Kenneth Benton and Agent Boone turned to look as I walked back into Saphina’s booth. I froze. Boone didn’t look worried or roughed up at all. Kenneth must have played nice so far. Physically, he didn’t look like he could take the DPI in a fight. Kenneth’s average height and lean build didn’t give him an intimidating presence. Of course, he’d never needed fisticuffs to deal with anything when his spells made most witches look like amateurs. Unlike his wife, this Benton didn’t go in for showy demonstrations of power. His magic tended towards precision and subtly. It wouldn’t surprise me if he could find a way around Sal’s protective enchantment.
“Hello, Casper,” Kenneth greeted me.
“Kenneth.” I nodded my head respectfully.
“Your new boss was just assuring me that Saphina won’t disappear into some government prison if I let him take her out of here,” Kenneth said. He didn’t sound particularly concerned with Boone’s authority as a DPI agent.
“She’ll get a lawyer and a fair trial the same as anyone else,” Boone said, calmer than I’d expected.
“As far as I know, there aren’t any laws against the creation and sale of enchanted items,” Kenneth said.
“There aren’t. But there are laws against assault with a deadly weapon,” Boone countered.
“I see. I’m sorry for the trouble. As proprietor of the market, I am responsible for my vendors’ and visitors’ safety. If Saphina broke mundane laws, it isn’t my place to interfere,” Kenneth said, raising his voice slightly and pronouncing each word crisply. He hadn’t come to stop us from taking Saphina out of here. He needed the rest of the market to see he wouldn’t let DPI come and go without explanation. By the time this story made the rounds, it wouldn’t matter that he let us take Saphina. People would believe that he made DPI answer to him.
“I appreciate your concern for your people. I promise my intention isn’t to disrupt business here,” Agent Boone said. “May I contact you in the future if we need the expertise of one of your vendors? Perhaps having an intermediary would have made this go smoother.”
“Of course,” Kenneth said. He pulled a card from thin air and offered it to Boone. They were both playing diplomacy games. May the most polite man win. One of the security guards came in and said something too quiet for me to hear. “If you’ll excuse me. It was good to see you again, Casper.”
“Thank you,” Boone said. They shook hands, and Kenneth walked away with his security guard in tow. Boone slipped the business card into his pocket before directing his attention to me. “You can identify what all these items do, right?”
“Yeah, no problem,” I said.
“Good. We’ll pack them up while waiting for the team to arrive. You can help Sal catalog everything,” he said.
“You called in a DPI team?” I asked.
“Not yet, but we’ll need help to get her and all this stuff out of here. I’d rather it be from people I trust,” he answered.
“No, we won’t,” I said.
“I’m sure there’s a storage case around here somewhere,” I said, lifting the table skirts. A round, navy hatbox with a black lace pattern sat on the ground under the middle table. I pulled it out and tapped the lid.
“You’re going to make all this stuff fit in that little box?” Boone asked.
“How do you think she got it all here in the first place?” I retorted.
“All right.” He crossed his arms and waited to see how I would manage it.
I lifted the lid and picked up the closest knife. It seemed bottomless inside the hatbox. As soon as I held the knife close to the open box, I felt the tug of magic. I released it, and the darkness of the hatbox swallowed it up. Boone’s expression shifted from skeptical to fascinated. Now that I knew the box took care of most of the work, I used a levitation spell to lift the rest of the enchanted items and lower them a few at a time. I’d gotten everything into the hatbox in a few minutes and closed the lid. Bringing it all back out might not be that simple. Saphina’s type liked to put nasty protections on their stuff. But Sal and I could figure it out if we were careful.
“All set,” I said, holding up the box and gesturing at it like a game show prize.
“Very nice. Now, how do we move her?” Agent Boone asked.
“I can temporarily bind her magic. As long as I don’t lose focus, she won’t be able to cast any spells,” I suggested.
“You think you can hold her all the way back to the office?”
“Any of the cells back there made to hold a witch?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he answered.
“Then I can get her that far,” I said. “You handcuff her and walk her out. I’ll make sure she can’t do any damage.”
Boone put his handcuffs around Saphina’s right wrist, and I broke the petrification enchantment. He pulled her other hand behind her back and cuffed it, too. I cast the binding spell, chanting it over and over in my mind. Saphina glared at me as my magic wrapped around her in thin, flexible cords. I felt her fight back, trying to cut through my binding with her will. She sagged in defeat as Boone marched her out of the vendor booth. It would take a better witch than her to break through my spell. I followed close behind her and Boone.
People shamelessly stared as we headed for the exit. Some of them looked disgusted with us for taking one of their own. The majority seemed intrigued more than upset. DPI had never interfered with their lives here before. I wished I had some way to reassure them that this wouldn’t become a regular occurrence. I couldn’t promise that, though. Agent Boone wouldn’t make raiding this place a favorite pastime of the DPI, but that didn’t mean their world wasn’t changing. I couldn’t blame them for anything they might be feeling.
I repeated the spell so many times the words stopped sounding like words. But I kept my intentions clear and my magic flowing the whole way back to DPI. By the time we got Saphina out of the car, through the building, and into a cell, I felt like I could sleep the rest of the day and night. I wouldn’t have the chance, though. I still had to work with Sal to catalog Saphina’s stock and go back to the market to meet Summer that night. Not to mention I couldn’t go back to my apartment again until I dealt with Holly. So even if I had the time, I had nowhere to sleep.
With Saphina secured, I could at least rest my magic. If I didn’t cast any more spells until I returned to the market, I’d be able to defend myself. I really hoped it wouldn’t come to that. Summer might lure me into a trap without Agent Boone for backup. Her intrigue about my position with DPI seemed genuine, though. I needed to believe that I could make a deal. It all depended on what Summer wanted. I spent the rest of my day more focused on the possibilities than on any task for the DPI.