Cat on book logoJody Lynn Nye


Excerpt from License Invoked

by Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye


        Fionna's dressing room was the largest and best appointed of the suite in the basement of the Superdome. The concrete floor had been carpeted over with a rich green plush, a compliment to her band and her hair. Instead of the acid fluorescent lights, she had floor lamps with restful low-watt bulbs. The singer herself was enthroned in a plush armchair with Laura Manning on one side and Nigel Peters on the other offering her drinks and cigarettes. Someone had unpacked Fionna's possessions and arranged them around the room. Costumes of garish silks or black lace and tulle hung along the walls. The lighted mirror in the wall over the dressing table was supplemented by a double-ended magnifying mirror and a folding mirror, plus enough amulets arrayed along the rear of the table to open a shop. A couple of them did have the sniff of magic about them. They glowed feebly, to Liz's experienced eye, like a child's nightlights.
        Enjoying an audience with Her Majesty was a plump man with a dapper summer-weight jacket slung over his shoulder by one finger.
        "And there you are at last!" Fionna carolled. Her voice was a relaxed trill. The promised whiskey had obviously met a few friends on its way down her throat. "Meet Mr. Lemon. He's a true darling."
        "Building management, ma'am, er... sir," the man in the white suit said, turning to offer a hand. "When I heard about this... regrettable accident I just had to come down and offer my support. Are you... with the show?" he asked, looking Boo-Boo's attire up and down.
        "Nossir," Boo said. "I'm with the Department." He patted down several of his tattered pockets and came up with a shiny leather billfold. He flipped it open. "My credentials, sir."
        Lemon's eyes widened as he examined the card and badge. "I see. I'm glad to see Miss Fionna has some... strong protectors. The fire marshall is upstairs now. They had to break in through the front doors, which will be replaced this afternoon, Mr. Peters," Lemon added, turning an eye to look over his shoulder.
        "I'm glad to hear it," Peters said. "My people will offer every cooperation."
        "Was there anyone strange in the building when the dress caught fire?" Boo-Boo asked the manager.
        "God only knows. This place is the size of a palace, but everything was locked up. The rear doors were locked from the outside only. We had a grip stationed there to let our people in, but no one else. I suppose someone could have slipped in, and planted a boobytrap."
        "Which your Mr. Fitzgibbons... didn't see," Lemon pointed out. Peters looked disconcerted.
        "Er, yes."
        
        "It came from a distance, then?" Peters asked, uncomfortably. "Something was shot at him?" Fionna sat bolt upright in her chair with her lips pressed together. Liz wondered what Boo was thinking, but he gestured to her not to speak. He looked amiably at the building manager.
        "Well, no. All that flash powder hovering in the air, and those laser lights, there could have been a little accident."
        "Good!" Lemon exclaimed, then looked guilty. "That's good, isn't it?"
        "Well, apart from Mr. Fitzgibbons having to make another dress."
        Laura Manning waved the idea away. "Oh, don't worry about Tommy. He's probably in there at this moment inventing a new confection in silk and lace. He lives to suffer. Ask him. Why, he's even accused me of ruining his dresses with my nasty foundations and rouges. Greasepaint isn't up in that lofty sphere with haute couture."
        "Excuse me, Mr. Lemon?" A man in firefighter's rig with a clipboard appeared at the door. "Fire marshall. Everything seems to be under control. The building's all right. The crews are withdrawing. You've got a mess up there, Mr. Lemon. Sorry about that, sir."
        Lemon was gracious. "You're doing your very worthy job, Marshall. My thanks. My maintenance people... will already be on the job, Miss Fionna." He offered her a courtly little bow.
        In sharp contrast to the courtesy of the building manager, Lloyd Preston pushed his way in, a scowl on his face. He stood over Fionna, who reached out a thin and, Liz thought, dramatically trembling hand to him. "Everything's okay. We can get right back to work."
        "But," Liz began to protest. Everyone in the room turned to look at her.
