Bewitched and Betrothed

Bewitched and Betrothed

by Juliet Blackwell
Bewitched and Betrothed

Bewitched and Betrothed

by Juliet Blackwell

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A supernatural force on the loose in San Francisco and a family reunion keeps witch and vintage storeowner Lily Ivory on her toes as she prepares to walk down the aisle...

When Lily Ivory stumbles on the uniform of a former prisoner from Alcatraz and SFPD inspector Carlos Romero’s cousin is kidnapped, Lily suspects something dangerous has been unleashed on the ghost-ridden island of Alcatraz. She'll have to sleuth out the culprit—when she’s not busy entertaining her visiting relatives and resolving romantic conflicts as her wedding date approaches. Could recent omens be pointing to the magical threat in her adopted city? If so, she'll have to line up her allies to change the fate of the Bay Area. Because no matter what, Lily's determined to celebrate her marriage with her friends by her side—even if it means battling a demonic foe before she can make it to the altar.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451490612
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/25/2019
Series: Witchcraft Mystery , #10
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 393,059
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Juliet Blackwell is the pseudonym for the New York Times bestselling author who writes the Witchcraft Mystery series and the Haunted Home Renovation series. She is also the author of Letters from Paris and The Paris Key. Together with her sister, Juliet wrote the Art Lover's Mystery series. The first in that series, Feint of Art, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel.

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***

Copyright © 2019 Juliet Blackwell


Chapter One

A salty, heavy shroud of fog obscures the night.

Frigid waters close over my head. Sparks of silvery moonlight dance on the surface of the bay, calling to me. I flail and kick, struggling to lift myself, to breathe sweet air, my arms and legs numb with cold and exhaustion. The cheerful lights of San Francisco peek through the fog, tantalizingly far away; the island behind me is closer, but gleams and pulsates in the light of the full moon like a living, malevolent thing. The Golden Gate is the third point on the triangle, and I am in the center.

A foghorn sounds in a mournful cry.

Strong currents wrap around my legs, tugging at my feet, pulling me toward the Golden Gate and out to the vast Pacific Ocean. Lost at sea. Lost forever.

I can’t go on.

I fear drowning, but remind myself: Witches don’t sink.

At least I don’t. I had been in the bay once before and popped up like a cork. But . . . what about now?

Icy fingers grip my ankles, drawing me down. The water closes over my head again, and I try to scream.


I struggle toward the surface. Fighting, flailing. I have to.

I have to.

“Mistress!” a gravelly voice called again. “Are you all right? Why are you all wet?”

I opened my eyes. I was in my own home, in my own bed. Safe.

Oscar, my ersatz witch’s familiar—a shape-shifting cross between a gargoyle and a goblin—perched on my brass bedstead, leaning over to peer at me. His fearsome face was upside down and his breath smelled vaguely of cheese.

Soaked and shivering, I let out a shaky sigh. I wasn’t sweaty from fear, but dripping wet—and smelling of brine—as though I had, indeed, just emerged from the San Francisco Bay.

“I had a nightmare,” I said.

“Yeah, no kiddin’. That’s one heck of a nightmare if you’re manifesting in your sleep. Were you swimming or something?” Oscar waved a handful of travel brochures under my nose. “Hey, check these out. I think we should go to Barcelona first, maybe.”

“Oscar, I cannot discuss my honeymoon plans with you at the moment.” My brain felt fuzzy. I sat up and glanced at my antique clock on the bedside table. Its hands glowed a mellow, comforting green that cut through the darkness. City lights sifted through my lace curtains, but even raucous Haight Street was hushed at three o’clock in the morning.

“But it’s the witching hour,” Oscar whined.

“Ideal for spellcasting, not for making travel plans.”

Oscar cocked his head. “What better time is there?”

“In the morning. After coffee. When normal people are awake.”

“But we’re not ‘normal people’—like we’d even want to be, heh!” He chuckled, a raspy sound reminiscent of a rusty saw.

I’m Lily Ivory, a natural-born witch from West Texas who wandered the globe for years, searching for a safe place to settle down. On the advice of a parrot named Barnabas, whom I had met in a bar in Hong Kong, I had come to San Francisco—specifically, to Haight Street—where a witch like me could fit in.

I love it here. For the first time in my life I have friends, a community, a home.

If only the beautiful City by the Bay weren’t so chock-full of murder and mayhem.

Oscar was right, I thought, plucking the soggy nightgown away from my skin. It was unusual to manifest during a dream, to bring a physical object—in this case, water from the bay—from the realm of slumber into the waking world.

