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Driving through torrential rainfall was never a highlight for Katherine's day. The fact that it had just hit 4:43 in the afternoon sure didn't help much either. For the past forty or so minutes, her only companions of misfortune were the sounds of her windshield wipers, the rains beating down on the textile roof of her Bentley Continental, and the occasional honk from impatient drivers passing by; breaking the speed limit just enough as they tried to beat the rush hour traffic, bad weather and slick roads be damned.

Katherine had considered casting a tethering spell before she left, channeling it through her car to help with maneuvering the downpour. Looking back on it now, she silently chastised herself for not thinking in advance, or paying attention to the weather forecast.

Goddammit, she thought angrily; partially in annoyance at her reckless roadmates, but mostly at her own impatience and lack of forethought.

She stopped at a red light and exhaled deeply, taking the opportunity to collect herself. She didn't have too much further to go. The boutique was just three blocks away now, and Melisa had already called in her orders for coriander, dill and dragon's blood several days back.

Katherine had all of the ingredients that she thought she would need, these last three were just precautions in case things went south. With what little she'd learned about her quarry, she knew from the second she woke up this morning that she had no idea how this evening was going to play out, or if he would even appear.

The only thing she was certain of at the moment was that she owed Mel for life, and that - if he didn't have the contacts that they needed to get these herbs - she would castrate the shopkeeper by hand. For a few brief moments, she entertained the idea of pulling over and fixing up a hex bag just for him; but she soon realized that, with five o'clock traffic on the horizon coupled with the rain only barely letting up, he wasn't worth the time or the trouble. Instead, she kept her foot on the gas and kept on driving, moving ever closer to her destination.

It'll just take a few minutes and then it'll be over, she thought reassuringly. Besides, she knew that if he tried anything untoward or gave her any serious attitude, she'd throw him across the room with little more than a thought and a hand gesture. That idea brought a brief, smug smile to her face. Perks of being a second degree Wiccan, she though.

Her destination - Wampler's Flora & Boutique - came into view at about the next intersection. She put her blinker on and slipped into the parking lot entrance at the earliest chance. It was a moderately sized, wooden building; deep green exterior with a roof that looked like it was made from white picket fences. There was an aged, homely presence about it that no doubt got the attention of the simpler folk in these parts. This was contrasted sharply by the dark cement of the asphalt parking lot, worn and showing cracks from several years of neglect.

Cheapskate, she thought. She knew this place made a hefty profit doing business with the local covens. The best the proprietor could hope for from the more mundane customers was the occasional order from any number of young couples requesting a bouquet set for the wedding. Beyond that, boutiques typically weren't the most lucrative ventures.

Still, considering what she'd heard about what happened between the manager and his ex-wife, she wasn't surprised to see why he resorted to dealing with magi to stay afloat financially. She didn't feel sorry for him in the slightest; but at the very least, she understood. Women can do that to men. She should know, she's done it once or twice; a lot of them even deserved it.

Finally settling for a parking space amidst the almost-empty lot, she exited her car and made her way to the entrance. The interior of the shop was about as old country as the outside. Mostly wooden counters and shelves sporting various cowboy paraphernalia and a Tennessee licence place nailed to the wall. The only other Americana present were a few pictures of men who'd been either fast enough or rich enough to make NASCAR's Hall of Fame.

This guy was mighty proud of his southern heritage. Katherine wondered if he was proud of a few of his other things as well. And just like clockwork, he appeared; his skeletal features, his tired eyes, his leathery skin, and his thin body - the collective product of almost a decade's worth of Marlboro chain-smoking.

Even from just four feet away, Katherine could smell the degradation in his aura; a self-assured righteousness laid low by a broken heart. This was a man who thought he had everything - had conquered every obstacle and humbled every detractor; only to have that world ripped out from under him. Katherine had felt sorry for him when they first met, but those days are long gone. Now he was just another contact to be kept in its place.

"Hello, Michael," Katherine said fleetingly, wishing to quicken this meeting as much as possible.

"Hey," he replied unenthusiastically as he set three Ziploc bags on the cashier shelf, each one containing the ingredients Melisa had ordered. "Coriander, dill, dragon's blood," he said much loudly this time, touching each bag forcefully as he stated their contents. "That'll be five hundred."

Bastard, Katherine thought. "You're shitting me," she exclaimed.

"Five. Hundred," he said assertively, almost threateningly - like he was scolding a little girl who'd just been caught stealing something. "You take it or you leave it, sweetheart. I got work to do."

"One of my best friends - " Before she could even complete her sentence, he snatched the bags and started walking away. Katherine saw red, clenching her fists as she willed all her power around Michael's neck. Nothing happened. She concentrated again; and once more, nothing. Katherine was about to concentrate again, but he had already disappeared into the backroom.

Bewilderment came over her. How the hell could he have resisted her magick? He was a hardass and a wiseguy, but he wasn't no magi. What did he have that was protecting him? Katherine closed her eyes and reached out with her thoughts, visualizing the room and the building itself as it encompassed her.

Finally, she could see them - Theban sigils inscribed around every door siding in the shop; all with invisible ink and each in perfect synchronicity with the others, creating a boundary link in-between the front and back of the whole shop. Each one in unison read the same thing: Negation.

"You clever motherfucker," she muttered under her breathe, more pissed than impressed. Apparently these past few years of working with real-deal Wiccans had wizened him up. Now, so long as these sigils remained in place, no witch would be able to use their powers in the building. She wondered how long these sigils had been there. Months? Years even? She'd never had cause to check for their presence until now.

There was a part of her that contemplated taking one of the old fashioned hammers she saw hanging on the wall behind the cashier and bash one of those sidings to weaken the barrier. Either that, or maybe take one of her keys and scratch them all to hell. She knew either case wouldn't cancel out the magick completely, but it may have at least given her a choking chance.

But, as quickly as the thought came to her, it left her; as she looked up to see how all the money he'd made from the covens had been put to use. Four standard-issue CCTV security cams set up at each corner of the store, and two of them were pointed directly in the right positions; one to the front door, and another directly at the cashier desk - at her. Even if she did manage to break one or two of the sigils, he'd still be able to get her for property damage.

If she had balls, he would have her by them. Either way, she couldn't touch him, not here at least. Without her magick, she was just a woman with attitude - which was frightening enough as it was, but just wasn't good enough here. She could already feel the affects of the barriers weighing down on her. The mind's eye was one of the most basic forms of divination, involving more concentration and visualization than anything else. But it was still magick nonetheless, and she could feel the pings of a migraine coming over her as her energies began to corrode from the exertion.

Taking a deep breath, she relaxed her mind and opened her eyes.

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