        "But what?" Lloyd demanded. Fionna sat bolt upright in her armchair, ready to flee the scene at the sound of a threat.
        "But," Boo said, loudly, drowning her out, "we'll be keeping an eye on things." He nodded knowingly to Fionna, who shot them a look of relief. "We'll get right on it." He took Liz's arm and hustled her out of the dressing room.

        Liz pulled Boo to a halt just outside the door.
        "What was all that about?" she demanded, in a fierce whisper. "Don't you want to keep the place under lock and key until we can have a thorough look around? This place is the size of a city!"
        "There's no time," Boo said. "We don't want them cancelling the concert, which they will if they think there's some kind of assassin out there."
        "There may be an assassin out there!"
        "I know," Boo said, apologetically, "but it's the concert itself that'll bring him out in the open. If y'all whisk Miss Fionna away to the next stop on the tour, or cancel it altogether, it'll just start over again, and we'll never get a handle on it."

         Liz followed Boo into the boxes surrounding the stage. The two of them split up and went in opposite directions.
        The tiers of seats were raked steeply and the space between them was alarmingly narrow. Liz hated to admit it, but she was afraid of heights. Her heart pounded every time she stumbled, grabbing for the metal railing to keep herself from plummeting down the concrete stairs. There was no way for her to watch what was going on down on stage and walk at the same time. If she was to concentrate on magic-sniffing, it was better for her acrophobia not to be able to see how far up they were. She kept her gaze on the few feet of floor immediately in front of her, and listened.
        She began to understand why Green Fire had chosen the Superdome as a concert venue. The acoustics were surprisingly good. Voices carried well into the bleachers from the stage. Over the racket created by grips dragging equipment to its places, the tuning of instruments, and the pounding of feet on the hollow platform, Liz eavesdropped on the crew and the band. They all sounded impatient and resentful of the long interruption of their jobs.
        "...my opinion, Fitz won't admit he had a cigarette in his hand under..." a deep male voice rose out of the hubbub. "...set fire to it himself and...."
        "...silk goes up in a puff..." another man's voice agreed.
        "...filmy sleeves..." one of the stagehands drawled, scornfully.
        "...really an attack on Fee?" piped a woman's voice. Liz recognized Laura Manning.
        "No!" "Maybe." "Yes, and by whom?" echoed around the stage.
        "...one of us?" asked Lockney's voice.
        "No!" came the immediate protest, but other voices chimed in. "Maybe." "Could be." "Who?"
        "Who knows?" Michael Scott's clear voice cut above the noise. "Let's get this done."
        Who indeed? Liz wondered, as she reached the end of the tier. She had not sensed any magical evidence whatsoever in the circuit. She glanced across the open arena at the sea of multi-colored seats, but she couldn't see Boo Boo. If it wasn't an accident, perhaps the prank was the work of an earthbound stalker trying to make Fionna's life miserable. In that eventuality Liz would have to turn the case over to the American FBI. Ringwall wouldn't like that, but he'd be relieved. Anything that smelled of the mystical worried the ministry. On the whole he would be happier if Liz could prove a negative instead of a positive. You open the floodgates, she thought wryly, and that let in all the bogies down the coal cellar, the walking ghosts, and before you know it Panorama and 60 Minutes are doing a special on you.
        A darkskinned man in a plain gray guard's uniform sprang up out of nowhere in front of her. Liz jumped in surprise and clutched for a handhold.
        "Can I help you, ma'am?" he asked, his warm brown eyes serene but watchful. The temples of his black, curly hair were a distinguished gray. Liz showed him her credentials, which he examined with raised eyebrows. "Well, isn't that interesting. Welcome to America, ma'am."
        "How is it going, Captain Evers?" Liz asked, reading his name tag.
        "Under control, ma'am," the man said, taking a side glance down at the stage area. "We're clearing out the rest of the city folks. Pretty soon it'll just be us chickens in here. There's no damage we can find, no signs of a break-in. I guess they were right about that flash powder causing the fire in the first place..."
