The Last Briefcase
Someone tried to kill Dad again today. I controlled the explosion, but it wasn’t easy. As it was a few stray motes of the bomb’s force sheared off, floating toward me like glowing soap bubbles—if soapbubbles blew your arm off when they popped. Thank heaven whoever did it only used a pound of C4, but more than that and Dad would’ve noticed how heavy his briefcase was.
It’s only ten PM, an hour to wait before I can sneak out my bedroom window. Here’s what happened after the bomb.
“That was sloppy, Richard.” Traibian stepped into the forest clearing from behind an oak.
“Why didn’t you help? I could have died,” I said.
“Nonsense. Failing would be good for you. You know the only way to come into your full
power is to relinquish your control.”
“Yeah, I know you keep saying that, Bro, but honestly? If the only way to reach my full magical
potential is to stand still waiting for my power to pop up and save me while a bomb goes off in my face, then no thanks, I’ll stay weak. I sure as hell wasn’t trying that strategy two weeks ago; that bomb was as much as I could handle.”
“The car bomb?” Traibian pointed at me.
I nodded. “Drained me so badly I was unconscious for six hours. Almost outed me. Had a hell of a time thinking up a lie Dad believed.”
“What did you tell him?
“When the first two stories failed, I told him that I’d taken the BMW to see a girl.”
Traibian laughed. “And he swallowed that?”
My lips compressed and my eyebrows crushed together and down. “I’ve been on dates.”
“Date, singular, and walking a girl to the corner store doesn’t count.”
“She’s a model.”
“And our cousin. Can we get back to the magic? Tonight’s the night.”
He spent an hour criticizing my technique. I cast the freezing spell so many times he had to heal my frostbite. Almost didn’t get Dad’s briefcase back to his office before quitting time.
Name’s Richard Gramm, and yes, Dad is Ignovious Gramm—inventor of the Enchantment Detector. I bet you’re wondering why Dad hasn’t detected me. Because his invention detects enchantments, not enchanters, and what I did to the briefcase isn’t detectable. The Detector is for hidden magic that’s primed and ready to activate, not stuff that’s here and gone. Since Dad announced his company was close to perfecting the Enchantment Jammer, the assassination attempts haven’t stopped. But even though they’ve steadily grown bigger, nothing could be as bad as that simple first attack, the one on the day Dad’s company rolled out the Detector. Why? Because of the consequences. When someone tried to shoot Dad, Traibian stopped the bullet—just
plucked it out of the air like a shortstop catching a ball one-handed—but Dad said he would rather have died, better that than have a magic user for a son. So he sent Traibian to a facility that rehabilitates enchanters.
No, I don’t hate Dad. You see, Mom left him with an infant and a toddler so she could
concentrate on her magic. Her last words to him were “when it comes to magic you can’t hold back.”
So for Dad, magic is the root of all evil. Dad institutionalized Traibian to help him. Besides, Traibian escaped to the woods outside town, never set foot in rehab.
At dinner, Dad had no idea about today’s near miss.
“Richard, when are you going to start sending out college applications?”
Dad’s valet, Thomas, put a plate in front of me.
“They’re almost done.” I took a bite of coq au vin. “Wow. Chef Andrés really outdid himself tonight, don’t you think?”
My applications are a sham, of course. I’ve been working on a plan to get a magical education, but with the hated head of the anti-magic movement as my father, it’s not going to be easy—either to convince the school to let me in, or to hide my attendance from Dad. But I have a guide, not Traibian, an adult enchantress named Cicerone I found on this online community for magical kids with parents who hate magic. Cicerone didn’t care about what my Dad’s done, just my talent. She’s agreed to sponsor me to an academy of magic if I can demonstrate my ability. She even says she’ll help Traibian. Anyway, I meet her tonight. So that’s why I’m lying in my bed fully clothed. Eleven PM. Time to shimmy out my second floor window.
I use a spell to make my hands stick to the wall as I climb down. When I get to the forest clearing for the meeting, I see Traibian sitting at the same oaken trestle table he’s conjured hundreds of times, but something’s wrong. He doesn’t answer when I call to him. Once I get close I see why: a spell holds his arms and legs rigid. It’s a strong enchantment too; I can’t do anything to it. An overturned tea cup lies on the table in front of him. I shake and slap him awake.
“Traibian. What happened?”
Traibian’s eyes go from shut to wide in terror. “There’s a bomb under the table. You have to go.”
“I’ll freeze it.” I bend down to look.
“No.” He shakes his head. “It’s bigger than the car bomb.”
“It’s okay. Take it from me. It isn’t bigger; that car bomb was huge.”
“This is twice as big.”
