01 1.0 The Light Who Shines3Bluebell Kildare

May 27, 2022, Red Ages

I pull my car up in front of the shop my neighbor Alexis owns. It’s located in the middle of Dunnwell Street, a thriving business community in our neighborhood. The storefronts are well kept with old quality craftsmanship in their design. Alexis Demetriou’s storefront is painted in sage green, burgundy, and cream. Whimsical stenciling on her large front windows announces “Herbal Enchantments” with smaller print below that says “Amulets, potions, charms, etcetera.” I’m here for the etcetera.

I let the wolf out and look at him closely. He looks smaller now, about the size of a large dog. I shake my head and wonder if I’m going mad. My state of panic surely played tricks on my mind.

As I walk in with the wolf pushing in front of me, the door chimes merrily announce our arrival. Alexis has her back turned toward the door as she places little bottles of potions on a shelf. She’s wearing a neatly pressed, pale blue pantsuit that makes her dark chocolate curls stand out beautifully.

The store is filled with bottles of all shapes and colors with neatly printed labels. The colored glass sparkles even in the dim light filtering through the clouds and the large storefront windows. Aside from the shelves of potions, there are walls of charms and several amulet trees. The place is in pristine and orderly condition. I don’t blame the place at all. I wouldn’t get out of line either if I were Alexis’ store.

Alexis is tall and fit, but curvy in a generous way—as opposed to me, who is curvy in a barely noticeable way. I like to think that her generous bosom reflects her generous personality. She has brown skin, large brown eyes, and beautifully thick hair. She also has a lot of sass. It seems like when she’s not pointing her finger, she’s crossing her arms, putting her hands on her hips, or raising her eyebrows. And look out if she starts shaking her head at you.

Alexis turns around and her eyes widen, showing an extraordinary amount of eyeball, but in a good way. “Great Demon of the Abyss!” she exclaims. “You have a wolf.”

She rushes forward, but a few paces away from him she seems to remember he is a wolf. She stops, offering her hand slowly. He sniffs it and gives it a perfunctory lick. Then he cases the shop, sniffing fervently at the abundance of scented goods.

I spit out in one breath, “I was attacked in an alley behind our building this morning—a man from a case I’m working on, but don’t worry, I’m fine. This wolf appeared out of nowhere and tore into him like an avenging angel. The guy disappeared and got away. I don’t think he’s dangerous unless he’s threatened.” I pause for breath.

Alexis puts her hands on her hips, clearly outraged. “What do you mean you don’t think he’s dangerous? He jumped you in the alley, and you have dried blood on your neck.”

I widen my eyes and grab my neck. “Shoot, I forgot about that. I meant I don’t think the wolf is dangerous. I’m going to keep him. The man is definitely dangerous. The wolf got cut by him, and is in far worse condition than I am.”

Alexis’ eyes flit to the wolf and then back to me. Then she immediately springs to action, her healing nature taking over.

She squats down informing the wolf, “I’m going to touch you gently by your wound, and you are going to remain calm and stay still.”

She tentatively parts the bloody hair on his left flank, and he abides her orders, standing still through her ministrations. I watch carefully for signs of aggression but see none.

Alexis looks up at me, and I feel her relief as she says, “Thankfully it is not that bad. His fur protected him a good deal, and the rain seems to have helped. It looks like the knife nicked some surface blood vessels, but the wound isn’t deep.”

Then she looks at the wolf and starts cooing, “You poor thing, you look so starved. Let’s get you something to eat and take care of that cut.”

This is not an unexpected response. Alexis does two things very well. She can cook up herbal potions like no one’s business, and she also does her best to feed everyone in sight. I personally agree feeding him before taking care of the injury is a wise idea.

Alexis leads us to a back room equipped with a small commercial kitchen decorated in a mix of stainless steel and country charm. She mixes most of her potions in this comfortable and efficient space. Alexis’ assistant, Penelope, is busy ladling some mixture into bottles with a funnel. She turns to Alexis and immediately drops the ladle back into the pot with a plop when she sees the wolf.

Alexis smiles and says, “Penelope, we have a patient today. Do you want to mind the front while I take care of him back here?”

Penelope is a pretty, young girl with rosy cheeks and curly hair, which frequently escapes her bun. She’s usually hardworking but a little silly. Right now slack-jawed most adequately describes her as she stares, mouth agape, at the wolf. The wolf, in return, is utterly ignoring her. Eventually Alexis’ words seem to penetrate Penelope’s temporarily addled brain because she wrings her apron in her hands and promptly runs up front.

I hop up on the edge of the butcher block island as Alexis pulls things down from the cabinets. She opens a purple bottle and pours a green substance on some gauze pads. Handing them to me, she instructs, “Dab this around your injury while I care for the wolf. What are you going to call him?” She turns her back to me and starts pulling things from the fridge.

I consider her question for a minute. “Well, the only real memory I have of my mother is her telling me a bedtime story about a wolf. It’s hazy, only a wisp of a memory really, but I think she called the wolf Varg. So that’s his name.”

Alexis turns around to look at me as I tell her that story. Her eyes go soft and warm. Then she turns around again and starts briskly heating things in stainless steel pots on the red porcelain stove. “Varg is the perfect name,” she says.

“So, do you have any remedies for fleas and worms handy as well? I think he’s been traveling a long way without any care. I also need a strong soap for his coat.”

Alexis looks up thoughtfully. “I usually don’t sell veterinary supplies out of the store. I do make them when I get requests. I’ll have to make some from scratch.”

“Do you mind? I’ll pay of course.”

“I don’t mind. In fact, I insist. But it’s going to take a little time.” She turns to me with narrowed eyes. “And I’m not going to let him go wandering around town when he’s full of potions. Even though they’re natural, they take a lot out of a body. He’s hurt, and he’ll need protection against viruses and diseases as well. We don’t know where he’s been, but here in the city with the dog population, he’s at risk. And good Lord!“ She sniffs. “He needs a bath.” Alexis finishes this with a nod like it’s all decided now.

She turns back to the stove and handles the long wooden spoon like a master while I hop down to rummage through her cabinets. I locate a large, green glass bowl, fill it with cold water, and set it on the brick floor. Varg laps the water up with a terrific thirst but stops when Alexis puts down another huge glass bowl filled with rice, ground beef, and garlic.

“Wow! Just wow!” I say as we watch him move over to that bowl and devour it like it’s nothing.

Alexis crosses her arms and says, “Yeah. He’d better stay with me today. I’ll get him in shape.”

I give Alexis a big smile. “Thanks so much. I’ve got a new case, so I’ll be running around all day. I’m glad he doesn’t have to wait to get fixed up.”

“Of course he shouldn’t wait with that injury. Now, don’t worry about him. I’ll see you when you get off work. If the shop is closed, you know where to find me.”

Then she wets a paper towel and leans over me to dab at my neck. “There, you’re all clean now.”

I hug her and affect a serious tone. “Now I owe you one. If anyone ever murders you, remember, I’m the one you should call.”

Alexis laughs and pushes me toward the swinging door. “Go, get, scoot.”

I start to leave with a smile on my lips. Then I remember something, so I spin around. “Hey Alexis, If you wanted to learn more about a certain magical artifact, where would you go?”

“Easy. The Dragomir Magical Artifact Shop. Make sure you speak with the owner.”

“Thanks again,” I shout, running out the door on my way to the Medical Examiner’s office.

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