        Liz found she was only half-listening to him. She was aware of a looming presence overhead, like a storm cloud. She glanced up at the large, square box hovering over the stage, a huge cube covered with lights, screens and speakers.
        "What is that?" she asked, cutting Evers off in the middle of his explanation. His eyes followed hers upward.
        "Oh, that's the Jumbotron, ma'am."
        "What's it for?"
        "She raises and lowers down so you can watch the screens. They use her all the time during concerts and games, to show the scores, instant replays and so on."
        "Good heavens," Liz said, gawking at its size. "What does that thing weigh?"
        "Seventy-two tons, ma'am." Evers sounded proud.
        Liz frowned. "Could it be detached?" she asked. "Is there any possible chance it could come down on anyone?"
        Captain Evers looked very worried until Boo leaned around from behind her. "She's with me, Abelard."
        The dark-skinned man's lined face relaxed into a wide grin.
        "Boo-Boo, is that you?" Evers asked. He rocked back on his heels, and stuck out his hands to clasp the American agent's. "You young rascal, how you be?"
        "Not as good as you look, old man," Boo said, grinning back. "Now, tell the lady what she wants to know."
        Evers turned to Liz with an air of apology.
        "Well, no, ma'am, the Jumbo can't come down; not without a lot of help. She's anchored to the steel girders holding up the roof. The roof's a soft plastic, not very heavy."
        "How do they control it? Do you have to go up there?" Liz shuddered. Evers's eyes lightened mischieviously.
        "Oh, there's catwalks, ma'am," the captain said, his eyes crinkling. He seemed unable to resist teasing an obvious acrophobe. "Way high up. Yes, ma'am, you can climb up right inside the ceiling. But don't fall off those catwalks, or you'll come right through. Do you want to go up and see?" he offered, the impish grin returning. "It's just about two hundred sixty feet above the floor."
        Liz, feeling green, shook her head weakly. She thought of the fall from such a height, and swayed slightly on her feet, holding onto the banister with a firm grip. "Not unless there's an alternative."
        "Abelard!" Boo looked at the man with a wry smile.
        "Well, you don't have to," the guard captain said, releasing his prisoner reluctantly. "They work her from the control room with a couple of buttons. It's as easy as raising your garage door."
        Boo took her arm in a firm and reassuring grip as he helped her to the next level.
        "Find anything?" he asked.
        "Not a whisker," Liz said. "It's beginning to look as if it's a job for the Men in Black, not us."
        Boo came up alongside her as she reached the top of the steep stairs. "I have to admit I'm kind of hoping not," he said.
        "Me, too," Liz said. Though she would far rather not have to deal with a supernatural menace and it would be a relief if Fionna's troubles turned out to be a set of coincidences and accidents, the department needed all the credibility it could get, and this was her first solo mission. Negative results were no way to earn promotion.
        They went out into the broad, tiled hallway. Names of corporations were engraved on plaques set into the metal doors on her left. Those must lead to the luxury skyboxes she saw from the stage level. Boo steered her toward a set of blank doors. Scraping sounds shook the floor, and sirens echoed through the corridors. Liz looked around in alarm.
        "That's just the loading bay doors, opening to let the fire truck out," Boo explained. "Come on, let's take a look in the control room."
        He rapped on the blind door, and a bearded man in t-shirt, jeans and headset let them in. Inside the cramped, glass-fronted room the crew was in a frenzy of activity. The technical director, Gary Lowe, stood shouting into his headset behind a man and a woman seated at the console. Behind him, the event director was talking simutaneously to Lowe and to the floor director down on the stage. Robbie Unterburger glanced up from her high-tech keyboard, and cocked her head to beckon them over. Her hands flitted from one control to another, tweaking levers, knobs and keys.
        "This is a fantastic set-up," Liz said, staring at the control panel as she tried to figure out what any of it did. "You aren't running all your machinery, are you?"
