Master PC – Mind Magi
Part Three—The Right and The Easy
Chapter Twenty-Four—Store Opening
Time. An illusion designed to help us not only get through the day, but by which to be stressed. I wasn’t stressed, but this illusion of time was working against me.
I opened the door with Sally standing behind me. A woman stood on the other side. She wore a smart business suit and her dark blonde hair was pulled back in a fashionable braid. She had piercing blue eyes that reminded me of someone else but the expression on her face made me think of my high school principal.
“May I ask who you are and why you are locked in a room with one of my employees?” she asked.
“Certainly. My name is Ral Setton and the employee you refer to is my girlfriend.” I answered so matter-of-factly and without hesitation that it took a second for me to realize what I had said about Sally. However, I resolved to stick with my answer and continued to look back at the woman.
“Mr. Setton?” she started to stammer. “My apologies. I was expecting to meet you earlier...”
“And I have to apologize for missing that meeting. My schedule has been thrown completely into chaos.” I said this with my hand behind my back. Sally interlaced her fingers with mine and I knew I couldn’t say anything wrong.
“Yes, I see,” the woman said looking past me at Sally.
To distract her, I held out my other hand to shake. “Again, my apologies Miss...”
“Oh,” she shook my hand, “Mrs. Tara Larson. I have to say Mr. Setton, we don’t have much time and it would seem...”
“That the number of reporters we were going to do this for has increased dramatically,” I finished for her. “Do you know who might have contacted the newspapers?”
“Oh! Well, no. I thought maybe you did.”
I shook my head. “No, this was a surprise to me too. However, it doesn’t change our schedule.”
“Yes sir, but what about the photo shoot? The newspapers won’t print what we were planning on displaying.”
“That is their decision. However, I would add a few less exposing outfits to the line that way they have something to show.”
“Yes sir.” Again she looked past me to Sally.
Sally squeezed my hand and started to pull away. I couldn’t let that happen. “Where are you going?”
“She’s one of our models for the photo shoot,” Mrs. Larson answered.
I smiled and looked at Sally. “Photo worthy you are...”
She smiled and blushed slightly. I could sense the hesitation in her. She didn’t want to leave any more than I wanted her to go.
Looking up at Mrs. Larson I said, “Her outfit is fit for public display. I’ll take her with me for the initial speech and interviews.”
Mrs. Larson looked at me. I could see the surprise in her eyes but she tempered that and nodded. “As you wish. Will she be participating in the rest of the photo shoot?”
I looked at Sally. “Will you?” I asked as I squeezed her hand.
She shook her head while watching my eyes and squeezed my hand back.
I looked back at Mrs. Larson. “Looks like she’s decided not to. We still have time. You do have a list of replacements, yes?”
She nodded. “I’ll start making calls immediately.”
“You might want to consider three more instead of just one, considering the number of reporters and photographers.” I suggested.
“Yes sir,” she said as she turned to leave.
Sally smiled at me and I smiled back. “Looks like you’re stuck with me for a while.”
“I think I can handle that,” she replied.
I had always thought giving a speech during high school was terrifying, but that was because of how I was expected to be received by the other students. Looking out over the crowd of reporters and photographers, I felt peaceful and ready. Of course having Sally by my side, beautiful and exotic, helped a great deal.
Cameras snapped and electricity filled the air with a soft hum from the microphones mounted to the podium in front of me. I stepped up to it and greeted the crowd. “Welcome to Mr. Naughty’s.”
I took another look around. The faces that looked back at me were all lost. I didn’t know any of the people in front of me but somehow I knew they were important. Each of them were there for a reason, something more than just taking what I had to say and publishing it in whatever they produced. Somehow they were... witnesses.
I shook off the feeling and began my prepared speech.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Newspapers and Magazines, welcome to Mr. Naughty’s. A store for all tastes, adult fashions and lifestyles. I am glad to be here today. Happy to share with you, your readers and everyone else the opportunity to open up and be who you are.”
I watched as some took notes and others watched me back. That feeling was there again but I had to continue.
“Mr. Naughty’s sells all the products one would expect from any normal adult entertainment chain as well as outfits and even everyday apparel that can be worn even in public. We offer custom tailoring for the standard outfits in our catalog and are happy to accept the challenge of creating clothing that our customers dream up.”
