Dave meets a man who can help with Maddie's problem.
A Sorcerer in Downtown Atlanta
Chapter 3 - The Wizard
The next morning, Maddie bounced down the steps of Dave's apartment building and headed towards the parking lot, seeing Cindy waiting in her car for her. It felt so strange to Maddie that today was Sunday, yet she had not gone to church. Still, she recognized that these were unique circumstances, with a great number of pressing errands she had to run today, so she instead spent a longer time on her morning prayers than usual. As Cindy spotted her and waved, Maddie opened the car door and slid into the passenger seat.
"Ready for your first shopping trip?" Cindy asked.
"Absolutely! I'm so excited; I feel like I'm really becoming a modern woman! I just hope I don't get too lost and confused in it all…"
"Don't you worry, girl. I'll take great care of you."
Pulling out a note of instructions she had written from Dave, Maddie said, "Now then, I expressed my concern to Dave that he was spending all his money on me, but as you can imagine, he had none of it."
"Yeah, he's a bit stubborn," Cindy giggled.
Maddie continued, "He did say that we should purchase all clothes necessary from a place known as Goodwill, and that he would use a transformation spell to change whatever we purchase into exactly what I want. He insisted I not concern myself with price, but I still intend to only purchase the least expensive items possible."
"That's very thoughtful of you."
"Well, he has already done so much for me. I could not bear to take undue advantage of his generosity." Glancing at her list Maddie said, "Dave also mentioned that I would need some basic women's health items, but he was not sure of everything that would be needed."
"I've got your back on that one," Cindy assured her. "First stop: the mall!"
"The mall? What about Goodwill?" Maddie asked.
"Obviously, we'll buy your clothes from Goodwill as cheap as we can find. But we need to go to the mall first and have you try on a bunch of things so we know your sizes and personal style. Remember, we have to be able to tell Dave what to transform the clothes we do purchase into," Cindy replied.
"Ah, that does make sense."
"Hey, I'm the smart one in the family. Don't ever let Dave tell ya different!" Cindy joked. "I assume he gave you some money?"
"He did," Maddie said, pulling several twenty-dollar bills from her pocket.
"I'll hang on to those; they'll be safer in my purse. We'll get you one of these, too!"
"Perfect! We're all set, then?"
"Yep. Let's go!"
Dave took a deep breath as he walked with purpose towards the apartment building ahead of him. Though the building was only block or two off campus, it was still in one of the less safe areas of Atlanta. Unsuspecting college students who wandered down this street were in more danger than they realized, but Dave was far from unsuspecting. In fact, he had worked on a new defensive spell that morning, one that summoned half of his aura's strength and projected it invisibly around his body. This would provide an emergent defense in the event something unexpected happened.
Out of the corner of his eye, Dave saw a pair of shady individuals hanging out down an alley, but they either didn't notice him or paid him no mind. He suspected they were in the middle of a drug deal, meaning their attention was focused on their transaction and any immediate threats. After passing by them, Dave finally arrived at the entrance to the apartment building. A large black man stood in front of the door, his white t-shirt bearing the image of a pot leaf.
"Whatcha want, my man?" he asked. "Need a good bargain? I got the best prices north of I-20!"
Dave smirked. "Appreciate the offer, but I'll pass. As much as I believe your business ought to be legitimate, I won't be participating until it is."
"I respect that, friend," the man replied with a smile.
"I'm actually here to see an old friend of mine."
"Lotta people think their friends live here," the man replied, revealing his duty as a bouncer. "Who ya need to see?"
"You might know him as The Wizard," Dave said.
"Wizard… hang on a sec. Dude's kinda paranoid. What's your name?"
He made a quick call on his cell phone, confirming that Dave was expected. "Cool, he's waitin' on ya; take the stairs to the third floor."
"Thanks," Dave replied.
The apartment building primarily housed some of Atlanta's up and coming drug dealers, necessitating the guard out front, but one exception was Dave's friend, Jerome "The Wizard" Winters. Dave was one of the few who actually knew his real name; everyone else only knew him by his screen name. As a member of Anonymous who frequented the dark web, Jerome had learned to trust very few individuals. Dave was one such individual.
Two years previous, Jerome had been hard at work attempting to uncover sealed files relating to the government's "Fast and Furious" operation. When the cover-up had been exposed, the government had no choice but to admit the existence of the plan, but still buried the most incriminating evidence. Jerome was out to expose that evidence. However, a counter hacker employed by the government stymied his efforts to the extent that he came close to tracing Jerome's specific location. Dave Brighton, Jerome's dorm neighbor at the time, heard the young man cursing and rushed to see if he could help. The moment Jerome said he was part of Anonymous, Dave didn't ask even a single question further and helped him shut the counter hacker out, maintaining the secret identity of The Wizard. From that day on, Dave had Jerome's implicit trust.
