Better them than me. Really. I know I’m weird. I know I say stupid things. Nobody gives a crap about me. The people I save were normal. They didn’t deserve to die.” 

“You didn’t deserve to die either.”

“I guess, maybe, maybe not, but I saved more than three people. There were three at the bar. Then, because I was an organ donor, my eyes went to someone, my kidneys, my liver. Even my face. 

Yeah, I donated my face. I’m pretty weird, but I’m also pretty pretty if you know what I mean. A sweet woman who had her face blown off by some dirt bag ex-boyfriend got my pretty face. How cool is that? She’ll be able to have a normal life again. I never had a normal life, but now she can with my face. With MY face. 

But my heart. Someone took my heart and now… You know, after I died, everyone else who died and I sort of traveled down this path towards a light. It was like hiking through the redwoods, but I’ve never been to see the redwoods because nobody would ever go with me. Then I was back here. Poof. Just like that. I want to go down that redwood path again. You have to find my heart and give it to Ava. She needs my heart. I want her to have it. She deserves it. I want to go back to the redwoods.”

Then Asia gave us an especially serious look furrowing her pretty ghost brows. “Asia. Ava. Our names even sound sort of alike. It was meant to be. I didn’t do shit when I was alive. Now that I can make a difference, son of a bitch, nothing ever goes right for me, even when I do the right thing.”

“Shhhhhh. We’ll find your heart Asia,” I said.

“God damn Quinn. He’s the kind of guy who eats bubble gum flavored ice cream. No adult should eat bubble gum ice cream. It should have been the top his head that was blown off.”

“Would Quinn want your heart Asia?” Fortunato asked her.

“Hell no. He already has a new boring vanilla regular normal girlfriend. It’s freaking pathetic. Holy crap, my death is the best thing that ever happened to him.”

I didn’t tell Asia that I’d already contacted Quinn. He was a nice normal guy. He had been devastated by what happened to Asia. 

“Asia was kind of a lost soul, but she had a good heart. I remember when she put the donor designation on her driver’s license. She was so proud. A month later she was dead.”

“Do you know who might have taken her heart?” I asked.

“No,” said Quinn said, as he wiped away a tear with the back of his hand.

I had Charlie take Asia back into the crystal ball. She’d just get into more trouble if she was allowed to ramble around in Fortunato’s home. Plus I’d know where she was if I needed more information from her. 

Right now our most important task was finding Jon Blanken. Actually the most important task was getting a few hours more sleep, and maybe, well, some more quality personal time with Fortunato. 

————————

As the sun came up in the morning I kicked the ghosts out of my crystal ball and got to work searching for Jon Blanken. Fortunato was out on his deck meditating and hopefully getting some messages from wherever he gets his messages. 

After about twenty minutes he came inside. “Have you had coffee yet? I’m making some.”

Over coffee, fruit, and some exceptionally good bagels, he told me he’d found Jon Blanken. The coward had burned down his house and escaped to one of his other properties in Palm Springs.

We left Maisey at the house with Charles and Asia and took off for a visit with Blanken. The drive was a little over two hours. I might be a Witch but I don’t ride a broom. We took Fortunato’s hybrid SUV and talked along the way. 

It was also so comfortable and familiar between us. For over fifty years we’d worked together, become friend, then become more than friends. For all of the time I’d known him there was still something mysterious about him. He was incredibly spiritual and kind, but at the same time he was one of the most savage beings I’d ever met. I still didn’t know quite how old he was or where he had come from. The answers were always vague and hidden away in dark places even I didn’t dare go. He was whatever he needed to be, which was fine with me. 

We arrived at a modern atomic age glass structure surrounded by century plants and barrel cactus planted in tan colored rocks. 

“Nice house,” I said.

“I guess, if you like that kind of thing,” said Fortunato.

There was no need to knock. I spouted off a spell and blew the door off of its hinges.

Blanken was sitting on the couch binge watching Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix. He sat stunned as we entered in a cloud of blue smoke (my own special touch.)

“Who the hell are you?” the Vampire Blanken asked.

“Where is Ava’s heart?” Fortunato asked as he walked up to Blanken.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Blanken.

Fortunato grabbed Blanken by the neck and lifted him about six inches off of the ground. “Where is Ava’s heart?”

“I don’t have it,” Blanken hissed out.

“Tell us what you did with it then,” said Fortunato as he tightened his grip, then dropped the Vampire to the floor. Blanken hissed showing his fangs.

Fortunato laughed at him. “You’re such a pathetic little rat. Where is Ava’s heart?”

“You don’t understand,” whined Blanken. “I was turning her. I was taking it slow.”

“Turning her? As in turning Ava into a Vampire?” I said shocked by the revelation.

“Yes, do I have to spell it out? I was turning her into a Vampire. She didn’t know. When she left me I was half way through. It damaged her heart.”

“She didn’t know? That is unacceptable even for the worst of Vampires. You’re nothing but an opportunistic ghoul,” I said.

“You destroyed her heart,” said Fortunato. “Why didn’t you go after her and finish it?”

Jon Blanken started to fidget and his bottom lip started to quiver. “You don’t know Ava. She’s strong. I’ve never met a woman who was so strong. I couldn’t keep her. She turned me away.”

“The you stole the heart that was going to replace the one you damaged,” said Fortunato.

“It wasn’t like that,” snapped Blanken.

“Then tell me what it was like Blanken? What did you do with the heart?”

“I sold it.”

“Why?”

“Because if Ava had a new heart she’d never take me back. I’d never be able to turn her into a Vampire.”

“Ava’s heart is beyond repair by your inept attempts. You will never be able to turn her into a Vampire you idiot,” said Fortunato.

