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It was no use. There are some things in life that couldn't be argued, couldn't be changed. Sometimes, no matter how hard you tried to fight it, reality would have its way and leave you cold and shivering in an alley somewhere.

Sometimes it just wasn't worth the fight.

I sighed. "Yo, boss? Can you get the peanut butter?"

I heard the shuffling of slippered feet. "Why can't you get it yourself?"

I glared up at the overhanging cupboard. "It's on the top shelf."

He came into the kitchen. "So?"

"I'm too short."

"What?"

"I said I'm too short."

It was Friday, and by all accounts I should have been dead. Shem’s meeting with Hastofur had come and gone. They had to know I stole Hastofur’s doohickey charm thing. By all logic, I should’ve be a yellow smear on the wall.

Instead. . . nothing happened. No tribe of berobed cultists broke down my door, no horde of demons sprouted out of the walls to kill me. Nobody even called.

The panic had died by the second day and had been replaced with an impatient irritability. It was insulting, was I not worth their time? If they were going to do something, then they should just get on with it.

To which the part of me devoted to self-preservation comes in and strangles the thought until it is thoroughly dead, then kicks the corpse just to make sure.

Which left me nothing to do but wait.

Now it was lunchtime and, despite the fact I was both standing on the counter and on my tippy toes, I still couldn't reach the top shelf. Bossman grinned in a way that was entirely too cheerful.

"Not a word," I said.

"Wouldn't dream of it." He pulled one knee onto the counter, leveraged himself, then retrieved the jar in one smooth motion. He handed it to me with a little bow.

"Shut up," I said, taking the jar.

"I didn't say anything."

"Your smile is too loud. Shut up."

"Do you need me to twist off the top for you as well?"

I glared at him. "I used to be taller, you know."

"Sure you did."

"Really! I could be taller than a skyscraper when I wanted to!"

He nodded and smiled condescendingly. "Of course you could. Of course."

The doorbell rang before I could snap out a witty retort. I set the opened jar down and started sliding down from the countertop. The panic, which had been quiet for the past few days, bubbled back up.

Fuck. I’m dead.

"Don't worry yourself," he said. With a dramatic flourish, he gave a little bow and then swept out the door. "I'll answer it for you."

Fuck, we're both dead.

"Well aren't you a big damned hero?" I called after. Self preservation reared its mighty head.

Good, live bait. He distracts them, I go out the back way, over the fence, round the neighbor’s yard-

I glanced around the kitchen. Who was I kidding? This was Hastofur I was talking about. The place was surrounded. I wondered briefly if I should warn the meatsack, but decided against it. If it was Hasty, then we were both dead no matter what. Instead, I started on the sandwiches.

I expected the sounds of screaming. The sounds of flesh being rendered from bone, or maybe just Hastofur’s oily voice oozing its way into the house. I was not expecting the sounds of bossman cooing.

"Hey munchkin," he said. "Come look!"

My stomach sank. I left the sandwiches and went to the front.

"Look at him!" said Bossman. “Isn’t he cute?”

I peeked around him and got a look at the little bundle of joy. It didn't look so much like a dog than that one of those old koosh balls had sprouted legs, gained sentience and went to wander the earth. A portion of blackness split open, revealing a small pink mouth and some unquestionably sharp teeth. The writhing mass of fur yapped.

Bossman melted. I'm still surprised he didn't fall through the cracks in the floor. "It's a puppy!"

"No," I said, taking a step backwards. "That's a hellhound."

The mongrel began sniffing at bossman's feet. "But he's a little hellhound!" He scooped up the mutt and carried him inside.

"What are you doing?" I said, following.

He took it into the kitchen. The dog looked at me from over his shoulder, its tongue lolling out of the side of its mouth. Obviously it was evaluating how good I would taste.

Bossman grabbed opened the pantry one handed and began rooting around.

"What are you doing?" I said again.

"Feeding him. He's probably hungry, aren't you little guy?"