        "No," Robbie said, tossing her straight, brown hair, "this is a dry run. I'm just following my cues this time. I'll test everything, and we'll have one live technical run-through just before showtime tomorrow. These are the triggers for the lasers, and here are the joysticks for each one. I can run them manually or program the whole thing to run by computer. They did not go off and set Fitzy on fire."
        "Do you mind?" the TD barked, cupping his hand over the microphone on his headset. "Excuse us, we're doing a show here. Sorry," he said to Liz and Boo. Boo put a finger to his lips and nodded to Liz. They retreated to the rear of the control room to watch the crew prepare. The female sound engineer shouted into the microphone set into the console in front of her. The lighting engineer gestured with both hands as he talked into his headset. Lowe gave Liz and Boo a brief glance, and then forgot about them as the disembodied baritone of stage manager Hugh Banks boomed out of the speakers overhead.
        "All right, people! That's the last of the firemen and the cleanup squad out the door. Everyone's gone. Let's get to work."
        Down below on the stage the miniature figures of the band took their places and lifted their instruments. Michael Scott flicked his long fingers down and over the strings of his guitar in the fanning gesture Liz had seen in a dozen concert videos, drawing forth a glissando like a harp. As always, the ripple of sound made her quiver with delight. If this case wasn't so serious she would be thrilled to be here with her idol. Voe Lockney beat his sticks together over his head, then attacked his drums with a frenzy. The other two joined in. Liz could hear the music begin to echo and thrum outside, but it was much muted in here in the booth. The sound engineer's hands flew over the controls.
        Fionna appeared at the edge of the stage in a flame-red sheath dress that could have been painted on her. Her eyes, cheeks, and lips were tinted the same bright shade. What with her green hair close-cropped against her skull Liz thought she looked like a shapely match. Liz wondered why she hadn't detected Fionna leaving her dressing room. She counted back in time, and decided the cantrip alarm must have gone off while Captain Evers was teasing her about the Jumbotron.
        The tiny, brightly colored figure stopped at the edge of the stage, while a couple of men in security uniforms ran around the open platform like questing hounds.
        "All right," Lowe said, leaning forward with his hands on the chair-backs. "Cue the spotlights, cue Fionna, and... what the hell is the matter with her?"
        The music died away, and all the band turned to look at Fionna.
        "Come on down there!" Lowe growled. "What's the hangup now?"
        "She wants them to check for bombs, sir," an overhead speaker crackled. "She says she's afraid of being attacked again."
        "Bombs! Hell and damnation!" the TD shouted, pounding on the engineers' seat backs. They sat rigidly, watching the screen. "We have a show to do! Get those men off the stage, or carry Fee over to her mark yourself. We haven't got any more time to waste." He flopped down into his seat, between Robbie and the sound engineer. "I wish that Fee had been in the damned costume when it went up, and then we'd have a reason for all this fuss! Let her writhe in agony! Let those rotten 'filmy sleeves' burn to ash! Now, let's get a move on! Get her on stage!"
        Below them, a man in blue jeans and a headset went over to Fionna, and pulled her into place in the center of the stage. Fionna held out her hand in appeal. From the edge of the platform, the bulky form of Lloyd Preston came over to stand beside her. Next to Liz, Robbie let out an audible growl.
        The band struck up again. Fionna grabbed her microphone in both hands, closed her eyes and emitted a piercing ululation that softened and resolved into a mellow warble that rose and fell like folds of silk. The technicians' shoulders relaxed visibly. Even Lowe stood back, arms crossed, to watch. Boo touched Liz's arm, and they slipped out of the room.
        "No magic," Boo said, as they went through the next set of double doors on the level. This was the press box, another large area like the control room, with a broad, curved window looking down on the stage. Facing it were tiers of desks with microphones and places for computer terminals to be plugged in. Toward the rear of the chamber, television and radio transmission lines ran from a labeled console into the ceiling. Several video screens showed different camera angles of the stage, a necessary innovation to supplement the view, unless the reporters were carrying binoculars. At this distance the figures of the band were tiny, almost featureless..
