Milham said that in the magic trade one way he gets stuff is by grabbing it up after people die. A family heirloom that no one remembers is magic because no one has believed in magic for 3 or 4 generations.
I called and told him about Joanne. He said that if she had been dead for a couple of days already any magic stuff she had might have already been snapped up. When I asked him who would have taken it and how they would have known about it in the first place he gave me his mysterious old wizard vague non-answer routine.
“Give me one name of someone who might have grabbed the notes or I’m hanging up.” I says to him.
“I mean, okay hang up if you want” he replied “but you’re the one who called me for help.”
Someday I’ll be in a conversation with someone where I have the upper hand. It has to happen eventually. Law of averages. He said he’d look into it and called me a few days later saying I needed to come see him.
“I’m in Sioux Falls can’t you just tell me what you found out?”
He couldn’t. One 19-hour drive later and I’m at the Rook takes Pawnshop. I was tired and Milham was enough White Claws in that he didn’t remember talking to me at that moment so we picked things up the next day.
If you’re wondering why his pawnshop is so huge it’s because it used to be a piano store and if you’re wondering why Milham is using a mostly empty huge commercial space for is pawnshop he barely runs it’s because the rent is cheap. That’s what I learned over breakfast at Edie’s Biscuits.
Back at the Rook Milham put a sword on the counter. A literal sword. This once had some crystals loosely affixed to it with copper wire. Milham grinned at me like a teenager about to get laid.
“What the fuck is this?”
He patted the blade gingerly “It’s a sword that can harm ghosts and spirits and free roaming vapors and astral entities. Should work against these bugs you keep seeing.”
“What the fuck am I supposed to do with a sword? I’d like to not to kill the people being possessed.”
Milham was annoyed that I wasn’t more enthusiastic about his gift “You just stab them in the arm or the leg, somewhere non-fatal and the spirit inside will feel the full force of your magic power.”
“And that will kill the spirit?”
He nodded “Yeah. Well sometimes. It will hurt them anyway. Spirits can’t abide pain, it will drive them out of the body if nothing else and then you can kill them.”
I picked up the sword, they’re not as heavy as you think “Where did you get this?”
He grinned and made a grandiose gesture “Our story beings in Shanghai in 1850. The Qing dynasty was in bad shape and had ceded an area of land to the five western powers after the opium war. A Cambridge educated fellow by the name of . . .”
“Forget I asked.” I waved the sword around a little experimentally “This damn thing feels like it going to break.”
“Well” he admitted “It’s not a real sword. I don’t mean it’s illusion, it’s a physical object, it’s that no one makes swords anymore, it’s a replica. It will work well enough on bodiless spirits though, just be careful that you don’t hit it on anything too hard.”
“I thought you said it was from 1850?”
“That was well after sword times Grace” he said looking down his nose at me like a snooty teacher.
“How am I supposed to see them to stab them carefully?”
He grinned even more “I thought you’d never ask!”
He pulled out from behind the counter a VR helmet that looked like it was from 1980 with wires and electrodes and contact pads on it. I put the sword back on the counter and shook my head.
“Fuck you, this is a joke.”
“It’s no joke Grace, and I can prove it.” He crossed his arms petulantly “I was hoping for a little more gratitude.”
“What about the spells Milham?” I gestured at the stupid sword “I want the spells not this junk.”
His response was to shrug and say that he couldn’t find out anything about them. Either Joanne never actually had them written down or someone else grabbed them. Or maybe they’re just sitting in a box somewhere. He has no fucking idea.