The vermin actually yapped in response.

Sycophant, I thought.

He pulled out a can of tuna and then started digging through the drawers.

"It's not going to eat that," I said.

"Oh? Why not?"

"Because it's not screaming in terror."

The mongrel wriggled out of his arms and leapt onto the counter, where it began sniffling at the can and making little ‘want’ noises. Bossman scratched its ears one handed and continued looking.

“The can opener is in second drawer,” I said despite myself.

"Thank you," he said, singsong.

"We can't keep it," I said.

"Why not?" His face was starting to burn raw where the dog had been licking. If he noticed, he didn't show it.

"Because it's an abominable hellbeast intent only on the destruction of all things good in the world. Plus it's smelly."

"So are you, but I let you stay."

He poured the tuna into a bowl and set the dog on the counter, where it began to lap noisily. "Little guy,” cooed bossman.

“Satan’s ballsack, man! Show some dignity!"

"Blinky," he said, ignoring me. "Blinky's a good name. Or maybe Blot. Like Ink Blot." He scratched the dog behind the ears. The little black tail wagged madly, though the snout-end was kept firmly in the food.

"You can't keep it," I said again. "Dogs are bad enough, but this thing's a monster. I'm not kidding- the big ones breath fire and everything. They piss a lot, they stink, they need baths and all kinds of dog junk-"

"Good idea," he said. He grabbed the keys from their spot on the counter and headed for the hall. "babysit. Watch him while I'm gone."

“Where are you going?” I said, following him down the hall.

“To get some dog stuff. Food, bed, collar, leash, toys-“

“You’re whipped. It’s been less than twenty minutes and you’re already its bitch.”

"Make sure to clean up any messes it makes. And wash that dish when he's done with it." He pulled on a jacket and was out the door. Then he was gone.

I scowled and went back to the fuzzy monster. "Playing second banana to a dog. It's an insult- Oh, hell."

In the fourteen seconds I'd been gone, the monster had managed to knock over anything and everything that had been on the counter tops, chew its way through a few cabinet doors, and piss on the floor. The linoleum was melting, and I could see the floorboards beneath being eaten away.

The dog stopped licking itself long enough to yap at me proudly from its spot beside the smoking linoleum.

"Bad," I said. I went over and smacked it. "Bad, bad, bad dog."

Immediately, it started whining and cowering and looking utterly pathetic. It ran from the kitchen and into the living room, still making that horrible high pitched yipping.

"Well you deserved it!" I shouted. "Stay away from my room!"

The distinct sound of wood splintering drifted down the stairs. I cursed, loudly, and followed it up the stairs.

“Dammit!”

The air filled with the smell of smoke. I followed the trail of ashes and splinters and found the dog inside one of the guest rooms, scratching enthusiastically at the bathroom door. “What?” I said from the doorway. “You can’t just blow that one up?”

It kept whimpering and scratching. Paws the size of half dollars tried squeezing beneath the door frame.

“What are you getting so worked up about?“ I said, venturing into the room. “There’s nothing in here.”

I stopped midstep. The door was steeped in the distinct odor of magic. That, in itself, wasn’t particularly strange: the whole house smelled like the stuff. It was one of the hazards of living with a wizard. Like living with a smoker, but with less chance of lung cancer and more of a chance at randomly waking up as a cockroach.

This particular whiff of magic, though, was specific.

A spell, then. I sniffed. For quiet. Calm, even. With a touch of a look away on it so nobody would notice, all wrapped on top of a familiar containment I couldn’t place my finger on. Odd, why would-

“Oh, hell,” I said. “Gregoire. Totally forgot about you.”

As if my saying its name had woken it up, the door began to rattle. There was no sound, but I could see it trying its best to get off the hinges. Great, one more thing to worry about. Gregoire had been in there a week and a half, now, and leaving a poltergeist time to think was never a good idea. I turned tail for the exit, leaving the dog trying to burrow its way through the door.

