From behind the bar, Lucky pursed his lips when Celeste squelched her way through the front door. 

“What happened to you?” He asked. 

“I got caught in the rain,” Celeste spread her hands as if the answer should be obvious.

“Rain?” Lucky looked out the front windows at the cloudless sky.  “What rain?”

“And yet here I am, soaking wet.”

He narrowed his eyes at her.  

“What?” Celeste snapped back, hands moving to her hips.  “You don’t think I dragged myself backwards through a fountain for kicks and giggles, do you?”

“You used magic, and that happened,” he surmised with a whistle.  “You weren’t kidding about magic being dangerous to use.”

“No, I was not kidding.” Celeste said with a mirthless laugh.  

Lucky threw her a bar towel. “Here. Clean yourself up, then come help me restock the shelves while there’s a lull in customers. Your trial starts when you get back.”

While toweling off her hair, Celeste crossed to the door at the end of the counter.  She entered the back room, passing the stairs that led up to the apartment that Lucky lived in over the bar, then passed the steps that led to the basement stockroom.  At first glance, there seemed to be nothing else back here except a solid brick wall.  But when she kicked a certain wall brick – one row up and three over from the brick with the yellow paint drip on it – a section of the wall swung inward. 

Lucky said that the room on the other side was an old rotgut room from prohibition. Now it was storage for broken furniture. A warped pool table with ripped green flannel and busted pockets took up most of the room.  On it lay dusty chair pieces.  In front of all this sat a moth-eaten futon. 

This was where Lucky usually put drunks to sleep off the effects of the alcohol.  It smelled like sour laundry, but at least it wasn’t riddled with bed bugs.  In Celeste’s opinion, it was a step up in the world.

She hooked her duffle from beneath the bed with her toe, put it on the mattress and dug out a change of clothes.  Once she was changed, she spread her wet things over the broken chairs to dry. 

Then she pulled her damp hair into a ponytail.  She left the bag open on the mattress and returned to the front. 

Lucky nodded in approval at her speedy return.  “Where’d you go today? Sightseeing?”

“I wish,” she said ruefully.  “If I had gone sightseeing, I would have had a better time.”  As the two of them worked together, replacing empty bottles on shelves, she recounted her failed attempt at getting her foot in the door at the local newspaper. 

“Sounds like you were trying to run before you could crawl,” Lucky said. 

“Showing up and asking for work got me this job,” Celeste said.  

“Yeah, but I’m not exactly awash with applicants,” Lucky said. “I bet the editor of the New Orange Register has his pick of eager little Lois Lanes and Jimmy Olsens.  He’s not looking for Daisy Mae from Dogpatch.”

“As a matter of fact, I am from Dogpatch,” Celeste said. 

“There’s an actual Dogpatch?” Lucky blinked his eye.

“They named the town after the comic strip,” Celeste said.

Lucky shook his head.  “I had a point.”

“I’m listening.”

“You need to jump through hoops if you want a professional job like that.  So maybe you should figure out what those hoops are.  And – I haven’t hired you yet. This is just a trial.”

Celeste refrained from observing that Lucky was showing a lot of concern for someone he was on the fence about hiring. 

Once the shelves were filled, she put clean glasses under the counter while he hooked up fresh kegs to the taps.  Then she picked up a broom,swept the floors and straightened chairs. She had just put the broom away when the bell over the door announced a patron. 

She turned to see four guys in NOPD uniforms walk in. They stopped, sniffed the air and turned as one to stare her down. 

“Lucky? There’s a kid in here!” The guy in front grinned at her, showing elongated canines.  “Are you lost, little girl?”

Their ugly laughter surrounded her like choking, poisonous smoke.  ‘Werewolf cops, great.’ Celeste thought. She lifted her chin. This was the test, right here. If she backed down or let Lucky handle the confrontation, none of his patrons would respect her and he wouldn’t be able to hire her. 