As Dave knocked on the door to apartment 3E, a voice asked, "What's the good word?"
"To hell with tyranny," Dave replied, completing the password Jerome had told him on that day two years ago.
A moment later, the door opened, revealing a slender black man with a buzz cut and pencil moustache.
"Get your ass in here," Jerome said with a smile.
"Thanks for agreeing to meet with me on such short notice," Dave said, closing the door behind him and latching the deadbolt.
"But of course! You saved my ass two years ago, Dave. A member of Anonymous don't forget a friend like that."
Taking a seat, Dave replied, "I need to ask a big favor of you."
"How big we talking?" Jerome asked, plopping into his desk chair.
"Big. Sworn-to-secrecy-even-to-Anonymous big."
"Ooh, I dunno…"
"Jerome, I won't ever make you do something that you can't in good conscious participate in, but I've run down my options on this. You're the only guy good enough to help me out. Still, I can't tell you what it is until you agree to keep it an absolute secret; I'm sure you understand that."
Thinking for a moment, Jerome asked, "Are we talking something dangerous?"
"Not to you, nor to the general public."
Dave shrugged. "No worse than any of your past projects."
Jerome first studied Dave's face for a few seconds, then turned to his large desktop computer. He clicked a few buttons, then removed his cell phone from his pocket and powered it all the way off.
"All potential recording devices have now been deactivated. The following conversation will not leave this room. You have my word," Jerome said.
"Thanks," Dave said, powering his own phone off.
"Ok, what's the big secret?"
"Damn, it's such a long story. Let's see… it all started during archery practice…"
Maddie stood alone in the Macy's dressing room, more than a little overwhelmed at the variety of clothes Cindy had helped her pick out. From t-shirts and tank tops to shorts, skirts, and even modern undergarments, the choices were endless! In addition, Maddie was more than a little nervous at the amount of skin modern clothing seemed to show. Of course, her connection to Dave's mind told her that these were quite normal for the day, but this knowledge still clashed with the teachings of modesty she had been brought up with. Taking a deep breath, she began sorting through them and settled on a three-quarter-sleeve shirt and a pair of capris.
"Maddie, what's taking so long? C'mon, girl! We've got lots to do today," Cindy heckled her.
"Right, right, coming."
Maddie stepped out into the sitting area and gave a little spin for Cindy, who nodded with approval.
"Nice. A conservative look, but I'm guessing that's what you're most comfortable with," Cindy said.
"Yes," Maddie replied. In a whisper, she continued, "I'm finding it hard to believe women of this time show so much… skin."
Cindy giggled. "Don't worry, you'll get used to it. Try on one of the skirts next! I can't wait to see you in those."
"I think you're having more fun than I am," Maddie teased.
"Well, you are kind of a life-sized Barbie doll I get to play dress-up with. Now, go change already!" As Maddie reentered the dressing room, Cindy called out, "Something skimpyyyyy!"
A few minutes later, Maddie emerged in a more professional outfit, consisting of a black pencil skirt and a cream button-up blouse. The skirt had a light gray pinstripe pattern, giving her a look of confidence and sophistication, one that Maddie enjoyed quite a bit.
"Damn…" Cindy breathed.
"Something wrong?" Maddie asked.
"Not at all. Wow, you look like a woman ready to take on the world."
Looking in the mirror, Maddie commented, "Hmm, I suppose this is quite a strong combination. Do you think it too much?"
"Nope. Just right. Here, let's finish off the look with this," Cindy said, handing Maddie a hair tie.
"Oh, very nice!" Maddie remarked, finding the ponytail a perfect supplement to the blouse and skirt. "I shall have to remember this when I try to find work."
"Definitely. Ok, next!"
Over the next hour and a half, Cindy took Maddie through the entire gamut of women's fashion, focusing primarily casual spring outfits and sundresses. Maddie found that some of the more formal dresses were her favorites by far, reminding her a bit of home. All the while, Cindy took meticulous notes of size and style to help Dave put together her wardrobe. After finally trying on all the clothes they had found, Maddie changed back into her t-shirt and jeans. While an employee replaced all the clothes back on the racks, Cindy beckoned Maddie over to an area with a wide selection of women's purses.
"These are quite lovely… and expensive!" Maddie realized upon seeing the price tag. "My word, how can women afford these?"
"To be honest, most can't, but buy them anyway," Cindy grimaced. "Pick out whatever style you like. We'll get you something cheap that Dave can alter."