"That lazy bastard,” I said, heading downstairs and thinking of Faust. “Said he'd get rid of him. Can't even dispel a poltergeist. . . "

Obviously it was up to me. There was a potential risk to my nice little rut dwelling up there, and if I was going to live after all, then I damn well wanted to make sure I lived in a poltergeist free environment.

Besides, crept in a small, oily voice. It’s keeping your mind off of-

“Dammit, me, if I wanted my opinion I’d give it to me.”

There was a loud bang up the stairs behind me. More splintering wood, more thick smoke. Unlike Gregoire's door, the one to my room is not warded.

It never crossed my mind that it wasn’t my door. "Hey!"

The dog was in my room, alright. I don’t know how something the roughly the size of a basketball managed to tear down the door, reduce the end table to ash, and blast the dresser apart in under thirty seconds flat, but it managed. At that precise moment, it was rooting around through a pile of my clothes, now liberated from the dresser and stagnating on the floor. After some struggle nosing, the dog’s head emerged from the pile, a goldish chain and blue charm hanging from its mouth.

“No!” I leapt forward and tackled the mutt. “Bad dog! Spit it out, out!

It took a bit of tug o’ war, a bit of wrestling, and a hell of a lot of cursing from my end, but eventually it let go. The necklace dropped onto the floor with a drool induced splatter. With a yelp I took to mean ‘fine, take it, jerk’, the dog leapt onto my bed and curled up into a ball.

“Awww, man. . . “ Grimacing, I wiped the charm off on my shirt, only for the cloth to be eaten away by the spittle. I tucked the charm away in my pocket, scowled at the dog, and then grabbed a shirt from the pile. “You know,” I said, deftly exchanging clothes. “You're lucky Faust thinks you’re cute. I’dve roasted you by now.”

It pretended to be asleep, head down and eyes closed. I knew it was faking because it’s little tail was still beating occasionally, and every once in a while its eye would open to look at me.

“Open spit,” I said, getting up to go. “Alive. With barbecue sauce."

Alright. Things to do today. Not die. Check. Clean hole in the floor. Later. Deal with devil dog. Also later. But for now. . .

I went down the hallway- again. “Alright Gregoire,” I said on my way past. “Won’t be long now.”

Pedexyng, I thought. He’d help, if he was around. He might still be on call downstairs, though. So who after that? Riley?

I winced. No, no help from that corner. I like to make a point of asking people I’ve backstabbed for help only after a four month grace period.

I locked the door behind me, still thinking. Well, there were others. Minor imps who owed me favors from years and years ago. Couldn’t think of any off the top of my head, but there must’ve been a few. Or, worst case scenario, I go to some faerie and actually pay them.

I'd just made my way down the walk and was unlocking the front gate when I heard the all too familiar sound of yapping behind me. I turned to give the source my best double barrel scowl.

“Go away.”

The mutt lazily scratched its ear, giving me that open mouthed doggy grin.

“No,” I said, stomping my foot for emphasis. The mongrel began to graphically lick itself in response. Well, good, then. It was distracted. I slipped out, slammed the gate ,shut and then slid the bar closed.

“Eat it, dog.” It didn't pay me any mind: it was too distracted. Feeling smug, I turned down the street, only to find the bundle of black fur sitting on the street in front of me, still licking itself.

“How did you-? No. just, no. Bad dog.” I pointed at the house. “Go back inside. Wait, no. Don’t. Go over there.” I pointed down the street, the opposite direction I would be going. “Go on, get to it.”

The dog scratched its ear, watching me with its stupid dog face.

"Dammit, dog, if you don't-"

The rhododendron plant beside me burst suddenly into flames. There was no warning, no telltale sparking; there wasn't even any smoke, afterwards. One second, rhododendron, the next, torrent of fire, the next, nothing.

The dog got up, yapped at me, and then went to go sniff the ashes.