I shivered again.

“Just saying, we’re both awake right now,” Oscar continued. “And not for nothing, but you might want to dry off and maybe put a towel down before you ruin your mattress.”

Throwing back the covers, I hopped out of bed and headed to the bathroom to take a shower. Washing away the waters of the bay with lemon verbena soap, I lingered under the hot spray until warmth settled down deep in my core.

I emerged from the bathroom to find that Oscar had gone. He had left the travel brochures fanned out in a semicircle atop my comforter, and on the nightstand was a steaming mug of chamomile tea. He had also managed to dry the bed, somehow, and to make it up with fresh sheets.

Oscar might not be a typical (read: obedient) witch’s familiar, but he definitely had his moments. Not to mention he had saved my life on more than one occasion.

I sat on the side of the bed, sipped the tea, and picked up a brochure with a glossy photo of Barcelona’s famous Sagrada Fam'lia. The next brochure featured the Eiffel Tower, and the last the Voto Nacional de Quito, in Ecuador.

I had promised Oscar he could tag along on my honeymoon so that we could search for his mother, a creature suffering under a curse that transformed her into a gargoyle. The problem was he had no idea where she might be, only that “gargoyles live a long time.” I reminded myself to discuss this with my fiancé, Sailor, so that we could come up with a targeted approach before Oscar whipped up an entire world tour for us. Recently it had been difficult for Sailor and me to find the time—and the peace of mind—to talk about much of anything, much less gargoyle-guided tours.

I yawned. Speaking of honeymoons, I had a bucketload of decisions to make before the wedding, and more than a few wrinkles to iron out. My grandmother’s eccentric coven had recently arrived in town; I was about to be married to a beautiful but secretive man—an attachment to whom, I had been warned, might weaken my powers. Oscar kept disappearing to search for his mother even though he was supposed to be helping secure the perfect venue for my upcoming wedding, and recently I had come to realize that instead of one guiding spirit, I had two, and they weren’t getting along, which was messing with my magic. And finally, my beloved adopted city of San Francisco was facing a frustratingly nonspecific existential threat that primarily involved a cupcake lady named Renee.

I took another sip of tea. I also still needed to find just the right vintage bridesmaid dresses for my friends Bronwyn and Maya. Under any other circumstance I would have said “Wear what you like!” but the style editor for the San Francisco Chronicle was planning to do a feature on our antique bridal wardrobe, which would be great publicity for my vintage clothing store, Aunt Cora’s Closet.

I may be a witch and a soon-to-be bride, but I’m also a small-business owner vying for customers on increasingly competitive Haight Street. I needed the exposure.

I also needed some rest.

Grabbing an in fidem venire praesidii amulet off the dresser mirror, I held it in my right hand and walked the perimeter of the bedroom in a clockwise direction, chanting:

I have done my day’s work,

I am entitled to sweet sleep.

I am drawing a line on this carpet,

over which you cannot pass.

Powers of protection, powers who clear,

remove all those who don’t belong here.

As I lay back down and switched off the light, waiting for sleep to take me, I couldn’t shake the sensation of the waters closing over my head.

It wasn’t like me to have a nightmare. Much less a manifesting nightmare.

It was enough to worry a weary witch like me.



Chapter Two

The next morning Aunt Cora’s Closet was bursting at the seams with witches.

Fourteen elderly women—an entire West Texas coven, plus my mother—crowded the aisles of my shop, searching for glittery garments to rival the silver bugle bead jacket my grandmother Graciela had nabbed from my inventory a few days ago.

“The sparklier, the better,” said Agatha, pawing through a rack of ’80s-era, padded-shoulder flapper-revival tops.

“I want one exactly like Graciela’s, except in blue,” said Kay, her thick tortoiseshell glasses magnifying her rheumy eyes to a comical extent as she tilted her head back to examine a royal blue sequined jacket through the bottom of her bifocals. Her beaded glasses chain clicked. “Blue brings out my eyes.”

“No two vintage items are the same, that’s what makes them so special,” MariaGracia said, then added in a loud whisper: “If you want that silver one you can win it from Graciela on pagan poker night.”

My mother, Maggie, was flipping listlessly through a rack of 1950s sundresses, listening to the goings-on with a slightly bewildered expression. Not only was my mother not part of the coven, she had only very recently come to approve of magic at all. I couldn’t imagine what the long road trip from Texas had been like for her, given her boisterous, opinionated travel companions.