I looked over at Sally. She smiled back at me and then turned that amazing look toward the photographers. Flashes snapped off as they caught her in an amazing light. I couldn’t find anything else to say. The rest of my speech wasn’t important. However, I could move things along.
“Now that we have the general introductions out of the way, and everyone here is anxious to know more about what goes on behind our doors and curtains, I open the floor up to you for questions.”
I glanced at the store manager. Tara had expected my speech to last longer but didn’t show how the change affected her. She would make a good manager I decided then.
Hands went up immediately. I pointed at a woman wearing a tan business suit. “Mr. Setton! Jana Daltson from Adult Entertainment Today. You say the store caters to different lifestyles, what does that entail exactly?”
I smiled. “Ms. Daltson, your lifestyle is your own. I would no more try to define what your lifestyle is than anyone else here. I simply mean that we don’t ask questions, we don’t judge, we are simply here to provide the products you want.”
Pointing out one of the men, I glanced at the rest and realized that there weren’t just more reporters but people walking along the street had stopped to watch too.
“Mr. Setton, Jo Walsh from New York Styles. You have an incredible catalog of outfits that you both carry standard sizes for and custom make for those who have difficulty with standard sizes, but you also offer to custom build outfits your everyday customers dream up. How can you boast such an offer?”
My smile never faltered but something was beginning to worry me. More than just the extra reporters, more than the crowd behind them. Something else was going on that I couldn’t put my finger on. “We don’t make the outfits personally, if that’s what you mean. We utilize other companies from the United States to help with the custom work. Most of them are small businesses or individuals who do this for the pure creativity of it. I assure you and everyone else here that there has not yet been a garment designed that we have failed to create through these means with a timely return.”
I started getting nervous. More so than just being in front of an audience. Pointing out another older woman and I waited with bated breath for whatever was coming.
“Mr. Setton, Erica Lasondo from ‘Ask Erica’ in the New York Times. You’ve opened your store near several other fashion outlets who have made their opinions of what your store will bring to this part of town clear. How do you feel about this?”
I could have snapped off about how those same stores tend to not cater to everyone, but I held that back. My nerves were getting frayed quickly. Maintaining my smile I answered, “I can assure all the businesses in the area that we run clean stores. Each of our employees must not only have good work ethics but pass a small battery of tests to be considered for hire. On top of that, the cost of our products vary greatly. Obviously custom made outfits will be the most expensive, depending on the amount of material and detail requested, and at the other end of the cost spectrum is our entertainment section for everything from movies to magazines to simple erotic novels.”
“Security of the store not only includes some of the most sophisticated digital monitoring systems available but guards hired from some of the most well known services in the city. So, I seriously doubt that crime will rise as a result of the presence of this store.”
As I finished my question, I noticed the approach of four individuals from the street. They stopped among the crowd behind the gathering of reporters and cameras, but these four seemed to stand out from the rest.
That feeling of something about to happen was confirmed. The “bad thing” Whisper told me about had arrived. Somehow I knew. I knew those four individuals didn’t come to talk. They came to disrupt.
The reporters were all raising their hands with questions again. I leaned toward Mrs. Larson and said, “We need to get everyone off the street. Trouble has just arrived.”
She looked at me and fortunately didn’t drop her smile in the slightest. I looked back at the reporters. “Now, if everyone is ready, we have prepared a tour of the store for everyone.”
I stepped away from the podium and looked out over the crowd. Three of the four that I had spotted were opening their coats and pulling out rifles. I went back to the microphones and yelled, “Guns, get down everyone! Get down!”
Everyone looked around in confusion. Some started to laugh thinking I was joking. Sally noticed what I had seen and dropped, as did Tara.
People in the crowd noticed the weapons being raised and either took off or screamed out of sheer surprise. That’s when everything went downhill.
So many things happened so very quickly. To be honest, I was confused. Those four couldn’t have been Mind Magi because they were using normal weapons. Then again, one of the Dragons had used knives and another knew several forms of martial arts. The attackers in the crowd could be Mind Magi. I would have to get to them and find out with memory sharing.
Most of the crowd of reporters had ducked when they finally noticed the brandished weapons and started dropping to their knees or flat to the ground. The ones carrying cameras instead turned to capture images of whoever I had warned about. That’s when the gunfire started.
I had no time to think about anyone getting hurt. Sally and Tara were as safe as anyone could be for the time being. I was certain the gunners were there for me, so to help everyone between them and me, I had to get away from the crowd.