"Ah." I said meekly. "Okay. Alright then. . . cutie. You can come if you want."

The four legged incarnation of hell wagged its tail and trotted alongside me down the street.

* * * * *

Downtown wasn't nearly as busy as it should have been. Only the occasional traffic light brawl and hardly any hookers. Frankly, I was disappointed. Normally just walking around down there is better than daytime TV. Too early, I guess.

We passed by all the tourist shops and antique stores in the more picturesque part of town. Every so often the little monster would run off to chase pigeons or squirrels or cars. I kept hoping it would get lost, bitten or run down, but no such luck. It was always back within minutes, usually standing a few feet ahead of me, no matter where I'd run to hide in the intermittent minutes.

We went to every intersection I could find. Each time, I’d prick my fingers with a needle and put a dab of blood on the ground, whispering a little calling. And at every single crosswalk, I was ignored. By Pedexyng, I mean. Plenty of people gave me weird looks. The dog got his fair share of attention too.

“Don’t touch it,” I said to the twelfth little girl. “It’s a monster.”

She stuck her hand out anyway to pet him.

For a brief- very brief- moment, the basketball sized bundle of fluff was gone. In its place was a Volkswagen sized mass of dark. It was on fire. No, it was made of fire, but again, no, it was made of fur and muscle- a whole lot of muscle- No, just a little puppy sized amount. It was sitting comfortably within a sidewalk-square of cement, but it was partway into the street. Smoke was trailing out of its mouth. The eyes in all four or five of its heads were glowing red. It only had one head, and its eyes were perfectly normal, brownish looking, with no glow whatsoever.

It’s just a dog. A little puppy dog. . .
It’s a hellion. A ginormous, many headed, fire breathing-

My eyes crossed when I tried thinking about it. So I stopped thinking about it. The little girl screamed and ran away, back to wherever little girls go when they’re not pestering strange dogs.

The mongrel looked up at me, a puppy once more.

“Bad,” I said, halfheartedly for the twelfth time. “Bad dog.”

* * * * *

I was just about ready to give up on Pedexyng. I must’ve lost at least a pint of blood and gained nothing- not even a ‘please leave a message’ message. The dog had marked at least half the city (setting the flammable parts on fire and melting the other bits), and I was bored.

“Come on,” I said. “This isn’t working."

A little kid at a diner across the street sat backwards in his chair and grinned at us. He saw me looking and waved.

I didn't wave back. "Come on, dog. Let’s go home and-“

The dog stopped sniffing at a street lamp and perked up its ears. It started making those small 'want' noises.

"What?" I said, trying to see what it was looking at. The only things over there were shops, city paraphernalia. "What-?"

It bolted down the street and into a nook between stores.

I would have missed the shop had the dog not gone in. The entrance was in a nook, half tucked away in the shadows and snugly between two much more interesting shops. The sign above the door simply said, in chipped gold paint, 'Needful Things''. There were no display windows, so there was no way of telling what it was trying to sell.

The mutt nose-shoved the door open and darted inside.

Leave or follow? Leave or follow? Tough call. If I left, though, the dog would probably find me again later. If I stayed I got to see what kinds of 'needful things' the shop had. . .

I went inside. A bell above the door jingled as I entered.

At a glance I could tell three things. The shop was small. It was dusty. And it was full to the brim with junk.

There were all of three aisles, each composed of single racks set close together. The racks were almost as haphazard as the clutter they held. Some were the flimsy steel wire sort, others made of polished wood, some were painted with fancy swirly designs, others were raw wood that looked like you'd catch a nasty splinter if you touched it. Despite the purple cloth draped over one, I'm sure I saw the words 'Pirate Pete's Plunder Emporium'.

The air reeked of magic. Not any one spell, specifically, but the smell of many spells blurring and fading over time. Some spots were spicy, some like flowers, and others like overripe fruit. Above all, though, they just smelled old. Not the namby-pamby human old that was anything from sixty to hundred years, but my kind of old. Thousands of years, maybe more. A few of the things in here were that old, though I couldn't tell what at a glance. Like I said: it was all junk looking.