After noting down three different purses Maddie liked for everyday, travel, and formal, Cindy led her back into the walkways of Lenox Mall. Every little thing they passed enraptured Maddie to the point that she was like an excitable little puppy. After all, theoretical knowledge of this time period was still nothing compared to experiencing it firsthand. Soon, she stopped and stared at something in the display window of a store. Maddie had found Victoria's Secret.
"Like what you see?" Cindy teased.
"Um… I'm not sure?" Maddie replied. "Do women actually wear this sort of thing… in public?"
"No, nothing like that," Cindy giggled. "This store sells lingerie, underwear that's designed to be fashionable and overtly sexy. In the modern day, it's become more acceptable for women to be more aggressive in pursuing and seducing their men. As such, the business of lingerie has skyrocketed, giving women the tools needed to drive their husbands and boyfriends crazy."
"I see. And men enjoy seeing women wearing such items, I assume?"
"I haven't met a man who doesn't. Well, not a straight man, anyway. Men are extremely visual creatures," Cindy mused. "C'mon, let's go in!"
"Oh, I don't know…"
"Don't worry, it'll be fun," Cindy pressed, taking Maddie's arm.
Cindy spent the next twenty minutes educating Maddie on the finer points of women's lingerie. From babydolls and nightgowns to more adventurous corsets and garter belts, Maddie was blown away by the sheer amount of options. It seemed there were just as many possibilities for undergarments as there were for outer garments! At Cindy's insistence, Maddie finally agreed to try something on for fun, selecting a simple black babydoll nightie. Though she was a bit nervous, Maddie found that wearing such a garment did indeed make her feel quite sexual and powerful. She invited Cindy into the dressing room with her to see what she thought.
"Well?" Maddie asked.
"Damn… I wish I had your body, girl. Holy shit."
"Oh, rubbish! You're breathtaking, Cindy!" Maddie giggled. "I am quite certain you have your choice of eligible suitors."
"Maybe," Cindy replied, still mesmerized by Maddie.
"So, do you think Dave would enjoy something like this?"
"Definitely. I assume you would want it to be a surprise for him?"
"Most certainly," Maddie agreed. "Perhaps I should wait until I have found employment and purchase something with my pay from that?"
"Sounds like a good plan to me. Better than ruining the surprise by asking Dave to transform something."
"True!" Maddie giggled. "All right, let me change back. Where to next?"
"Next is Goodwill. I'll wait for you out front."
"And that's the story, Jerome."
"I know, right?" Dave smirked.
"No, I mean literally unbelievable. I love you, Dave, but give me one good reason I shouldn't call the men in the white coats to take you off to Happy Crazy Town," Jerome replied.
"Well, if you don't believe me, believe this."
With a snap of his fingers, Dave conjured a small flame in his hand, juggling it back and forth a few times for good measure. Jerome's face went from one of skepticism to one of sheer terror. This was beyond anything he had ever thought possible.
"Oh my god… it's all true?!"
"All of it," Dave said, "including the part about Maddie coming back to this time with me."
"Dave, man… I've been a conspiracy theorist all my life… but this?!"
"I know it's a lot to absorb, but I still need your help."
"Wow… um, ok. What do you need from me? Seems like you can just wave your hand and have everything you want, right?" Jerome asked with a laugh.
"If only it were that simple. As I mentioned, most of my sorcery is still based in science and the laws of physics. I've scoured my spell book, but found nothing that would allow me to make Maddie a legal person in 2017. That's where you come in. I need a way to make her legal without raising suspicion."
"Now, that is a task. But you have come to The Wizard, after all!" Jerome smiled.
"You think you can do it?" Dave asked.
"Yep. I actually wrote a program not too long ago that'll be perfect for this sort of thing." Turning back towards his computer, Jerome continued, "What I'm gonna do is trigger a search program to find instances of births and deaths, looking for a kid that died shortly after being born. In essence, we're trying to find your girl an identity she can assume."
"Ok, that makes sense," Dave replied, pulling his chair next to Jerome's.
"Now, the tricky part is finding a kid with no traceable elements to their story, or else the whole thing will blow up the minute she applies for a copy of her birth certificate. Gotta find an instance of a kid who was born in one place, ideally a smaller town, then died in a different place far enough away that the records won't ever be compared. And there's gotta be no next of kin, or that'll raise a red flag. Let's see… how old is Maddie?"
"She's twenty-two, born on March 7th."
"Ok, so assuming she had been born in this time period, that'd put her birth year as 1995," Jerome said, typing the information into his program. "Setting parameters to white females. Running the search now."
