After a quick dinner of Mrs. Sanchez's tasty tamales and salsa, Cooper and I and the two animals piled into the Dinosaur -- Cooper's big, black, much-tinkered-with 1965 Lincoln Continental. Smoky hopped onto the back seat while I sat shotgun with my ferret in his walking harness and leash.

     Cooper talked to Smoky over his shoulder as he drove. The  white terrier seldom made any noise as he replied telepathically. Familiars almost never seem to be "talking" to their masters, so the masters' sides of the conversations can seem a little schizophrenic if they don't remember to think instead of speaking out loud. I know of several witches and wizards who just can't keep their mouths shut; when Bluetooth headsets came on the market, a lot of chatty Talents ran out and bought them to reclaim some of their dignity.

     "Yes, about midnight," Cooper said. "What? No. You have to pee? You should have said something earlier. No, you'll just have to wait."

     With a heavy, long-suffering sigh, Smoky lay down on the black leather upholstery and covered his snout with his paws.

     I felt my cell phone buzz in the right thigh pocket of my cargo pants. I pulled out my phone and flipped it open.

     "Hello, vibrating pants," I said into the receiver.

      The woman on the other end burst into laughter. "Jessica, you are such a weirdo sometimes!"

     No one still called me Jessica but Mother Karen, an older white witch I had met through Cooper. "Pot, kettle, black, Karen. How are you?"

     "I'm fine. What are you two doing tonight?"

     "We're off to drown some farmers' sorrows."

     "Calling a rainstorm? Good girl, my morning glories are starting to wilt. Well, I was doing some baking tonight, and thought I'd invite you two over if you were free."

     "Who's that?" Cooper asked.

     "Mother Karen. She's baking."

     "Ooh!" Cooper's eyes lit up. "I want me some haish brownies," he said in his best hillbilly accent. "An' summa thet cherry pah!"

     Karen heard him, and laughed. "Tell that man he is not to so much as sniff my cannabis brownies ever again. Last time he got stoned he turned my kids into spider monkeys and they broke half the dishes in the house. But I will save him a cherry tart or two."

     "You get pie," I told him. "Las drogas es verboten."

     "I never get to have any fun." Cooper pouted.

     "Speaking of breaking things, did you want to ride with me to hapkido practice this week?" Mother Karen asked.

     "Yes, thanks. We're doing knife and sword defenses, right?"

     "Right you are. And don't remember that belt tests are in three short weeks."

     "Oh, cool, I totally forgot!" I was up for my purple belt; I figured it would be at least another year before I was ready for my black belt test, mostly because I kept missing class.

     Mother Karen laughed. "Ah, to be young and still excited about belt tests. Meet me at my house around 6 on Tuesday?"

     "Okay, sounds like a plan."

     I said goodbye, turned off the phone and slipped it back in my pocket. Then I realized Cooper had taken I-71 south toward downtown Columbus. "I thought we'd be doing this someplace out in the country, near the farms."

     Cooper laughed, a touch nervously, it seemed to me. "I ... just don't feel like being out in the boonies. I figured we could do this in the Grove. Any magic we work there will be amplified for miles."

     To most people, the Grove is just the middle of Taft Park. The park's made up of two dozen acres smack in the middle of downtown, extending from the east side of the Statehouse to the Columbus Art Museum. The central dozen acres were old-growth forest, virtually unchanged since the first European explorers set foot in them.

     But to the city's Talents, the Grove is the focal point of a strong upwelling of Earth magic and is one of only two places of power in the entire state. It's home to some of the only enchanted trees left in the Midwest, and, as the occasional normal kid on a ghost hunt finds out, the Grove is a lot bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside. The Talented families in the city have worked hard behind the scenes to make sure the Grove stays wild and unmolested by developers and Parks & Recreation officials bent on "improving" it.

     The problem was, if any of the vast majority of the populace who didn't know wizards existed saw us performing magic, Cooper would get in quite a bit of trouble with the local governing circle.  A few people, like the farmers paying us to call down some rain, know Talents exist. But those few are put under a geas to keep the secret and not speak to outsiders about magic.  In the wake of the medieval witch hunts -- which murdered a lot of harmless mundane women and almost nobody using actual black magic -- Talent leaders had decided it was best that most mundanes knew as little as possible about the magical world.

     "If we get a really good storm going, the skyscrapers will give better lightning protection," Cooper said.

     He put his right hand on my leg and moved his fingertips in a light, teasing circle on the inside of my thigh. Tingly. "I have a feeling we're going to get things very, very wet tonight, don't you?"

     You just want to fuck me downtown where someone might see us, I thought, then found myself sitting there with a dirty grin on my face as my inner exhibitionist pushed my worries under the covers.  Erotomancy was just the thing for working forces of nature. I lifted his hand and put it over my left breast so he could feel my nipple hardening beneath my thin tee shirt.

     "Why, ah have no idea what you are talkin' about, Mista Marron," I said. "Ah think you might be trying to take advantage of me. Ah think you are planning to put that great big ol' cock of yours inside me and make me just scream."

     His fingers gently squeezed my nipple, sending a shiver of delight down my spine. "Stop with the Southern belle dirty talk ... you know it gets me hot."

     "Why, Mista Marron, isn't that what you want?"

     "What I want is to stop this car, throw you onto the hood, and take you right here by the side of the road."