“Who did you sell it to?” I asked.

“The Demon Goblin Queen. She is auctioning it off tonight to the highest bidder.”

“Oh shit,” I said. “Fortunato, we’d better get going.”

_________________________

I called Ava and updated her on the situation. Devin insisted on going along with us. I tried to talk him out of it, but finally Fortunato agreed to have him along.

We arrived just in time to the auction house of The Demon Goblin Queen, Belinda Bozella. The last time I was here was when I purchased a vat of dried elf skin I needed for some rather difficult spells. That must have been at least thirty years ago.

The auction house was crowded with just a few seats left in the back. Devin looked around at the crowd no doubt wondering what horror film he’d just walked into.

Belinda Bozella stood at the auction block, all tightly wrapped in a silver and black wiggle dress, with red hair piled about three feet above her head. Then with a brief introduction she started the bidding. “One human heart. Belonged to a twenty six year old female human. A heart taken from the operating table as it waited to be transplanted into the chest of another. What will you give for it.”

The would be buyers called out their offers.

“Joaquim Murrieta’s Head,” called out a man in a green plaid jacket.

“Adolph Hitler’s Dirty Underwear,” yelled a demon.

“The skull of a nun,” another screamed out. “A nun who killed twenty children and a priest.”

“Twenty million dollars,” said someone in the front row.

“A load of unicorn manure,” a woman yelled out. 

“My heart. You can take my heart in exchange for Asia’s heart,” rang out a voice so sweet and pure that half of the crowd winced in pain.

“No, Devin. No” I said.

“Retract that bid,” called out Fortunato.

Belinda shook her head. “There are no retractions allowed, unless of course…” She smiled a smile full of sharp white teeth. “You would like to give me Isolde’s dog Maisey.”

“No. Absolutely not,” said Devin.

Belinda squinted at Devin. “Who are you?”

“He’s a high school English teacher. He teaches AP English and creative writing. His heart is useless to you,” said Fortunato.

“Why do you want this heart English teacher?” Belinda asked.

Devin stood up and answered. “It was supposed to go to the woman I love. It was stolen off of the operating table by the Vampire Jon Barkins.”

“I see,” said Belinda.

“No, you don’t see,” said Devin. “She needs this heart.”

Fortunato stood up next to him. “Devin please, stop talking. Belinda, his heart is no use to you. The man is just a normal guy. There is no magic in him.”

“There is no magic in the heart he wishes to purchase either,” said Belinda.

My purse jolted and Asia jumped out of the crystal ball. “Excuse me. That was my heart you’re talking about bitch. There is plenty of magic in it. Go fuck yourself and give the English teacher MY HEART.”

Belinda looked annoyed. “You’re a ghost. What do you care?”

“Blow me,” snapped Asia.

Belinda’s face became a mask of anger. “One more word and you will be removed permanently, and young lady I mean permanently as in forever. Does anyone else wish to bid?”

“The propeller of Amelia Earhart’s plane,” yelled someone with a horn coming out of his forehead.

“Cromwell’s Head,” yelled a man with a long white beard.

“No, I don’t need any more heads,” yelled Belinda.

“Mata Hari’s head,” yelled a man in a white suit standing in the back.

“I said no more heads,” roared Belinda.

“The Oak Island Treasure,” cried someone from the middle.

Belinda rolled her eyes. “Oh please. Don’t waste my time.”

The she scanned the crowd and yelled, “The heart of the woman loved by the poor pathetic High School English teacher. Going once, going twice.”

“Marie Antionette’s Soul,” a voice rang out strong and clear.

Belinda looked shocked. “Fortunato, you have Marie Antionette’s soul?”

“Yes, I do,” he said.

Belinda smiled. “Really?”

“Would I lie to you Belinda?”

“You’d part with it for this common heart?”

“It’s not common,” yelled Asia.

“Asia, hush,” I hissed at her.

“Yes, the heart is more valuable to me than the soul of a headless queen. I’ll throw in a petrified piece of cake and a couple of extremely dirty love letters to sweeten the deal,” said Fortunato.

“What else?” Belinda asked.

“A kiss,” said Fortunato.

Belinda smiled, “From you?”

“From me.”

Belinda slammed her gavel down. “Sold to Fortunato Rogers.”

A resounding cheer went up.

_____________________________________________

The following morning Asia’s heart was put into Ava’s chest where it began to beat strong and steady.

Asia kissed Charlie and took a walk along the redwood path towards the light.

I went back to my house by the beach with Charlie and Maisey. That afternoon I had a Zoom call with the California Witch’s Alliance. After taking care of some paperwork and taking a long shower I sat on a chair in my backyard and tried to clear my brain. 

The love that Devin had for Ava blew me over. It was something that might seem so rare to some, but was it really? Who wouldn’t give their heart to save the person they love the most? Then I thought about Asia and how she threw herself over three strangers to save them and didn’t even seem to care that she died. Her happiness came from somewhere in a deep place that we all have, but rarely even know it exists. 

Then I thought about Fortunato. That was a bad idea. He was brilliant, and sexy, and scary, and a total mystery, and if I kept this up I was going to end up with a damaged heart.

Then I heard a familiar voice say my name. 

“Isolde.”

I turned to see Fortunato standing there.

“Hello. I didn’t expect to see you,” I said.

He smiled. “We have some unfinished business Isolde.”

“Well,” I said, “I hope you’ve rinsed your mouth out and wiped all of the Goblin spit off of your lips.”

Fortunato smiled at me and laughed. 

Like a good Witch I was ready for the night. Ready to solve another mystery. And ready to believe.

~ end

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