“This one’s nice,” said Winona, holding up a bolero jacket encrusted with gemlike rhinestones known as crystal chatons. Their facets reflected the late-morning light streaming in through the store’s street-front display windows. “It’s purple, that’s my color.”

“That’s not purple, it’s eggplant,” said Caroline in an imperious tone, tucking her subtly highlighted blond hair behind one ear as she studied a full-length silk charmeuse evening gown.

“Purple, eggplant, what’s the difference?” Winona shrugged.

“And that, my dear, is why you’ve never mastered color magic,” quipped Caroline.

“Well, at least I can work with a pendulum without breaking a black mirror,” muttered Winona, slipping some cheesy crackers to Oscar, who was currently in his public guise as my pet Vietnamese miniature potbellied pig.

The thirteen coven members were women of a certain age: Darlene, Winona, Betty, Caroline, Iris, Kay, MariaGracia, Nan, Pepper, Rosa, Viv, Agatha, and, of course, my grandmother Graciela. They represented all sizes and colors and temperaments; sort of a witchy United Nations drawn from the far-flung corners of our dusty West Texas county. I had grown up with and around these powerful, stubborn, quirky witches and was overjoyed to have them with me now.

I needed them with me now, given everything I was facing in San Francisco.

Even if they were helping themselves to some of my best sparkly inventory, for which I would not, of course, allow them to pay.

“My mom—Lucille—can add a little bling to just about anything, if that’s what you’re after,” offered Maya. “Her shop’s right next door; you could get things altered, or even custom-made. All the glitter you could ask for.”

A chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” greeted this suggestion.

Graciela, secretly delighted that her discovery of the silver bugle bead jacket had caused such a sensation, was investigating a rack of gauzy negligees, muttering racy comments. She spoke in a spicy mixture of Spanish and English that I was unwilling to translate for my coworkers.

Bronwyn and Maya were helping to rehang items, but were mostly, with good-natured fascination, observing the chaos on the shop floor.

The coven had been hitting the touristy highlights when they stopped in for jackets to ward off the summer chill. Nan and Iris already had donned garish sweatshirts purchased from the ubiquitous street vendors that catered to the tourists who flocked to town, ready to enjoy all this city had to offer but ill-equipped for its microclimate. People often equated “California” with “warm,” only to discover that San Francisco had little in common with Los Angeles or San Diego. Here, a day might start out chilly and damp, soar to eighty degrees by lunchtime, then plummet into the fifties with the arrival of a thick blanket of afternoon fog. Locals learned to dress in layers.

I yawned. I’m usually not bothered much by lack of sleep, but the memory of last night’s dream troubled me. Could it have been a prophetic vision, or simply random snippets of worry and anxiety forming themselves into a story line? Or was someone—or something—harassing me by sending mares to disrupt my rest? I considered consulting the coven about it, but decided to wait for a more appropriate moment.

As I fiddled with the antique engagement ring on my finger and watched the druzy stone glitter under the shop lights, I hoped that whatever the nightmare signaled wouldn’t interfere with my upcoming wedding.

Me. Betrothed. I still couldn’t quite believe it.

At last, their hands clutching purple Aunt Cora’s Closet bags filled with new-to-them clothes, the coven—and my mother—clambered back aboard the ancient yellow school bus to resume their tour of the city. Wendy, Bronwyn’s coven sister and a San Francisco native, had offered to be their tour guide on the condition that she pilot the old bus. Impressed but concerned that Agatha had managed to drive them all the way from Texas, Wendy had suggested tactfully that, since San Francisco’s famously steep hills were a bit of a challenge for even the most skilled chauffeur, it might be best for a local—and, as Wendy pointed out quietly to me, someone with 20/20 vision—to be behind the wheel.

“I’ll see you all tonight. I’m bringing the pizza,” I said.

The coven was staying with my friend Calypso Cafaro, a botanical expert with a big old farmhouse near Bolinas, up the coast. Since Calypso had filled her home with air beds and cots for a drawn-out witchy slumber party, the least I could do was to provide the occasional dinner. Calypso’s farm was where the handfasting would be held in a mere two weeks, assuming Oscar was able to broker an agreement with the woods spirits. This could be tricky, because I had received their help once in the recent past but had neglected to properly repay the favor.

So there was that.

“Make sure there’s a vegetarian option?” Viv said, hanging out one of the windows of the old school bus. She was watching her cholesterol, but was very fond of cheese.

