FORTY-SIX: CHOCOLATE MILK




“YOU NEED NOT FEAR me, Maggie Keaton,” Mike said. “I have no intention of harming you.”

Mike’s voice was deep and soothing. It made you ignore his monstrous appearance and see the compassion that rode in his eyes.

“In fact,” Mike said. “I wanted to thank you.”

“Thank me?” Maggie said.

“You freed me from the dark wizard’s spell,” said Mike. “Who knows what terrible wrongs I would have committed under his control. If there is any service I may be able to do for you, Maggie Keaton, you only need ask.”

“Um,” Maggie said, looking more than a little embarrassed. “I can’t really think of anything.”

“Take this,” Mike said, handing her a large, brass coin. “If you need me, hold this to your heart, think of me, and I will come.”

“Okay, wow,” Maggie said, her embarrassment growing. “Thanks.” She pocketed the coin.

“Norman,” Mike said, turning to me and clapping me on the shoulder. My knees threatened to buckle. “It has been a long time. I hope that you are doing well. It pleases me to see that I did you no permanent damage.”

“You mean the hug?” I laughed. “It was nothing. How are you doing? It ain’t every day you fall under a magic spell.”

“I will admit that I did not handle it well once freed,” he said.

Now, I ain’t never seen a bull shamed before, wouldn’t know what the expression would look like on a bovine face. But I could see it now on Mike’s.

“I have spilled much blood this night,” Mike continued. “But it was this one I was looking for specifically.” He gestured to the body of the High Priest. “But I see that you have handled that already.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Sorry, but it needed doing. What about the rest of the Brotherhood?”

“There were few who escaped,” Mike said. “They are still running. You need not worry about the Brotherhood. The head has been cut off, and the body has been scattered to the four winds.”

“So no more kidnappings?” Maggie asked. “He said there were going to be thirteen more.”

“I think I may remain here for a while,” Mike said. “I’ll keep an eye out for activity with the Brotherhood. I am the only one of my kind in the area. If the Brotherhood wants to continue with the sacrifices, they will need me. But this time, if they come looking, they will not like what they find.”

“Here,” Maggie said, holding out the brass knuckles. “If another wizard comes after you, these will break the spell.”

“Thank you,” Mike said, the brass knuckles looking like a toy in the palm of his hand. “You do me a great honor.”

“You let me know if you need anything, Mike,” I said.

“I will, thank you, Norman.”

And with that, Mike turned and walked back through the corridor, and into the labyrinth.

“He seems nice,” Maggie said, smiling.

“Mike’s a peach.”

Outside the moon hung lazily in the sky, a gibbous moon that was slowly on its way to becoming full.

“Thank you,” Maggie said as we stood outside the door and took in the night. “You know, for coming to get me.”

“You ain’t gotta thank me for that,” I said. “It’s what I do. Besides, in the end, you saved me.”

“Yeah, only then you saved me.”

“Okay, we can go back and forth on who saved who. You’re out and breathing. That’s all that matters.”

“Well, all the same, at one point, when they had me in my cage, I’d begun to think that I would die in there. But then you showed up.”

“Well,” I said, shuffling my feet and looking at the ground. “I’m happy to oblige.” I don’t do complements too well.

We made our way across the field to my car.

“What do we do now?” she asked as I started up the engine.

“I take you home,” I said. “Your fiancé cries, you cry, I pretend not to cry. Everyone is happy.”

“Sounds good,” she said, a smile on her face. “And you?”

“Me?”

“Yeah. What does a man typically do after saving a damsel in distress?”

“Well, I can’t speak for the rest of them, but me,” I scratched at my chin. “I plan on throwing back a celebratory bottle of chocolate milk and sleeping for at least sixteen hours.”

“That sounds wonderful,” she said. “Except for the chocolate milk. I’m lactose intolerant.”

“That’s the most horrible thing I’ve heard all night,” I said.

She laughed and I pulled out onto the gravel road, heading back into town.






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