        Down on the stage, Fionna was making love to her microphone like a torch singer. She and the guitarist started to step toward one another, intent with passion. Liz felt a shiver of delight, waiting for them to close the distance and begin their duet.
        "Nothing," Boo Boo said, bringing her back to the present with a disappointing snap. "Nothin' but what we brought ourselves. It's lookin' as if the cause was somethin' natural or physical. That'd be a job for the local police, not for us."
        "My chief will be happy," Liz said, resignedly. "He'd always rather prove a negative. Less difficult to explain to Upstairs."
        Boo Boo grinned engagingly. "Y'all got one of them, too?"
        "Don't we all?" Liz asked, smiling back.
        She found in spite of her earlier misgivings she was beginning to like this American. No matter how unconventional his approach, nor that he looked like a bag of rags, he was a good investigator and an effective agent. She was convinced he was right. Nothing more here than an accident, and accumulated paranoia of a spoiled rich girl with powerful connections. There'd be grumbling in Whitehall about her spending thousands of pounds to fly here to investigate, but at least Lord Kendale would be happy.
        The music rose toward a crescendo. On the stage Fionna stood in her place under the lights, trembling. Her hands had fallen to her sides, but they were slowly lifting with the music. Michael Scott stood behind her, back bowed as he tore the notes out of his guitar. Liz enjoyed the rich psychic waves this song put out. It felt as though power was rising through her. She stood almost on tiptoe waiting for Fionna to shout out the last line, when the music would crash around her like waves against a cliff.
        And then, Liz felt it. Or smelled it. Or just knew, in that way her grandmother always told her she would. There was evil here. Powerful evil. But where was it coming from?
        "Do you feel that?" she started to ask Boo. Suddenly, there was a flash of light on the screens. Fionna let out a shriek of agony, throwing her arms up against the blaze.
        Liz wasn't prepared for another attack so soon, but her training kicked in without hesitation. Never mind where the fire had come from; put it out! Liz summoned up every erg of magic she had, down to the reserves, and threw it through the glass at Fionna with both hands in a smothering spell that would have extinguished a house fire. The force of the spell knocked all the wind out of her for a moment. She staggered backward, staring. The huge pane of glass seemed to shiver and sing dangerously, threatening to break. The little figures on the stage swayed and ran towards one another. She had no time to consider the consequences when she was flung to the floor by a blast that came from Boo's direction.
        "Clear!" he yelled, too late. Automatically, the analyzing part of Liz's brain recognized the effect as a containment field to suppress any other occult activity in the area. Liz was impressed. She didn't know the Americans had been working on anything so sophisticated. Boo glanced over at her. "Seems like we were wrong."
        Liz scrambled to her feet and made for the door, the American half a step behind her.
        "Rapid deployment, eh?" she asked, as they ran down the stairs toward the stage.
        "Finest kind," Boo said.
        "If you'd thrown that thing one second sooner you'd have blotted out my spell!"
        "I saw what you was doing, ma'am," Boo said, peevishly. "I waited. Now, let's see what happened."

        Liz shoved her way through the crowd of people that had gathered on the stage. The fire alarm was blaring overhead. Nigel Peters's voice cut through the noise.
        "Someone shut that blasted thing off!" he raged. "We don't want everyone down on us again!"
        At the center of the mob, Fionna had sunk into a heap on the floor. Lloyd huddled over her, frantically trying to bring her around. Nothing seemed to be wrong with Fionna apart from red, angry skin on her bare arms.
        "A hell of a lot of help you were," Lloyd snarled at Liz.
        All Fionna could say over and over as they bandaged her arms was, "Now you'll believe me."
        And Liz had no choice. The stink of malignity rose from her skin like cheap perfume.
        "You say the hair on her arms caught fire?" Liz asked, wondering if she had heard incorrectly. "Not the sleeves?"