The pair chatted for about half an hour while Jerome's computer did its thing. It wasn't long before results started to filter in, but the majority were rejected right away for one reason or another. Most of the little girls he found were born and died in the same place, meaning there would likely be locals in the town that knew of their story, even if there were no next of kin. A few other results died in different places, but were children of prominent individuals, such as entertainers or local politicians. Eventually, Jerome found a girl that might just be the perfect identity for Maddie.
Jerome said, "Here we go… meet Elise Madison Adams. According to this tiny news clipping, she was born in Paducah, Kentucky to a Myra Adams. No father is mentioned; I assume that means Myra didn't know who the father was."
"Here you can see an obituary for Elise Madison Adams only three weeks later in Jackson, Mississippi."
"Jackson? How's that work?" Dave wondered.
Jerome grinned. "Check this out. Here on the obituary, it mentions she was being cared for at Sunnybrook Children's Home, an orphanage just north of Jackson. Cause of death was an undiagnosed illness of some sort. Her remains were cremated, and the orphanage never claimed them, so the crematorium disposed of them. A couple of news reports from that year said that Sunnybrook was on the verge of financial collapse, meaning they couldn't afford to claim her remains. Now, I did a little extra hacking and managed to find in her mother's hospital records that she was listed as homeless. Normally, I stay away from medical records, but it was the only way to confirm that her mother wasn't someone who would come looking should Maddie assume the little girl's identity."
"Ok, Mom is homeless and the kid was born and died in two separate places, but that still doesn't explain the gap. How the hell did a homeless mother get her child from Paducah, Kentucky to Jackson, Mississippi?"
"For that, I had to dig up an obscure news article. Take a look."
On the screen, Dave skimmed through the article Jerome had found. It detailed the efforts of Paducah's mayor in the 90's to crack down on, as he called it, "the scourge of homelessness" in their city. Of course, this meant getting rid of homeless people so that the city no longer had to deal with them, not an actual effort to stem the tide of homelessness. The mayor's brilliant idea was to hire a private motor coach and round up as many homeless individuals as possible to bus them down the interstate to Memphis, Tennessee. But one of the city council members got wind of the plan and sent word down to a family member who happened to be on the city council in Memphis. By the time the busses arrived in Memphis, the mayor was waiting for them at the bus station and implored the driver not push Paducah's problems off on Memphis. Caught red-handed, the drivers didn't have the stomach to defy the mayor of Memphis, but also knew there would be serious consequences were he to return to Paducah with their passengers still in tow. After a lengthy discussion, the bus drivers decided they would continue down the interstate for a while longer, eventually arriving in Jackson, Mississippi. By that time, their passengers were tired of the game and decided of their own accord to depart the busses. Though there was no direct connection, it was an easy assumption that Maya Adams was among these passengers.
"Wow… that's one sad story," Dave remarked. "Any word on what happened to Elise to cause her to die all of a sudden?"
"The only thing mentioned in her obituary was a sudden illness of some sort. Not sure what, but it's not a stretch to think that her extended time on those busses brought her into close proximity with some people who were already sick. Her tiny immune system just couldn't fight it off without proper care," Jerome surmised. "No further records on Maya, either, but I imagine the stress of her baby becoming so sick in an unfamiliar city was too much for her, so she left her at the orphanage anonymously. And with Elise arriving at the orphanage so sick, I doubt the workers had time to identify her through normal means. I'd bet they just went with whatever information was supplied to them by the mom. I suppose Myra could still be alive, but even if so, I doubt there would be any suspicion raised by Maddie assuming this girl's identity."
"Damn, Jerome. You've really outdone yourself," Dave smiled.
"Hey, someone asks for my help, I never half-ass it!"
"So, we have an identity for Maddie. What next?"
"Next, we have Maddie contact the clerk for McCracken County, where Paducah is located. She says she's Elise, gives 'em a believable story about a hard life in orphanages and foster homes, then asks to get a copy of her birth certificate. As long as she can verify all the right demographic info, like date of birth and mother's information, there won't be an issue. Once she has the birth certificate, she can apply for a driver's license and passport," Jerome explained.
Dave jotted all this down on a scrap piece of paper. Though Jerome could easily access the records through his secure server, every additional search increased the potential that their actions could draw unwanted attention. The best thing for everyone was for Elise's records never to be accessed again.
"All right, got it. Oh, one other question."
"Shoot," Jerome said.
"Would it be ok if I brought Maddie here to make the call from your secure phone line? Just to minimize risk."
"If you're sure you'd be ok bringing her to such a dangerous part of Atlanta, I'd be ok with that."
"Perfect. And I can actually transport us here instantly without having to walk the dangerous streets outside. I'll just need to contact you first so I don't scare the bejesus out of you with our arrival," Dave chuckled.