My adrenaline was pumping. Everything was slowing down, but I needed the gunners to see me move until the line of sight was clear. Then I could take them down.
Bullets were everywhere. How I didn’t run into them as they whizzed past me, I’ll never know. The one thing I had never done was outrun a fired bullet. Again, I was proven too slow for an armed opponent.
I could hear the crowd screaming. Several had been shot. Most were just terrified. The four interlopers were watching me like wolves intent on their kill. I continued running.
Off to the side, I stopped and looked at the four as their weapons came around to aim at me. It was time for me to stop maneuvering and to start attacking back. A surge filled me. A passion for helping and protecting those who had come to simply ask questions and write stories filled me to overflowing.
At least, that’s how it felt. I rushed the first man. He was taller than me, with a larger build. He never took his finger off the trigger as he turned to aim for me. Bullets moved past me no faster than a person running full out. I rushed him and bawled him over. The rifle flew out of his hand as he landed on the concrete.
Next was another man. Again, he was taller than me but with a similar build. I rushed him too, knocking his rifle away as I slammed into him.
The third was a woman with shoulder-length dark hair pulled back into a pony tail. Her eyes were green and seemed to be glowing. Her hands were in her pockets but that didn’t mean she wasn’t armed. When I got to her, her hands were out and open, fingers curled like claws. She moved faster than the others and even took a swipe at me. I ducked under her attack and swept her feet from under her.
The last was another woman with a rifle. Again, I bawled her over too.
Once they were down I went across the street. With traffic blocked off by the police there was no worry about anything hitting me.
I slowed myself down enough to let the four attackers see where I was going. Then they did something else unexpected: they gathered themselves up and left. The woman with green eyes watched me for a moment but finally turned and ran off with the others.
“Ral!” cried Sally. “Ral, where are you?!”
I looked back at the downed reporters. It looked like several had taken bullets. It would take Ambulances some time to get to the store because of traffic. The police around the area were finally rushing in but they too intent on chasing the fleeing attackers. I had to do something.
After crossing the street again, I found Sally. She wasn’t hurt. Mrs. Larson was on her cell phone as were several others, calling 911. I went around checking on everyone. Even to my surprise, only three people had been shot. One was to the shoulder, another to an arm, but the third, a reporter from a smaller newspaper named Linda Penn, had caught a bullet in her back. She was on the ground fighting to simply breathe.
I knelt next to her. Her fellow photographer was holding her hand and talking to her. She was nodding and shaking her head in response to his questions and comments, reserving her air for survival. Blood was pouring out of her wound and she was turning white at an alarming rate.
I knew those symptoms. I had seen them before and the sight of Renee bleeding on my apartment floor flashed before me.
“No, it’s not happening again if I can help it,” I said under my breath.
Sally knelt next to me just in time to catch part of what I said and asked, “Ral, what?”
I moved to Linda’s side and took her other hand. She looked at me and even gave me a small smile. She knew it wasn’t my fault she had been shot. I felt that in her. She was cold. It wouldn’t be much longer.
I moved in closer and placed my hand over her chest. Though she was still wearing a business suit, I could feel her. “Stay with us Linda. You have a lot left to do. Now is not your time to go,” I said. I wasn’t sure where the words came from, but I knew what I was going to do to help make sure they were well meant.
My desire for her survival was understood. The need to make her well and help her to live was accepted. The warm liquid sensation of my power passed through my arm into her chest. Linda’s eyes widened at the sensation. First she was numb, then her back bowed as the power remade her flesh and corrected the damage the bullet had made. Finally her face and skin flushed pink as the blood she had lost was replaced. When it was all done, Linda laid there with wide open eyes and deep breathing as if she had just finished swimming underwater for a good two minutes. Yet only a few seconds had passed.
I moved back, detaching myself from her. Linda’s photographer had watched and started calling for help thinking she was in her final throws but when she looked back at him and smiled, he nearly fainted.
Linda sat up. The jacket and shirt she wore were coated with blood but she felt fine and it took her several minutes to tell everyone that. It was time enough for me to pull Sally back up to the store to hide.
Sally looked up at me. “Ral, what just happened?”
“Linda was dying. I couldn’t let that happen so I healed her wound and replenished her loss of blood.”
Sally just stared at me for a minute. Those brown eyes, large with clarity. “How?”
I looked back at her, steady and calm. “I have a lot to tell you about.”