One time there was this book called Freakanomics. It made the claim that the drug trade is the world’s worst pyramid scheme. This book outlined that the street dealers, who take most of the risk of getting shot by rivals and/or getting sent to prison, make less than minimum wage while the bosses at the top are the ones with shark grottos and solid gold katanas. Which is why murdering your boss so you can be the new boss is such a popular career move in the drug trade. I don’t know if this is true but it’s the kind of thing that sounds true when you read it.
Being part of a black magic cult/criminal conspiracy/gang/whatever is like that. The noted black magic slogan is “do as thou will” but like most common sayings it should be followed up by “just kidding”. The root of black magic is domination and control, so anyone who really thought about it would know going in that all this freedom stuff they talk about is a bad bill of sale. The pitch with black magic is that you can be free of society’s rules and do whatever you want, what you find out later though is that “whatever you want” is whatever the guy higher up the chain than you wants you to want to do.
The “doctrine” of black magic supposes that the strong must govern the weak, who in turn owe their masters unwavering obedience. Not exactly the total freedom they promise eh? Actually maybe an even better comparison is pledging a frat, you know one of the bad ones, “eat a grape out of my asshole and then in a few years it will be your turn to humiliate and dominate someone else”.
Dale, unlike many of the lowlife scumbags that make up the bottom 90% of black magic groups is starting to understand like he’s got a tiger by the tail. It was fun at first but now he’s scared shitless most of the time. His “friends” are looking to screw him over for their own advancement or just for laughs. He’s seen two of his real friends die and the others, like him, realize that friendship isn’t a good idea and ghost him. Dale is profoundly unhappy and he clings to the only hope he has – that he can rise through the ranks and be the one dealing out the abuse instead of taking it. Even though he knows, deep down inside, that if that happens it’s going to make him feel even worse.
That being said Dale IS an asshole. When Grace kicks his door down he figures out that pointing his pistol at her isn’t going to be as effective as pointing it at Cassie. So that’s what he does. The bad news for him is that it falls apart in his hand, literally just falls to pieces. Grace was trying to cast her malfunction spell but she’s pushing her limits for one, which makes it hard to concentrate, and she’s a little “buzzed” from touching Andrea’s ring. Unintended consequences are why you need to be careful with magic. You never know what might happen. Grace is able to keep her own surprise from showing as she strides into the room.
“Cassie would you give Dale and I a moment alone? Andrea is outside and I know she’d like to see that that you’re okay.” Cassie looks at Dale for a moment and at the pieces of gun on the floor, and then gets up and hurries out “If you see that guy that was with me, Huddie, the old hipster doofus looking mother fucker, and it seems like he’s going to come would you please tell him not to? Thank you.”
Dale watches mutely as Grace takes Cassie’s place on the couch across the room from him. It’s an oddly out of place flora number that looks like it belongs in an assisted living center more than the lair of a wicked sorcerer.
Grace looks at the copious amount of blood on the carpet and grunts “I got shot in the foot. Hurts. Do you know how use magic to heal yourself?”
Dale is thinking about the knife “hidden” under the couch and his poor odds to getting to it “What do you want?”
“To raise the dead. Jesus did that in the Bible. They don’t make a big deal about that. Brought a guy back from the dead. Lazarus was his name. A friend died and I want to bring her back. To do that I have to kill other people. I came here thinking you and your friends would be good candidates. I don’t think I’m going to do it. I don’t think there’s any way to make that right. Even though you and your friends should die. I don’t know what to do with you. Huddie wants to kill you all. He doesn’t see any other way to stop you. I was thinking maybe I would break all the bones in your hands and feet. That should stop you from doing magic for a long time. I want to do the right thing, but it’s hard to know what that is.”
Dale’s mouth is very dry and he gulps uselessly “I swear I won’t go near Andrea or Cassie again. I won’t try to get the ring. I’ve got five grand under my bed, it’s yours.”
Grace nods absently “I’m sure you’d swear to just about anything. Too bad you’re a lying piece of shit. Is there a spell I can learn that will make people do what they promise? The internet says that’s called a geas. If that was real it would help me. You ever hear of gilgul? It’s a ritual you can do to take away magic from someone forever. Even if I learn how it takes a ton of power, even more than bringing someone back to life. That would be the best, if I could rip magic out of people.”
Dale glances at the doorway to the bedroom “I can help you. I know the ones who have the real power. I could tell them that I caught you and . . .”
“I stabbed a guy in the neck with an awl punch. Before I knew magic. I used to think about him a lot. He probably died, I didn’t stick around to find out. Another time I smashed another guy in the head with a brick and robbed him. I needed money and I didn’t want to turn tricks. That was before too. I beat a guy in the head with hammer. He’s the one that killed my friend, the one I want to bring back. I wasn’t trying to kill him but I wasn’t not trying to kill him. I hit the guy in the skull with a hammer. That was after I knew magic. That one sticks with me. He didn’t die. He didn’t die. I don’t think of myself as a killer. But I did those things.”
“This . . . this can work out. For both of us. I can help you. If you take out a couple other guys then I can . . .”
Grace shakes her head slightly “I’m sorry, you must think that I’m trying to scare you. I’m not. I’m just talking out loud. It’s been a day.” She laughs shortly “I suppose you know that. I suppose you do. I just want you to know Dale, if I ever kill you it won’t be for a blood magic ritual, it will be because you’re human garbage and the world is made better by you being gone from it.”