     He had that certain horny-loony gleam in his eye; he wasn't kidding one little bit about stopping the car. He was going to do it -- do me -- right out there in the light of the oncoming traffic so the truckers could get a quick rearview mirror peepshow at 70 mph. And he'd be able to get us both off before the highway patrol showed up -- and if he couldn't, he'd be able to cast a mirage spell and make the cops and everyone else think the car was parked miles away from our actual location.

     You should stop this, I thought. Take his hand off your tit and put it back on the steering wheel.

     Instead, I squeezed his hand tighter against my breast and said, "I want you."

     It was the nightmares' fault this was happening. I knew he woke up so crazy with relief at finding himself alive with all parts intact that he wanted to send us both into orgasmic oblivion right out in the open where gods and monsters and mundanes could see them.

     I knew because I felt exactly the same way. Cooper had always been a bit of an exhibitionist, but I had warmed to it during the year of nightmares as my own way of giving the Darkness the finger. The Darkness could take us to dreamland and torture us, it could murder us in a thousand ways and leave us shivering on our sheets in confusion and terror, it could leave us psychically scarred, afraid to sleep, but it could not break us. We wouldn't let it.

     As Cooper's foot touched the brake, my ferret wiggled out of the crook of my right arm, hopped onto my chest and nipped Cooper's thumb.

     "Ow! Dammit!" Cooper jerked his hand away.

     The ferret chittered at both of us, his little beady eyes glittering.

     I laughed. "Guess he doesn't want us getting our freak on until it's rainstorm time."

     "Just what I need, a weasel chaperone," Cooper grumped.

I purchased 2 more Audiosource Amp310 amplifiers for my stereo system online the other day, to make a total of 3 that will be hooked up. Today my friend Dave of Dave's stereo shop in Bagly taught me how to wire them to make it all work. 2 amps for the 4 Peavey 12" P.A. speakers in my living room, 1 amp for the 2 pairs of Pyle outdoor speakers I have mounted near my deck and fire ring, and the Bose speakers in the dining room coming directly off the Sherwood receiver. I bought a couple "piggy-back" 6 foot  RCA jack jumper cords from Dave for next to nothing, and he taught me how to do the hook-ups to make it all work. No fancy series speaker wiring or impedance balancer necessary. Man, that Dave's a great guy.

I had an evil thought about the Boston Marathon bombing today while driving between jobs. My gut tells me the bomber or bombers is most likely some kind of conservative extremist like McVeigh or Rudolph, but it's way too early for conclusions and while my gut is really good about such things, it is not perfect. Most believe the bombing was motivated by politics and that's likely, but it occurred to the bomber might have a different motive. Fun.

Was Adam Lanza motivated by politics? How about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold? Or James Holmes?. In none of these cases can the shooters motives be ascribed to anything political. They didn't kill to make a point, they killed because it made them feel good and important to pump bullet after bullet into the moist flesh of innocents. They decided to turn their lives into a real single person shooter.

The problem with the Doom approach is that no matter how many NRA-protected thirty round magazines you have sooner or later you're down to your last few bullets. And while the screams, pleading and blood and shattered brains on the floor have made you harder then teak the fact is Mr. Shooter is about to be face an inevitable choice, "Do I check out or don't I?" It's been a great ride, but the mass shooter's moment is a short one.

Lamza, Klebold and Harris made the popular choice to spend their last moment turning their brains into high-velocity goo. Holmes decided to maim one more human being before being taken into custody. Each choice has its pluses ore minuses. The advantage to blowing your brains out is simple; nobody can hurt you any more. Provided there's no afterlife, that is. Still suicide leaves killers dead and unable to read about themselves in the paper. Holmes got to enjoy the screaming and pleading a bit longer before the cops took him away. Plus he's alive and presumably capable of appreciating the fame his crimes brought him. Granted he'll never be free again and will almost certainly receive a state-sanctioned expiration date to contemplate at his leisure, but it was fun while it lasted. Which was not long. Shooters get one metaphorical shot then it's over.

But what if the bomber or bombers are out for their own thrill kills? They make the bombs, set the timers then leave them where juicy, innocent flesh can be expected. Then the bomber goes home where he's already set his DVR to Fox and TV to CNN to settle down and watch. The 24-hour news cycle goes better ith a slice of pizza in one hand and a can of Bud Light in the other. Bombers get to watch people run and the shattered, bleeding bodies of their victims carried away from the comfort of their own living room. True, it's not quite so up-close and personal as Sandy Hook or Columbine, but bombers get to watch it all as free men! No certain execution date. No inability to meet girls beyond whatever mental illness gives you. and maybe not that. Certainly Ted Bundy had no trouble getting girls! And they face very little chance of sharing the prison yard with a bunch of muscle-bound ass-rapers with Batman tattoos on their chest. And if the FBI can't find them quickly they might get to massacre again, and again. Papa Johns might make a killing!

Of course sooner or later our bomber will get caught. When killing gets you off it's sorta hard to stop. But he can use the media and may enjoy a decent chance of telling when the cops are getting close. Maybe enough time to turn that crib into a little bunker, with improvised claymore mines and lots of firepower. Mr. Bomber gets to exercise his Second Amendment rights defending himself against the government. Might get to watch it all happen on TV in between volleys.

Really, the video game shooter model of thrill killer is so 2012.

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