On the other hand, she couldn’t just punch a cop because he was being a bully. Once you get a reputation as a cop-puncher, no cop would ever cut you a break. 

Shutting her eyes, she pulled the magic up from within, picturing lighting, like the kind her poor luck had sent crackling across the sky earlier today. The tiny hairs on the back of her neck and arms stood up.  

Around her, the cruel laughter trailed off, leaving uncertain silence behind. 

Celeste opened her eyes, knowing that they’d shifted from chocolate brown to a black so dark the pupils were lost. 

“I’m right where I should be,” she said quietly.  The power caused her voice to slither into their ears and hiss at them like a spitting cobra.  She pushed past them and took up a position behind the counter before letting the collected power slide back down where it belonged.

“That was . . . unsettling,” Lucky said. 

“Good,” Celeste said as she started putting bottled drinks into a mini-fridge below the bar that they had somehow missed earlier. “I was aiming for unsettling.  Think it worked?”

Lucky studied the officers as they drifted over to a corner booth. They took turns glancing her way.  

“Yeah, I’ve never seen Morty or his bunch cautious like that,” Lucky said. “You did good, kid. You let them know that you weren’t someone to be messed with. And you did it without challenging any of them. I’ll have to answer a question or two, but they’ll leave you alone.”

He looked thoughtful.  “Is it going to rain again because you used magic?”

“I hope not, since that was a really minor use of power.” Celeste looked up. Right then, a bottle that she was holding by the cap uncapped itself, fell and shattered on the floor in a spray of foam. The other eleven bottles in the pack shook, then the caps exploded in a fountain of liquid. 

She sighed, shoulders sagging. “I’ll pay for that.”

“I got it,” Lucky said. “You run down to the stockroom and bring up a pack of towels and another case of beer. 

Celeste grabbed another towel to wipe down her hair for a second time that day as she walked toward the door. 

“And kid!” Lucky called out.

“Yeah?” She looked over her shoulder from under the towel. 

“Stop using magic!”

“I’m doing my best!” She shouted back over her shoulder as she passed through the door at the end of the bar. As much as she hated to admit being wrong about anything, Lucky had a point. She’d been using tiny bits of magic for convenience sake over the past few days, and justifying it. 

Could she have found another way to warn off those bullies in the bar? Probably, if she’d given it more than a half-second thought. But why be creative when magic was so convenient, and right there for her to use. 

  Which was the trap that every one of her very dead ancestors had fallen into.  

She took extra care in descending the stairs down to the stockroom. The beer bottles spontaneously exploding right in front of her were dramatic enough that her bad luck had likely run its course for now. 



Inside the stockroom, the temperature dropped far enough to raise goose flesh across her arms. She turned on the lights, and rubbed her biceps to put warmth back into them. She’d wondered why Lucky put his supplies in a basement when it meant lugging heavy crates up and down stairs.  At the time, it hadn’t made sense when the old speakeasy turned junk room was right there at the back of the first floor. But the basement storage was less of a basement and more of an ice house. 

Metal utility shelves lined the walls and stood doubled in rows across the open floor. Some held crates of alcohol, while others held cleaning supplies, glassware and enough paper towels and toilet paper to supply half of New Orange. 

“I guess Lucky caused the paper shortage,” Celeste muttered. 

Now where were those bar towels? She stepped around the nearest set of free-standing shelves and spotted a giant cage with a padlock in the far corner of the room. 

Celeste stared at the cage.  

She inhaled slowly. Then exhaled. 


There was a rational explanation for Hannibal Lecter’s vacation home. Lucky had to go somewhere during the full moon. This was probably it. 

Right.  She’d just find the bar towels, a case of beer and hurry back upstairs.  

With one last look at the cage, she returned to searching for the bar towels. She found them on a shelf behind the stairs. She grabbed a wrapped pack, threw them on top of a box of beer bottles and pulled the box to her chest. 

She forced herself to walk slowly toward the stairs. There was no need to hurry, because there was nothing to be afraid of down here. 