“Got it right here,” I said, patting a pad of paper with thirteen special requests. The coven members were nothing if not opinionated. Some were vehemently anti-anchovy, others all-veggie, still others pro-pepperoni (“A meat lover’s version would be delightful!”). I wondered if I should try to fit all their requests onto half a dozen pies or save myself time and trouble, and just order thirteen individual pizzas. “I’ll bring some snacks as well.”

“Oooh, garlicky knots?” someone called out; I couldn’t tell who.

“Garlicky knots.” I nodded, jotting it down. “Anything else?”

“With dipping sauce!” Rosa said.

“Knots and dipping sauce. Got it.”

Seeing where this conversation was going, Bronwyn intervened to bring it to an end. “Now, won’t that just be lovely! Have a wonderful tour, ladies. Tomorrow, I’ll bring the makings for margaritas! Bye-bye!”

Wendy closed the door, threw the bus in gear, and roared off in a cloud of diesel exhaust, carefully navigating the crowded streets of the Haight. Bronwyn and I waved until the bus"disappeared" then turned to each other.

“Phew!” Bronwyn said.

“You can say that again,” I said with a smile.


Bronwyn was nothing if not obliging.

A lovely, ample, fifty-something Wiccan, Bronwyn had been enjoying the opportunity to discuss the healing properties of botanical teas and tonics with Graciela’s coven—not to mention grilling them about details of my misspent youth. Still, she and I had businesses to run. Bronwyn had special-order herbal infusions to mix, and I—well, I had laundry to do.

Every garment that came into my store first had to be inspected and cleaned. As much as I disliked doing laundry per se, I adored sifting through the new acquisitions. Finding inventory was a perennial challenge in my line of work, so I made frequent visits to estate sales and garage sales, as well as the Bay Area’s many charitable thrift stores and flea markets. Maya scoured the attics, basements, and closets of the people she met through her long-term pet project interviewing and recording the stories of elderly Bay Area residents. And sometimes the inventory came to me: As my shop gained a reputation and had become better known, I began fielding calls from those helping their elderly aunts, mothers, and grandmothers clean out their closets.

Currently, half a dozen Hefty bags filled with Maya’s latest acquisitions awaited me in the workroom at the back of the store, which was separated from the shop floor by a thick brocade curtain. I was eager to see what new treasures she had discovered. Opening one sack, I ran my hands along a cool satin aqua-colored poodle skirt from the mid-’50s, then brought out a 1960s lace cocktail-length gown with a pinch waist. Both items went into the hand-wash pile. Very few true vintage items could be run through the jumbo-sized washing machine that crowded the back room.

Maya joined me, a cup of steaming chai tea in her hand. Maya was in her early twenties but seemed much older and wiser than a lot of people twice her age. She wore no makeup or jewelry, but her black hair was twisted into shoulder-length locks and decorated with beads and a single streak of bright blue.

“Lily,” Maya said, “I wanted to ask you about something. I found a . . . well, a special item.”

“I sure hope it’s spangly, because the aunties snapped up most of our glittery goods,” I replied as she lifted one of the Hefty bags onto the workroom table, a jade green Formica dinette set from the 1960s, and began searching through the bag.

“I wouldn’t say it’s spangly, exactly. Here it is.”

Maya held up a man’s long-sleeved blue chambray shirt. It was faded and old, and not at all attractive. Definitely no sparkles.

But that’s not what bothered me. Even from across the workroom I felt its vibrations: a low, malevolent hum. My eyes fell on a series of numbers stamped in black ink over the chest pocket: 258.

That was one nasty shirt.


Chapter Three

“What is that?” I asked her.

“I think it’s a genuine piece of history,” said Maya, restrained excitement showing in her dark eyes. “I already talked to Carlos’s cousin Elena, who works on Alcatraz as a National Park Service ranger. We think it might be part of an inmate’s uniform from the old prison.”

Carlos Romero was a San Francisco homicide inspector who had become a good friend over the course of several police investigations. I had met his cousin Elena a few months ago, at Carlos’s birthday party. When she heard I’d never been to Alcatraz, she’d encouraged me to come for a visit and promised me a personal tour. I had demurred; I had no desire to visit a penitentiary bound to be full of angry ghosts and mournful spirits. Not to mention bad vibrations.

“A . . . real inmate’s uniform?” I asked. “Are you sure?”

Along with selling gaudy sweatshirts, the city’s sidewalk vendors peddled a vast array of Alcatraz-themed items, such as T‑shirts emblazoned with Alcatraz Swim Team or gangster Al Capone’s mug shot. Black-and-white-striped infant onesies seemed a bit macabre to me, but then I’ve never had my finger on the pulse of popular culture.