The guy behind the counter was of the large, balding variety. He was hunched over the counter, surrounded by mini-displays full of more junk, reading a magazine. He didn't look up when I entered, just licked his thumb and turned the page.

"Put your dog on a leash," he said, not taking his eyes from the mag.

The hellhound was sniffing madly at a large urn tucked between a standing shelf filled with glass bottles and another full of clockworky things.

"Hey," I told it. "Quit it."

The dog didn't listen.

I was going to try and grab it, but something caught my eye. A large, somehow familiar looking goldish box. It practically radiated warmth.

"Hey," I said, pointing to the box. "What's that?"

The clerk licked his finger and turned a page of his magazine.

"Ark of the covenant."

I leapt backwards, nearly toppling over a large, stone vase.

"Careful," he said without looking up. "There's something nasty in there you don't want getting out."

"What is this place?"

Another page turn. "A shop full of needful things. What'cha need?"

"I don't need anything."

He sighed and flipped the magazine closed.

"Listen. This here's the kinda place you can only get to if you're needin' to get to it. You're here, ain't you? So obviously there's something here you need." He squinted at me with his one good eye. The other, it seemed, was missing. "That's logic, that is."

Seemed like pretty flimsy logic to me, but I didn't mention it. I'd heard about shops like this before. "Who are you?"

"Call me Max."

"But it's not your real name, is it?"

He snorted. "'Course not."

I nodded. About time someone other than me was sensible about names.

"So, what? This place Faerie make? I don't recognize it-"

"Nope," he said. "Freelance. And if I were you, I'd get to looking for what it was you needed. Place closes in an hour."

I picked my way through the aisles, keeping an eye out for anything significant looking. I couldn’t see most of what was on the tall shelves, but like most things in the world, I figured if I couldn’t get to it on easy terms, it wasn’t worth getting at. Some of the stuff was actually pretty ritzy. Bagged laughter, bottled sunlight, second hand faith- a whole shelf dedicated to magic rings and charms. Other bits. . . .Weren’t.

"An empty djinn bottle?" I said, holding the jar in his direction. "Why would anyone need an empty djinn bottle?"

He didn't look up. "To fill it." Another finger lick, another page turn.

"And this?" I held up a jar full of red, watery liquid.

"Salamander piss."

I quickly set the jar back down and went back to poking around. Occasionally the dog and I would cross paths. It seemed to be looking for something, too.

"Five minutes," Max said.

I looked up from the phoenix fire I'd been examining. Spots floated and swam before my eyes. "But it's only been fifteen minutes! Twenty, tops."

"Sorry," said Max. He was still looking at a magazine, though I think this one was different form the one earlier. "Five minutes."

I went over and peered at him over the counter. "But I haven't found anything useful."

"Then you'll have to come back, won't you?"

Perfect, a whole morning, wasted. I turned around and leaned back-to-glass against the counter, my arms crossed. Useful, I thought. What do I need right now? Or what might I need later? Nothing came to mind. The longer I thought about it, the more certain I became: I didn’t need anything that was here. I wriggled a bit. Something in my pocket was digging into my leg.

Stupid charm, I thought, shoving my hand in to adjust it. Wait a minute. . . I slammed the necklace onto the countertop.

“ What can you tell me about this?”

His eyes flicked away from the page he was on, then flicked right back.

“It’s a charm. You lookin' to sell?”

I got on my tippy toes and pushed the charm a little further along the counter, closer to him. “I know it's a charm. Can you tell me who made it? Or what it does?”

Or why a demon would want it?

He sniffed. “Faerie make. Unseelie Court. High court, someone paid big for it. Made out of widows tears, moonlight charmed into carved wood. It's been stewed in a mix of virginal blood, ground pixie dust and liquefied poisoned hope to keep it solid. The paint is made of blue rose petals. Probably from the highlands. The pattern is reminiscent to Maori Pounamu pendants.” He thumbed another page. “The chain is steel.”