        "That's it," Laura Manning said, examining the skin carefully. "There were no sleeves. Left her smooth as a baby's bottom, apart from the burns, that is. Shh, baby. I've got some cream downstairs."
        "We can't have any more delays," Patrick Jones cried, pacing up and down. "My God, if the reporters get hold of this. I'll kill myself."
        "Oh, that'd be good press," Eddie Vincent growled. Nigel Peters tore his thinning hair.
        Liz focused immediately on finding the source of the power. "Did anyone see where the fire came from?" she asked, but every face in the circle was blank. To them it was just another freak accident, one of many. Only Liz had felt the anger and hatred fill the arena just before the attack. It was fading quickly. They would have to work fast to find the source.
        "It's symbolic that the fire was centered on Fionna's sleeves," she said under her breath to Boo Boo, who knelt beside her near Fionna. "She didn't have any in this dress, but that's what everyone was talking about just before the blaze. That meant the energy had to have come from somewhere in here."
        "How many people could hear the stage manager?" Boo asked. "Let's ask everyone again, one at a time. I can do that. I'll bring them back to what they were thinkin' of at the last moment before it happened."
        "No, that's a waste of time," Liz said sharply. Fionna's eyes fluttered, and she sat up. Lloyd immediately pushed the agents away and cradled his girlfriend in his arms. "We have to examine the site at once, before the influence dissipates."
        "I think," Boo said, in a low tone, "you're forgetting that this is my turf. You're my guest. I'm in charge here."
        "Not this again," Liz hissed. "We asked for your help. It's my case."
        "It's our country," Boo said loudly, his eyes glowing with the light of battle. "You can't operate here without our permission. You might as well pack it up and go home."
        "Never! My government will never take a back seat to yours!"
        "We tossed you out once. We can do it again!"
        "Knock it off or leave!" Lloyd shouted. "Look at her. She's hurt! Let's go downstairs, love."
        Liz looked down at Fionna, who was holding onto the bodyguard like a drowning swimmer to a float. She was ashamed of herself. It was the second time that day she'd caught herself behaving in a nonprofessional manner. Two black marks, Miss Mayfield, she thought, shaking her head. Lloyd helped Fionna to her feet. Fionna tottered toward the stairs to her dressing room, with Lloyd and Laura Manning in attendance. The crowd parted to let them pass. Liz and Boo Boo followed behind.
        "We've got to work together on this," Liz said, after a moment. The tension in Boo Boo's shoulders relaxed. She knew the two of them were thinking the same things. Here was a case where she could produce proof of an actual magical attack. If they solved the mystery this could spell credibility for their departments, assuring the budget for next year, not to mention putting Lord Kendale in their debt. It would put BBB and OOPSI into the headlines. Horrified, Liz stopped her flight of fancy. If this made the headlines the furore would never die down. The general public was not ready. They already suspected the government of prying into their everyday affairs. If they knew about the departments devoted to the paranormal there would be open rioting out of naked fear.
        Boo Boo was thinking the same thing. "We've got to solve this and keep it quiet," he said, guardedly. "Miss Fionna needs us, ma'am. Both of us."
        "It won't be easy," Liz said. "To say we have different styles is an absolute understatement, but I'll try if you will."
        "It's a deal," Boo Boo said, holding out his hand for hers. They shook on it.
        "The first thing to do is deal with our crime victim," Liz said, briskly.
        Instead of occupying her grand throne, Fionna was curled in Lloyd's arms on the couch at the side of her dressing room. She had her knees drawn up protectively, like a little girl.
        "They're here," she whimpered. "They're listenin' to me. They're comin' for me."
        "Who's they, honey?" Lloyd asked, rocking the trembling woman in his arms.
        "Let me see the burns," Liz said, starting to sit down on Fionna's other side.
        "Piss off," Lloyd snapped, glaring at Liz. "I don't want you within yards of her. This is all your fault."
        "All our fault?" Liz asked, blinking at him. "Are you mad? How?"