“I’m not certain, but I think it might be,” said Maya.

“Didn’t the prisoners wear black-and-white stripes, like in the movies?” asked Bronwyn, who had taken a break from straightening the racks and putting away the garments the coven had tried on and rejected.

“That’s what I thought, too!” said Maya. “But apparently not, they wore jeans and blue chambray shirts like this one.”

“Jeans? How stylish,” Bronwyn said.

“You’d think so, but not really,” Maya said. “Before the rebellious youth of the 1950s made them cool, jeans were considered working-class clothing: sturdy and inexpensive, worn by farmers, construction workers, miners panning for gold . . .”

“And prisoners?” I asked.

“Yep. I did a little research online last night. If the shirt is real, then the number over the pocket means it belonged to a prisoner who escaped from Alcatraz in 1937.”

“I didn’t realize anyone actually escaped from the Rock,” Bronwyn said. “I thought that was the point of putting a federal penitentiary on an island in the middle of the bay—it was considered escape-proof.”

“I can see how being stuck on an island would slow an escaped prisoner down, since you can’t just walk away,” I said. “But Alcatraz Island is only, what, a mile offshore? Isn’t there an annual swim contest from there—called ‘Escape from Alcatraz,’ as a matter of fact?”

“Yes, but those are highly trained athletes competing in a triathlon,” Maya said. “Keep in mind that not everyone knows how to swim, especially not in the past, when swimming pools were few and far between. Plus, the currents in San Francisco Bay are very dangerous—even good swimmers can get caught and swept out to sea.”

Once again, the memory of last night’s nightmare washed over me. Currents tugging at my legs, pulling me toward the Golden Gate.

“But you’re suggesting someone did escape?” I asked.

“Apparently that’s still up for debate.” Maya consulted her notebook. “Let’s see: A total of thirty-six prisoners were involved in escape attempts. Most were foiled while still on the island; six inmates were shot and killed in the attempts, and five prisoners made it into the water but were never seen again. Since their bodies were never found, the authorities concluded they were swept out to sea and drowned; but because there’s no proof of that, either, it’s possible some actually made it to land. Over the years, there have been supposed sightings of the escaped prisoners reported in South America.

“The number 258 on the pocket was Ray Perry’s inmate identification number,” continued Maya. “In 1937 he slipped into the water, never to be seen again.”

“Where did you find this shirt?” I asked Maya. I hadn’t gone near the thing, repelled by its vibrations. But now I stroked my medicine bag to center myself and held out my hands for the shirt.

“It was in Mrs. Archer’s attic, along with these other items,” Maya said, gesturing to the contents of the Hefty bag and passing the shirt to me.

“What do you think, Lily?” Bronwyn asked, sounding intrigued but concerned. “Does it feel like it could belong to an escaped prisoner?”

“It’s . . .” I held the chambray shirt close. The cotton fabric was soft with age, but its vibrations were pure malice. I sensed despair, rage, a bleak nothingness. “I’m pretty sure it’s . . . genuine.”

I held it out, away from my core, and the three of us stared at it.

“Did Mrs. Archer say anything about it?” I asked.

Maya shook her head, the beads in her braided locks making a pleasant clacking sound. “She said it was there when she moved in, thirty years ago, in a bunch of boxes left behind by the previous homeowner. There were old photographs and that sort of thing up there, too.”

“What was this Ray Perry in prison for?” asked Bronwyn.

“Kidnapping and bank robbery,” Maya said.

At least it wasn’t murder, I thought, then reflected on how bizarre my life had become that I was afraid the spirit of a murderer might be lurking in the vintage items that passed through my hands.

“What do you think, Lily? Pretty interesting, isn’t it?” Maya asked.

“It’s fascinating, Maya, I agree. But we can’t sell this. It could be dangerous to whoever wore it.”

“Dangerous how?” Bronwyn asked.

“The vibrations are . . . off.”

“I guess that would make sense,” Maya said. Unlike Bronwyn and me, Maya wasn’t sure what to make of magic, and had a natural tendency toward skepticism. But she’d been around me enough to know that I was tapped into something she didn’t understand, and she respected it. “Perry was a federal prisoner, after all, and if this really was his shirt, it’s possible he survived a desperate swim in the cold waters of the bay. I imagine that experience would leave behind some bad juju.”