"Ok, but you know how I feel about unnecessary phone calls…"
"Actually, I think I have an answer for that. Can I see your bracelet?"
"Trust me," Dave said with a wink.
Jerome hesitated for a moment, as the bracelet had belonged to his mother before she had passed away eight years previous. He always kept it on him, even while sleeping or showering. Still, he knew Dave was aware of its value, and handed it to his friend. A moment later, Dave cast a spell he had found in his Incantus the night before, causing a faint glow to shine around his body. After a few seconds of this, the glow disappeared in a brilliant flash, and Dave handed the bracelet back to Jerome.
"Wha… what did you do?"
"Easy," Dave smirked. "I used my sorcery to establish a connection between my ring and your bracelet. As long as the bracelet is on your person, we now have a fully secured way to contact each other anytime, anywhere."
"Whoa… so, no more worrying if someone is listening in on our calls?" Jerome asked.
"How does it work?"
Dave replied, "Just place a finger on the bracelet and picture me in your mind, then speak as if I was right next to you. I'll hear your voice in my head."
Deciding to test it out, Jerome stepped into his bedroom and shut the door behind him. He did exactly as Dave instructed, keeping his hand on the bracelet and his mind on Dave.
"Dave, can you hear me?" Jerome asked at a whisper.
"Yes, I can," Dave's voice said in Jerome's head.
"Holy shit!" Dashing back into the living area of the apartment, Jerome's face was lit up like a kid in a candy store. "That's so cool, man!"
"Definitely is," Dave agreed. "Still, I'd recommend we only use this as necessary. Just to be on the safe side, ya know?"
"Anyway, I'll contact you like this when I'm ready to bring Maddie over to make the call to Kentucky."
"Sounds good. I guess you're just gonna beam yourself home, eh?" Jerome asked.
"No. The bouncer out front saw me come in. If he doesn't see me leave, that could raise suspicion."
"He's pretty good at not asking questions, but you're probably right…"
"My goodness! I can't believe it all fit!" Maddie laughed.
"Hey, I take clothes shopping seriously," Cindy replied.
The girls' trip to Goodwill ended up a rousing success, to say the least. Cindy managed to outfit Maddie with enough tops, bottoms, and dresses to make any woman jealous. In addition, they had found a couple of worn out purses for next-to-nothing and even four pairs of shoes. Granted, everything was the absolute cheapest they could find. As such, the clothes were all ugly as hell or in terrible condition, but that wouldn't matter after they showed them to Dave. Cindy even managed to keep the sizes where they needed to be, reasoning that it would help Dave's efforts. To Maddie's surprise, the five shopping bags managed to fit in the back of Cindy's Ford Focus, even as they were stuffed to capacity.
"What do we need from here?" Maddie asked as they arrived at Target.
"Underwear and toiletries," said Cindy. "You'll need a full complement of bras and panties, at least."
"What about the ones we saw at Goodwill? Why did we not purchase those?"
Cindy grinned. "Dave texted me last night, and I agree with him. Under no circumstances are we getting you anything less than brand new underwear. Everything else? Sure. But not undies, girl!"
"You two are spending far too much on me…"
"Maddie, hush. I know Dave and I joke about being poor college students, but we're really in good shape. We've got savings for times like this, and there's not much better way to use it than for you!"
"I suppose, if you insist-"
"I do," Cindy said, poking Maddie playfully. "Come on."
During their trip to Macy's, Cindy had already gotten Maddie fitted and sized for bras, so it was easy for her to help Maddie find the ones she would need for everyday life. Soon, she had nine pairs of everyday bras, a strapless one for more formal occasions, and a couple of sports bras. After perusing the different styles of panties, Maddie settled on boyshorts, feeling they best represented the modern woman she wanted to become. Next, Cindy helped equip her with all the basic essentials in cleaning and self-care, such as shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Cindy remembered she had an older hair dyer and straightener that she never used anymore, so she figured Dave could make them into the latest models for Maddie's use. By far the most interesting part of their errand was the shaving aisle.
"So, women use these items to… remove their hair?" Maddie asked.
"Yeah. I know that wasn't very common in your time, but most women shave their legs daily nowadays, and their underarms, too."
"Hmm… it's just such a foreign concept. But if it is the socially acceptable norm of the day, then I suppose should conform. I imagine Dave would also enjoy the smoothness of my legs, wouldn't he?"
"Most men do."
Maddie's facial expression then changed as a thought entered her mind. "Cindy, are modern women also expected to shave… elsewhere?"