I looked at the necklace. Silvery colored chain, swirly blue bit. “You can tell all that just by looking?”

He nodded in a decidedly uninterested way. “Mmhmm.”

“Well,” I said, tucking the pendant back into my pocket. “I think I’m done here.” I headed for the door. “Hey, your door's jammed."

"That's cause you gotta pay for what you take."

"I didn't-"

A high pitched squeak cut through the air. The dog trotted out from the aisles, looking immensely satisfied with itself. In its mouth was a round, blue squeak toy.

"What's that," I said. "The cursed squeaker of Babylon?" I was only half kidding.

"Nope. Just a squeak toy. Still cost you, though."

"Drop it, dog. I'm tapped out."

"Not everything's about money," Max said. "Gimme a favor and it’s yours."

"Bite me. No way that thing's worth a favor."

"You a demon?"

Well, I hadn't really been expecting that. "Kinda sorta yeah."

"You smell like demon. I charge extra for your sort."

"Eat it, Maxy." I kicked the door.

"You can't leave."

"Sure I can, it's his toy. Bye, mongrel, have fun." I tugged at the door with both hands, one foot on the frame for leverage.

"I told you, you can't leave without payin' for your-"

"It ain't my dog anymore. You want it? Keep it. Lemme out."

“You’ve never haggled before, have you?”

“I don’t haggle.” Damn, that door was solid.

“Tell you what, why don’t you name something you’re willin’ to give, and I’ll see if it’s good, ‘kay?”

I stopped trying to break his door and thought about it. What did I have? What hadn’t I seen while wandering around the shop? A slow smile crept out and planted itself across my face. “Hey,” I said, going back to the counter. “You got an empty jar?”

He pulled one out from behind the counter and slid it across.

I took the jar and, after some thought, picked a plague. Black smoke that the clerk probably couldn't see poured out of my fingertips and into the jar. As soon as it hit glass, the smoke morphed into fleas. Hundreds upon hundreds of fleas, all hopping around inside the jar without going out the top.

"Aww, hey, little guys." I screwed the top back on. "You go give 'em hell, okay?" They buzzed and thrummed in a way I took to mean 'yes, boss'.

The clerk took my plague and gave a low whistle.

"Pestilence?"

"The best-ilence. Now can I go?"

He waved a hand, still closely examining the jar. The shop door swung open with the tinkling of a bell.

Finally, I thought.

The dog was already outside, busily gnawing on his toy.

“Great,” I said. “So instead of just leaving, you made sure I paid for your toy. Dammit, dog-“

A tree planted in an empty space of sidewalk just outside the nook burst into flames. Less than a second later, all that remained was ash. The dog continued chewing, with only a flick of an ear in the tree's direction to show he'd noticed.

“You know,” I said after a moment. “You really need to learn the difference between dammit and damn it.”

The small pile of newspapers just inside the nook promptly erupted into a torrent of fire and was thusly ashed. “Nice,” I said walking past the smoldering remains. The dog yelped at me.

"Shut up," I said.

"Ooooh," said someone behind me. "You said a bad word!"

Holy crap, the dog can talk.

But, no. It was just that kid from earlier. The one who'd waved. He smiled up at me with eyes that looked like they should have been unfocused, but were probably more intense than anyone else's on the street.

I took a step back. He giggled.

"Hey, kid," I said uncertainly.

Kids were new to me. I do not deal with kids. There are special divisions downstairs built specifically to deal with kids, and I was not part of them. Were they like pets? Or smaller, stupider people? Did they break easily? The way some people went on made it sound like they were like carnival goldfish, the kind that keel over if you look at them funny.