“Some very bad juju,” I said, retrieving a copper Sri Yantra talisman from my collection in the shop’s glass display case. “Wear this for a few days, please, Maya, just in case. You’ve been handling the shirt, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

“Be glad to. I’ve been admiring this necklace for days,” murmured Maya, studying the charm. “What is it supposed to do?”

“It’s for good luck and protection,” I explained. “The nine interlocking triangles form a total of forty-three smaller triangles. I’m . . . feeling triangles lately.” Recently, triangles and the number three had been coming to mind. In a way, that was no surprise: Three is a sacred number in many faiths and belief systems. But the moment I spoke, I realized something: Either I was intuiting more than ever before, or I was paying more attention to my insights. Maybe all that witchy training was finally paying off.

“Cool,” said Maya, slipping the amulet over her head and patting the copper sphere against her chest.

“What about you, Lily?” Bronwyn said, looking worried. “Shouldn’t you wear one, too?”

“I’ve got my medicine bag and guiding spirits, and my witch’s intuition and what-all. I’ll be fine.”

“Okay, so what do we do now?” Maya asked, nodding at the shirt.

“I think . . . maybe I should burn it. I’ll have to give that some thought.”

“What? You can’t burn it, Lily,” Maya protested. “It’s a piece of history.”

“It’s horrifying.”

“Horrifying, but historic.”

I wasn’t convinced.

“Besides,” continued Maya, “I wasn’t suggesting selling it. I’ve already spoken with Elena Romero about it, remember? She’s coming by the shop in an hour. She wants the shirt for the park service’s museum—assuming it’s genuine, that is.”

Oh, it’s genuine, I thought.

“That might be a problem, Maya,” Bronwyn said. “Lily thinks the shirt is dangerous.”

“Well, we can’t just burn it,” Maya said. “What would I tell Elena?”

“Could you cleanse it of its evil vibrations, Lily? Or bind them, perhaps?” suggested Bronwyn.

I blew out a breath. “All right, let me think. . . . I suppose if I restrained the vibrations with a binding spell, and Elena immediately put it under glass in the museum, it would be safe enough. It’s not as though she’s going to wear it, after all. Right? I’ll talk to her about it.”

“Good,” said Maya. “I know it’s creepy, but it’s also fascinating. Like Alcatraz itself. You really should go visit it one day, Lily.”

The frigid bay waters, closing over my head.

I took the shirt upstairs to my apartment over the store, and performed a hasty binding spell over it, using a small vial of saltwater from the bay to cleanse it. I was familiar with those waters; they had once cleansed me.

But cleansing required harnessing the salts of the bay and concentrating them within a serenity spell. In last night’s dream, the bay waters weren’t cleansing as much as threatening.

Once again, I shivered at the memory. My nightmare and today’s appearance of the inmate’s shirt from Alcatraz could be a simple coincidence. Except that I had learned the hard way that events in my life were rarely coincidental and almost never simple.

I shook it off. This was no time to allow my mind to wander. Spellcasting was all about focusing one’s intent.

From the living room bookshelf I retrieved a smooth stone I had found in the Ruby River in Montana, and extracted a rusty, square-headed nail from my medicine bag. I had picked up the nail in an old silver mining ghost town in New Mexico, the site of a terrible mining tragedy that killed twenty-two men.

I cast a quick salt circle, then set the nail upon the stone and struck it thrice with an iron hammer while intoning a spell in Latin. Finally, I scored the stone three times with the point of the rusty nail and returned the nail to my medicine bag.

Later I would cast the stone into the bay, completing the circle, but for now I braided and knotted yard-lengths of orange, blue, and black yarn, focusing my intent while chanting:

By knot of one, my spell’s begun.

By knot of two, the wish comes true.

By knot of three, so mote it be.

By knot of four, this charm is a door.

By knot of five, my intent comes alive.

By knot of six, the enchantment I fix.

By knot of seven, the strength of eleven.

By knot of eight, I cast this fate.

By knot of nine, what’s dreamt is mine.

I wrapped the prisoner’s shirt in brown paper and tied the whole thing with the braided strings. The shirt’s vibrations were still bleak, but that was to be expected. It was no longer dangerous—as long as no one put it on. It was too easy to forget the effect clothing can have upon a person; to change into a new set of clothes can, indeed, change the wearer, if only very subtly. Everyone is different, of course, and some need a touch of darkness in their clothes to highlight the sunshine in their lives.

But not this shirt. Not #258. This shirt was too much of a burden for even the strongest among us to bear.

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