Cindy stifled a laugh at the direction the conversation was taking. "Um, it's somewhat common for women to shave… down there, but it's not an expectation or anything. Really, it's just a personal choice, so if you're not comfortable with it, that's just fine."
"Hmm… what would Dave think?" Maddie wondered.
"Dave is going to love you no matter what, so I'd say only focus on what you want to do," Cindy assured her. "And don't do anything yet; I'll give you a lesson on how to shave your legs properly, then you can figure out if you want to take it any further."
As they collected their purchases and made their way to the checkout lines, Maddie turned to Cindy. "Thank you. Really, I cannot express how I appreciate everything you've done for me."
"Not a problem. It's the least I could do, since you're a girl out of time."
"Yes, but not just that. Thank you… for being a friend to me."
Cindy gave a soft smile at this. "I see the way Dave looks at you, Maddie. He's not letting you go, and I can tell you feel the same way about him. That makes us sisters, and I'll be damned if I'm not a friend to my sister."
Maddie beamed at this, knowing that Cindy considered her family after only a single day. The girls finished paying for their purchases and returned to Cindy's car, heading home for the day.
Dave waved goodbye to the bouncer in front of Jerome's apartment building and started down the street, looking for a secluded spot to teleport home from. He had already reactivated his passive defenses as a precaution, and was soon alerted to a mean-looking thug following him at a distance. Turning down an alleyway that looked like an ideal spot to teleport from, Dave was immediately confronted by a heavyset black man with a pistol drawn.
"Hey, 'sup," the man said with a malicious grin.
Dave turned to leave, but the thug that had been following him now blocked the exit to the alley. He was trapped.
"You really don't want to do this, friends," Dave warned, trying to avoid violence.
"Listen, dawg. We both know what people go into that apartment for. So, hand over the product and the cash and you can be on your way," the first thug said.
"Or, you can end up just another dead body. Your choice," the other agreed.
Dave grimaced at this, knowing there was no way to avoid a confrontation. He knew there was no real danger that these fine upstanding citizens would do him any harm, but he still had no desire to do violence. Camelot had given him more than enough experience at that for one lifetime.
"I'm serious. You don't want to do this. Especially with such faulty equipment," Dave replied, raising his hands to show he was unarmed.
"The hell you say, homie?" the heavyset thug asked.
With a thought, Dave used his levitation spell and willed the components of their pistols to come undone in their hands. The magazines dropped from the weapons with a clatter, then the barrels and bullets fell to the ground, leaving each goon holding a useless hunk of metal.
"What the fuck?! Where'd you get these pieces of shit?" one of them asked.
"Who cares?! Get him!"
The pair tossed the remains of their pistols to the ground and charged Dave at the same time. Dave's reflexes made this easy to anticipate, and he simply took a step back as they closed in on him. Before either thug knew what happened, Dave took a hand to the backs of their necks and slammed their foreheads together, not hard enough to do any lasting damage, but hard enough to knock them unconscious.
"You two are gonna meet gruesome ends if you don't shape up," Dave grumbled.
That messy business finished, Dave teleported back to the front door of his apartment and entered with a knock.
"Cindy? Maddie? I'm back," he called out.
"Hey, were back here," Cindy said.
Dave entered his bedroom to find the girls hard at work spreading out their purchases from the day on his bed.
"Damn, Cindy! You really know how to make a dollar stretch," Dave marveled.
"Just like old times," she giggled in reply.
"Cindy took excellent care of me," Maddie agreed.
While Maddie finished spreading everything out, Cindy grabbed her iPad and began to show Dave what she was thinking for the alterations. As cheap as they had found all the clothes for, major changes needed to happen before Maddie could be seen in public wearing any of them. One-by-one, Dave took each shirt, skirt, and everything else they had purchased and transformed them exactly as Cindy recommended from Maddie's time in Macy's. It took some time, but at the end of it, Maddie had a full wardrobe of t-shirts, tank tops, blouses, skirts, shorts, and jeans. She even had a trio of trendy purses, as well as some sneakers, flip-flops, pumps, and three-inch heels. Cindy had also brought over her hair dryers and straighteners, allowing Dave to transform the older ones into brand-new current models for Maddie's daily use. All the while, Maddie was tempted to protest once more, but she knew both Dave and Cindy were just as stubborn as they were generous; there was no changing their minds about helping her.
Seeing that it was nearly six in the evening, and having worked up quite an appetite from all his sorcery, Dave called out for Chinese delivery. While they waited, he explained to Maddie about his excursion to Jerome's place and their success in finding her an identity to assume. Though impressed, Maddie also found the results rather troubling.
"Dave, please understand that I'm so grateful for everything you're doing to help me. That said, the thought of taking this little girl's name is… disconcerting, to say the least," Maddie said.