        "This has been going on all along," Lloyd said, his face stony. "She tried to tell you."
        "We needed proof," Liz said.
        "To hell with your proof," Lloyd said. "I'm calling this all off as of now. You're out."
        "It's not so easy as that," Boo said.
        "Oh, yes, it is!"
        "Oh, no, it isn't!" Liz said. "You might have believed her, but what could you do to help?"
        As they argued over her head, Fionna clutched herself in fear. She had felt herself hauled to her feet from the stage, and had obediently followed Laura and Lloyd downstairs, while angry voices rang in her ears. She didn't follow half of it, didn't want to. With her eyes closed, she felt her arms stretched out. Something cool was swabbed along them, and the familiar feeling of gauze and sticky tape touched her skin. Fee was having a hard time keeping from raving out loud and crying for police protection or an exorcism. She might be Fionna Kenmare to millions of fans worldwide, but underneath the wild, Irish persona beat the upper-class English heart of Phoebe Kendale. Where Fionna delved into the supernatural with alacrity, Phoebe still thought it was a little naughty, something to taunt the Aged Parents with, who didn't like her choice of career or friends. She'd always known in her heart something bad would happen if she started to play with magic. Always. She'd been cautious. She'd followed every rite of protection she could find to counteract the dark forces just outside the light, just in case. Just to make sure. Never step on a crack. Never spill salt without tossing a pinch over her shoulder. Always wish on a star, a fallen eyelash, a candle flame. Don't let black or white cats cross one's path. But the evil had started to press too closely in the last few months. That was why she had come to New Orleans, in hopes of finding stronger magic than she had. But the bad ones had found her here, first. They were coming for her, just like before. She started to rock back and forth, worrying.
        The strong arms surrounding her helped to push the bogeys away. All her friends were gathered around her. They wanted to help. They were the grownups, there to protect her from the darkness. She felt as if she was a little girl again, crying in the nursery when the lights went out. They'll make it better. But they couldn't help. They didn't understand. She had followed every one of the superstitions to the letter, even the ones that made her feel silly. It wasn't enough to keep her safe. She drew a ragged breath and burst into tears.
        Oh, I want my mummy.
        Fionna sobbed uncontrollably. The evil was here. It had followed her here. The emotional storm inside her rose to hysterical proportions. It was hard to breathe.
        She felt herself being shaken. A calm voice, a familiar voice, cut through her misery.
        "Fionna. Fionna."
        Oh, it was that imperious prig, Elizabeth Mayfield. Forgot to set the tables again, or was it some equally tedious House task?
        "Fionna."
        Go away, she willed the calm, insistent voice. Go away. Elizabeth was just another manifestation of the evils that surrounded her, haunted her. She tried to shut them all out, using the ward chants she had learned from the books. Go away, pesty voice.
        "Fionna."
        She put her fingers into her ears. Two strong hands grabbed her sore wrists and pulled them away. She yelped, and went back to chanting.
        "Fionna," the voice continued, in an urgent whisper, sinking lower and lower and becoming more and more intense until it burned into her very being. It was a mere breath upon her ears. "Phoebe Kendale, if you do not open your eyes right now and snap out of your sulk I will tell everyone here how you jumped naked off Magdalen Bridge into the Isis River at dawn on Midsummer Day five years ago."
        Fionna's bloodshot green eyes flew open, glaring into Liz's serious blue ones. "You wouldn't! Of all the officious, interferin' candy-arsed bitches who ever walked the earth on hind legs..."
        Liz stood up and nodded to Nigel Peters. "She'll be all right now," she said.
        "My God, how did you do it?" Peters asked, staring at his star in amazement. Fionna stopped raving and tensed up.
        "Departmental secret," Liz said, shortly. But she gave Fionna a look that said if she indulged herself in another screaming fit the secret would be out. The singer crossed her bandaged arms and stared her defiance. Liz shook her head. Fionna/Phoebe was as stubborn as the day they had met.


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