Absolutely nothing. 

And anyway, everyone was upstairs waiting for her to return with the towels and the beer.  

But if her stride was slightly longer than normal, there was no one down here to see it, was there?

Just as she reached the steps, a weird noise issued from somewhere underneath the stairs.

Celeste froze. 

There it was again. Some kind of liquid growl, like water being forced down a giant pipe.  She backed off the steps, and shuffled to the left. Still in range to run for it, but now at the proper angle to see under the steps. 

There was an old door there, like something from her Grandma’s house. One of those old wooden things with a glass doorknob and ten layers of lead paint on it. It was probably painted shut. Even if there hadn’t been a padlock the size of her head bolted on over the knob, Celeste doubted she’d be able to open it. 

The gurgle-growl sounded out from behind the door again; louder now. 

“Nope!” Celeste said. She marched double-time up the stairs with the box and kicked the door closed behind her. 

“Lucky!” She called out. Then she ran through the door back into the bar. “Lucky!” 

He turned. Behind him, sitting at the counter was The Headless Horseman.  

Celeste stopped. All thought about whatever was in the basement of doom vanished.  Because right there was The. Headless. Horseman.  

He leaned on one elbow, arm draped casually across the counter with fingers tapping out a tune only he could hear. His head rested on the counter by his elbow. He had a beer stein in front of him with a green crazy straw inserted in it. The straw looped and coiled around the stein, ending at mouth-height for the head. The head glanced her way and seemed to dismiss her before it looked away again. 

“You were down there a while,” Lucky said. “Did you find everything?”

”That’s The Headless Horseman!” Celeste squeaked. 

Lucky took the crate from her and put it on the bar. Then he pulled her aside, getting between her and the counter where The Headless Horseman sat. 

“Leave him alone, kid. And don’t ask for his autograph. He comes down from Tarrytown because he can drink here in peace. That’s all he really wants: To be left alone.”

”How does he drink?” Celeste rose up on her toes. To look over Lucky’s shoulder at The Headless Horseman. 

“With his mouth.” Lucky said in a flat tone. “It ends up in his stomach somehow, even though the head and neck aren’t connected anymore.” 

“Ohh, it’s not attached, but it’s connected,” Celeste said. “There’s a difference.”

”This is hinky magic mumbo-jumbo, isn’t it?” He raised an eyebrow even as he titled his head down to catch her gaze. 

“Think of it this way: a cell phone is connected, but a land line is attached.”

”Biology is not supposed to work that way,” Lucky grumbled. 

“Says the man who turns into a wolf once a month,” Celeste said with a grin. “Think he’d give me an autograph?”

“Don’t scare away my customers, kid.” Lucky turned to retrieve two pitchers and handed them to her. “Take these to the centaurs in the corner.”

“A pitcher for each centaur?” She asked to clarify. 

“Yeah, they drink like horses. Well, not literally. Otherwise I’d be serving them with buckets.”

“Before I go —” Now that the subject of a local headless celebrity casually having a drink at the counter was past, Celeste remembered that she had come up here with a topic to discuss. “There was some kind of weird noise coming from the door under the stairs. The one with the padlock on it that’s bigger than the padlock on the cage.”

“That’s an old smuggler’s tunnel from the war of 1776,” Lucky said. “It connects to the sewers now. If you heard a noise, it’s probably from that.”

”Like a sewer gator or something?” Celeste asked. 

He gave her an unimpressed look. “Clearly you haven’t lived through a New Orange winter. It’s too cold for alligators. There are some rats the size of baby hippos down there.”

“Is that why you need a padlock?”

Lucky crossed his arms. “No, the padlock is because I store a lot of expensive alcohol downstairs and I don’t want it walking off.” 

“Fair enough,” Celeste hoisted the pitchers higher. Working here was definitely going to build up her biceps.  

As she crossed the room, she heard Lucky mutter to himself. “Sewer gators.” He laughed.