"I understand completely; I feel the same way," Dave agreed. "But I've scoured my Incantus from cover to cover and found no spell to make you a legal person of this time through sorcery. This is the best solution I've been able to come up with. Think of this as a second chance for that little girl, and for you. Without a way to prove your identity, we can never be legally married, after all."
"I suppose that is true," Maddie mused. "And I am determined to find work and earn my keep. I'll not saddle you with my care; I love you too much for that."
"Blah," Cindy teased, faking a gag.
"Thanks, sis," Dave chuckled.
"So, what do we do next regarding this identity?" Maddie asked.
Dave replied, "Once I'm done with classes tomorrow, I'll take you over to Jerome's place and you'll call the county clerk where Elise was born. Jerome's working on a script for you to follow; really, all you need is a copy of her birth certificate. Once you have that, everything else should be easy."
"Dave, I just thought of something," Cindy said.
"It might actually be best for me to call on Maddie's behalf. We have to assume that the clerk's office records all their calls, and Maddie's British accent could raise questions," Cindy continued.
"Oh, that's a great point! Look at you, thinking like a conspiracy theorist!" Dave grinned.
"Cindy, I don't want you taking unnecessary risks on my account," Maddie said.
"Don't worry," Dave assured her, "Jerome's phone line is completely secure, and there won't be any identifying information tying Cindy to any of this. I wouldn't let her do it otherwise."
A moment later, Cindy went to answer a knock at the door. "Chinese is here!"
"Sweet! How 'bout we pop in a movie?" Dave suggested.
"Ooh! Harry Potter! Harry Potter!" Cindy replied, bouncing up and down like a little kid.
"Oh lord…" Dave muttered.
"What is Harry Potter?" Maddie asked.
"Just the story of a boy who discovers he's a wizard," Cindy smirked, poking Dave in the shoulder.
"Oh, I must know that story, Dave!" Maddie agreed.
"You both suck…"
The next day, Jerome waited at his desk for Dave to arrive, having gotten a message ten minutes previous that he would be there soon. Even with this warning, it was still a shock when Dave appeared out of thin air with not one, but two beautiful girls in tow. Jerome had previously seen the cute brunette with Dave, figuring she was his sister. The redhead, however, completely took his breath away. She was a stunning vision of loveliness, with her long wavy locks and feminine figure. After a moment, Jerome managed to compose himself and welcome his guests.
"Dave, good to see you again."
"Jerome, I'd like you to meet my sister, Cindy, and my girlfriend, Madeleine."
"Cindy, a pleasure," he said, shaking her hand.
"And the famous Madeleine. Dave's description didn't do you justice. No wonder our boy fell so hard for you," Jerome continued.
"Thank you, you are too kind. And it's Maddie, please," she smiled.
Jerome breathed in sharply at the sound of her voice. "Damn, man. The accent just kills ya, don't it?"
"Yeah, I basically lose all control," Dave agreed. "That's actually the reason I brought Cindy along. She had the idea that she ought to be the one to make the call, since she has an American accent."
"Good thinking," Jerome smiled. "Ok, I typed up a script. Cindy, just stick with this, and everything should work to perfection."
Skimming through it a couple of times, Cindy replied, "Got it."
Jerome handed Cindy a headset and dialed the number from his phone line, secured through his computer system.
"McCracken County Clerk."
"Yes, I need to speak to someone about obtaining a copy of a birth certificate," Cindy said.
"Of course. One moment, please."
A pause, then a different person answered.
"Vital records, this is Tyshaya. How may I help you?"
"Hi, my name is Maddie Adams. I was wondering if you might be able to help me determine if I was born in McCracken County? I'm told I was, but I'm not sure."
"I'd be happy to assist you with that, ma'am. I'll just need some information from you, first. May I start with your full legal name and date of birth?"
"My full name is Elise Madison Adams." Glancing at the script and a rundown of statistics compiled by Jerome, Cindy continued, "My date of birth is November 20, 1995… at least, I believe that's correct. I'm so sorry, it's just that I'm told my mother was homeless and gave me up shortly after I was born. I've bounced around to different orphanages and foster homes growing up, so the information I have is a little spotty."
"That's quite all right, young lady. I'm very sorry to hear of your tough upbringing, but I have found a possible match in my records."
"Oh, thank you so much! I really need to get a copy of my birth certificate to find work and get a driver's license. I've been stuck with a bad foster family for the last few years; I think they made sure I couldn't find work so I'd have to stick around. That way, they could still claim me as a dependent and keep getting their government checks."