This one seemed to be at least a little off. Both his eyes and smile were both wide, though he had a bit of a squint going on with the first. His nose was small and upturned slightly, though still resting on the flatter side of nose-dom. The tousled red hair above the pale eyes was almost the same color as his freckles. He was about my height, which is to say he was small. He looked decidedly elfy.

He wiped his nose with his sleeve. "You got a cute dog. Does he have a name? What's his name?"

"Uh, I don't think he's got one yet," I looked around to see if his owner or handler or whatever was around. "Just got him this morning-"

"But he's such a good dog! My aunty says you've got to name them early so they can memorize that it's their name. It's how come you can't just go around calling them things like doggy or pooky or snookums or anything unless it's their name, or else they'll get confused." He went over to the dog and began petting it. "Aww, you're such a good doggy, aren't you? Whose a good doggy? I bet you'd like a name, huh?" He got down onto his knees and started giving the dog a full back scratching.

The dog, to my surprise, took it all in good humor. Instead of turning giant and scaring the kid off, it started nuzzling the boy's face. Its back leg started kicking back and forth before it finally melted into a puddle of goop and laid down on the sidewalk, exposing its belly.

The whole time, the kid wouldn't stop chattering. I tuned him out and waited for him to leave. Didn't he have a parent or trainer or something?

"I really like dogs. My aunty has one named Maddie but she's not as fluffy and she's only got one head and she doesn't smell all smoky like yours does. Sometimes she'll try to dig holes inside and my aunt will have to kick her outside, then she'll start trying to dig holes in her water dish but all that happens is that the water all splashes out. She's really nice, sometimes she sits under the table and just looks up like she's sooo hungry and then I give her food, but then aunty yells at me because she says French fries are bad for dogs-"

When does he breathe?

A thought occurred.

"Hey," I said. "Kid-"

"-and then sometimes my aunty has to clean the floor with special stuff so it doesn't smell anymore. My name's Mathew, not kid." He was sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk, with the dog in his lap. "You gotta call me my name."

"Ah, Mathew, right. You want a dog?"

Wide eyes the color of pale sand looked intensely into mine. Not, I think, on purpose. "Yes," he said. "More than anything else in the world."

"Then he's all yours."

"Really?"

I closed my eyes and graciously mock-bowed. "Yep. Take him home, name him, try not to curse around him- oof."

The kid was hugging me. Not a mild, awkward hug, but a full on body compression. "Thank you soooo much!"

"Ah. Yeah." I tried to pry him off. "You're welcome." No good: he was stuck on tight. The dog was no help: it simply sat there and watched us with that stupid dog face of its.

"Mathew!" A woman ran out of the restaurant across the street and headed straight for us. "Mathew!"

"Hi, mom!" he said brightly, still holding on to me. Using his free hand, he pointed at the dog. "Mom, look! I got a new dog!"

"Mathew, please let her go."

He did. "Did you hear, mom? I got a new dog"

"I'm so sorry," she said to me. "Mathew honey, we've been through this. We can't have a dog, our apartment doesn't allow pets."

"But mom, she gave him to me! I love him!"

"I am so sorry," she said again. She clasped the boy's hand and lea him away, down the street.

"Bye, doggy," he said, turning to wave. "I'll see you again real soon, okay?"

The dog barked at him. I half hoped he'd run after and follow them, but alas, he stayed standing, tail erect. I watched mother and son get into a car and take off.

"Okay," I said. "Now we can go home."

The dog wuffled in what I presume to be agreement. Together, we set off.

I glared at the sunset. The whole day was gone? Stupid shop. I bet the clerk a whole shelf in the back room full of time he'd stolen from customers. I bet he waited 'till I was gone to put it out. I bet he was selling it for unscrupulous amounts right then, without giving me a cut. Stupid clerk. I dug my hand into my pocket and felt out the charm.

So what had I accomplished? Nothing. The dog was still there, the charm was still useless, I hadn't heard from Hastofur and Pedexyng was out of action for who knows how long. I couldn't even remember why I'd left home.

What a pointless day.

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