“Need a Hand?”

The stream of profanity suddenly halted. A solution flashed in his brain, and Patches grabbed Mr. Johnson by the wrist. The cold, flaccid flesh repulsed Patches, and he immediately released the dead man’s hand.

“Mr. Johnson! It’s her! She’s behind it all!” Patches unconsciously rubbed his hands on his chest, as if to wipe away the scent of death. Despite that motion, his body trembled with the joy only an epiphany can provoke.

Mr. Johnson swayed. “Her? Her who?”

“Angeline!” Patches remembered the miniature toadstools scattered across the back floorboard of her car, which at the time he had dismissed as more of her witchcraft nonsense. “She has cast a Mediocris charm about you–” Patches interrupted himself. “Nevermind. There’s not enough time. Follow me!”

Patches darted through hallways, stopping every so often to wait for the shambling Mr. Johnson. He’d have offered to carry the corpse, but the idea so offended his sensibilities he restrained himself, channeling his reserves of patience. After what seemed like an unpardonable length of time, they finally reached a wing labeled “Amazonia.” Patches left the walking corpse behind as he headed straight for the weaponry. He brushed past the spears and went straight for the blow guns, under plastic cubes no doubt rigged with sensors. Extracting a small pocket kit of delicate tools, Patches used the them to dismantle the alarm. He gently lifted the cube, and plucked the slender tubes from their pedestal. Stuffing them in his pocket, he then made for the windows, praying that the cameras didn’t reveal too much beyond a fuzzy black shadow.

“Stay here,” he commanded over his shoulder as he lifted the sash.

“Where would I go?” Mr. Johnson replied, standing stock still in the doorway of the exhibit.

“Right.” Patches hauled himself through the window, landing with his usual lightness on the soft earth below. He crept to the parking lot, avoiding the goons stationed at the front entrance. Seeing Angeline’s sleek sedan surrounded by burly men, Patches hissed to himself. He needed those toadstools, as well as a few items from the black valise, to formulate the antidote. The dart gun would make a nice mode of transport.

The woman herself leaned against the hood of the car, her back towards him. She seemed focused on something in her hands, but Patches couldn’t see it. He hoped to God it wasn’t another spell.

Using the shrubbery and cover of an overcast sky with no moon, he made his way around to the back of the car, now about fifty feet away. He racked his brain, thinking of ways to distract the guards and Angeline for a minute, when a nearly silent voice whispered from under the brush.

“Oy, mate, need a hand?”


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