Dave chuckled at that last line and shot a knowing glance at Jerome. The man just couldn't hide his anarchist tendencies sometimes, but Dave had to admit that the script was playing very well with the associate Cindy was dealing with.
"That's so tragic!" Tyshaya said, the concern apparent in her voice. "You can easily order a copy of your birth certificate, but let me just confirm a couple more things to make sure this is the correct record."
"Of course! I'm sorry I get sidetracked so easily."
Everyone around her was impressed with Cindy's acting. She was striking just the right balance between needing genuine help and knowing just enough to sound legitimate. Maddie could have sworn she actually was Elise Adams!
"Not a problem. I have a matching record with your name and date of birth, so if you'll just confirm your mother's maiden name and your father's name."
"Um… my mother was Myra Adams, but I don't know who my father was. To be honest, my mother may not have even known who the father was, if she was homeless."
"That does match up with what I have here, and I can confirm that this record is indeed your birth record."
"Fantastic!" Cindy replied with the proper amount of enthusiasm. "How soon could I get a certified copy of it?"
"For a certified copy, the turnaround time is thirty days, and the fee is ten dollars, which you can pay by credit card over the phone," Tyshaya explained.
"What if I don't have a credit card?" Cindy asked, knowing they wouldn't want to pay with that method.
"If you don't have a credit card, that's not a problem. You'll just have to request the certificate by mail. You'll need to send a notarized letter to us. Just make sure to include your name, date of birth, your mother's maiden name, and father's name. In your case, just state outright that your father is unknown and unlisted on your birth certificate. You'll also want to include the payment with the letter, either with a bank check or a money order. Do you need our address, or do you have access to our website?"
"I have the address, thank you. Oh, one other question," Cindy said, getting a whisper from Dave. "The bank check or money order likely won't have my name on it, but rather my boyfriend's name. Would that cause any problems?"
"Not at all, as long as your name is on the notarized letter."
Jerome gave a thumbs-up sign at this, and Cindy said, "Awesome! Tyshaya, thank you so much, you've been so helpful and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it."
"It's my true pleasure, young lady. I do hope everything works out better for you."
"Thanks, me too. Bye."
As soon as she hung up, Jerome jumped up from his chair in excitement. "Damn, Cindy! Screw Georgia Tech, you need to be in Hollywood! Where the hell did you learn to act like that?"
"I just… winged it, I guess," Cindy blushed.
"Doesn't really matter how, that was sheer brilliance," Dave agreed. "So, the bank is open for another hour or so. I can pop over there and get the payment drawn up. Which would you recommend, Jerome: bank check or money order?"
"Normally, I go money order, but there might be an advantage to doin' a bank check this time. I'm assuming you and Maddie are eventually gonna tie the knot, am I right?" As they nodded, Jerome continued, "A bank check with Dave's name on it actually helps throw off suspicion, if 'Elise' is in fact fresh out on her own and living with her boyfriend. Presumably, this boyfriend is helping her get on her feet, and a bank check establishes a history that goes back before y'all would have been married. Make sense?"
"Yeah, it does. Oh, we should probably write up that letter for the clerk's office before I go," Dave said. "They'll have a Notary Public there."
"Definitely, but take Maddie with you to the bank. She'll need to sign it in the presence of the Notary," Jerome reminded him.
"Should I go instead?" Cindy asked. "Ya know, the whole British accent thing?"
"In this case, no. We don't need any traces that we've faked this, and your signature would be just that. If, one day, this notarized letter was compared with Maddie's driver's license, we need the signatures to match up," Jerome said.
A few hours later, Dave had an envelope sealed and stamped for mailing the next day, a bank check and notarized letter from Elise Madison Adams enclosed within. For all his efforts to ease her transition into the modern world, Maddie had thanked him again and again, leaving them both exhausted and content in his bed from her gratitude. As they basked in the afterglow of their lovemaking, she turned to him with a question.
"Dave, do you think we should begin exploring what I may be capable of with Merlin's pendant?"
Nodding, he replied, "Yeah, it probably is time to start your training. Granted, I only had a few short weeks with Merlin, so I don't know how effective a teacher I'll be for you, but I'll do my best."
With a kiss to his cheek, Maddie said, "I just know you will be a splendid teacher, my love. After all, you are a supremely talented sorcerer in your own right; Merlin said so himself."
"Thanks. Still, we need to do this carefully. There's so much about all this that we don't fully understand, so no sense in taking unnecessary risks."
"Agreed." Pulling the covers up, she continued, "Ready for lights out?"
After flipping the lamp, Maddie curled up and spooned her body in Dave's strong arms, sighing happily at the feeling of security he gave her. Before long, both were sound asleep.