“Listen. It’s twice as big. I know because I rigged the bomb under Dad’s BMW.”
“What?” I say.
“I did it to get you to relinquish your control. I figured the only thing that would ever make you do it is the same thing that made me. Protecting Dad. Now get out of—”
“No way.” My mouth flops open, and I take a step backward. “You—”
“Listen to me. You can’t freeze this one, and I can’t either. Not when Cicerone gave me so much opium I can barely keep my eyes open.”
“She’s a magic zealot. She’s like all the others who want to kill Dad and our family.
“But you said you were behind the bombings.”
“Not all of them, just a select few. Please go.” Tears run down his cheeks.
“I can’t leave you.”
“You have to. She’s a full enchantress. You’ll never break her petrification spell.”
“No. I have to save you.” I crouch down. Duct taped to the table’s underside are roughly twenty pounds of C4. There isn’t a hope in hell. My own tears roll.
As I rise, I see her behind the trees. Cicerone stands in a shimming bubble of force thirty feet away. She raises a remote control; she’s going to watch us die.
The bomb explodes. I see the blast as I float up above the clearing, playing the lead role in the cliché scene of a ghost watching his body die. Only my body doesn’t die. It pushes the burst of force back into the plastic explosive from which it came. Then I blink, and I’m in my body again.
Cicerone’s still at the edge of the clearing. I raise a hand and use my newfound power to pull her to me. I wrap my fingers around her throat. She gasps as I squeeze her windpipe closed.
“Richard, get your hands off your mother.”
I look up. Dad strides toward me across the clearing. He wears midnight robes emblazoned with moons and stars—enchanter’s robes.
“I said, get your hands off your mother.” Dad’s right hand jerks upward, and I feel a spell knock my hands aside. I’m so shocked I make no attempt to stop the spell, or even to speak.
“Our mother? What the hell are you talking about?” Traibian stumbles to his feet.
“It’s true. I’m your mother.” Her voice rasps.
“But you left. You left us. And you”—Traibian points at Dad—“you just cast a spell. I saw
“Very good, Traibian. I just cast a spell,” Dad says.
My world spins.
“No. No, you didn’t do all this just to get Traibian and me to relinquish control. That can’t be.
You can’t tell me that you planned all this sixteen years ago,” my lips quiver.
“Well, no. Originally, the plan called for another sharp shooter attempt on my life like the one Triabian stopped, but then your brother started teaching you,” Dad says.
Mom nods. “Plus he tried his own methods to get you to relinquish control, which only further increased your skill.”
“So we had to keep going bigger to find something you couldn’t handle.” Dad sighs.
Mom smiles. “Yes, it took some doing, but we’re all together again, and you two finally have your powers.”
“It’s like your mom always says—’when it comes to magic you can’t hold back.’” Dad kisses her.
Then Mom and Dad, their eyes full of tears and their arms outstretched, beckon me and my brother to them.
By Nicole Minsk, author of “I Know How You Feel: The Sensate”
“I know how you feel.” People say it. They don’t mean it. Hani does. Sure, he’s only eighteen, but he knows. Race, age, sex—doesn’t matter. He knows.
Things weren’t always like this. Hani was a normal guy. Well, as normal as a 6’4 Hawaiian growing up in Texas could be. He did have that strange inability to taste or smell, and there was that whole thing of being mysteriously abandoned in a trash bin as an infant, but apart from that and the stunning good looks, Hani was perfectly normal. Then, the touch of a woman in a bar ignites Hani’s powers, and he can suddenly experience sensations through the nerves of others, smelling what they smell, tasting what they taste, and sex? He can feel everything his partner feels—more than that, he can control every last detail.
What he can’t control is how badly he gets hooked on the women he touches and how gravely his body requires that touch. Plus, new powers keep popping up. So it’s a good thing when he hooks up with Laurie, the scientist. Here’s hoping that his new girlfriend’s sense of what’s happening to him and how to control it is better than her sense of fashion, though, because what Hani doesn’t know is that someone is looking for him. And what he doesn’t know could kill him.
Bio: Nicole Minsk was born in Boston but grew up in Houston. After a short stint in medical school and a period writing technical documentation for software, she became a litigation attorney. Her debut novel, “I Know How You Feel: The Sensate,” received an Editor’s Choice Award on the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction Fantasy, and Horror. Her inspiration for Hani, the Sensate, came when she wished she could feel what her crying infant felt so she could help. In researching her first novel, Nicole consulted a concert violinist, a physician, a surfer, a host of emergency medical technicians, a native speaker of Hawaiian Pidgin English, a Frenchman, a Russian, and a Metallica tribute band guitarist.
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