The Clock Is Ticking
Part one is here.
Magnus dropped a wad of vampire hair into the cauldron and began to stir the contents with a long-handled spoon as it turned from a sickly green to a dark brown. He watched as it bubbled for a moment, then conjured a flask and poured a portion of the potion into it. He put the stopper on and set it aside, picking up the next and filling it as well. Once three flasks sat side by side and the cauldron was empty, it vanished with a snap of his fingers and a cloud of blue sparks, and he picked up the three flasks and put them in a small leather bag.
His first meeting of the day was not at all pleasant. It was with a very stout Mundane who insisted she’d requested four flasks of the potion, not three, and refused to review the contract until Magnus threatened to leave. She relented, and when Magnus pointed to the part that stated they had, in fact, agreed on three bottles, she snatched them up and shoved the bag of jewels into his hands and stormed off.
They were eighteenth century diamonds and rubies, and he’d been waiting for some time to get his hands on them. The way the diamonds were cut was of particular interest because it was a style that had been used only in one region for a very short period of time. This particular interest was the only reason he’d agreed to work with the woman at all, considering the fact that she wanted three flasks of what he’d told her would cause instant love and affection for her by the drinker. He couldn’t imagine that whatever she had planned was going to go well, but the moment she left the room, he put her out of his mind, already preparing for his next client.
His second client of the day was so boring Magnus cut him off midway through his spiel and proposed a counteroffer. His client, a well bred and affluent Mundane from Manhattan, seemed shocked, but Magnus ignored him, plowing on with his proposal until the man agreed. It was an easy job, and the Mundane had signed a contract agreeing to pay ten times what the work was worth, so Magnus left him with a sense of pride and in surprisingly good humor.
It was now early afternoon, and Magnus decided to stop by his loft to feed the hoard of cats that had surely gathered on his balcony. They didn’t care much about seeing him, but ran to their bowls as soon as Magnus filled them.
Magnus rolled his eyes and walked into his office to grab the book he’d need for his next meeting. It wasn’t one he was looking forward to, but the book itself was rather interesting, so he sat down in the chair behind his desk and opened it to the very first page, conjuring up a glass of whiskey.
He was just about to turn the page when his phone starting ringing, and he pulled it out of his pocket with a sigh. Upon seeing who was calling, he set the book down on his desk and hit answer, lowering his glass.
“Has it ever occurred to you that I do, in fact, have other things to do besides listen to your excuses as to why your payment is a week late?”
Magnus could hear Louis shuffling around on the other end of the line, then clearing his throat. There was a lot of background noise, the sound of tires and car horns and people yelling, and Magnus’ impatience grew just a little bit more.
“I’ll have it tonight, I told you.”
Magnus swirled the contents of his glass and leaned back in his chair, sighing. Louis had told him he’d have his payment three times already this week, and had always found some excuse for not being able to show up.
“Don’t disappoint me again, Shadowhunter.”
And then he ended the call and stood, shaking his head in annoyance and walking into his bedroom.
His third client of the day was worse than the other two combined, and Magnus had to remind himself that the only reason he took these jobs was because Mundanes had no concept of how much was too much. He’d whip up an easy potion and be paid enough to go on several vacations in Singapore, or he’d do a quick spell and receive enough to entirely redecorate his loft; all it took was a little suggestion.
This particular client, however, wanted something much more complicated and much more taxing. Magnus tried to explain to him that the wards he wanted put up would take at least a week, but he kept insisting that they be done the next day. Magnus did his best to explain the situation in the simplest terms he knew how, but the man appeared to not hear anything he said.
Tired of wasting his time, Magnus dropped his glamour, and the man stumbled back.
“One week, or you find someone else.”
The man nodded vigorously, and Magnus’ eyes returned to their previous brown. He flourished a pen.
“If you’ll just sign here then.”
Magnus slid on his waistcoat and buttoned it, then began rolling up the sleeves of his burgundy collared shirt, looking down at his hands. Staring down at his left wrist, his eyes went wide and he froze.
There, in black ink, stood seventeen minutes.
Magnus stared at the numbers, their sharp lines, the way they were spaced just far enough apart to fit across his wrist, and he watched as it ticked down to sixteen minutes.
Magnus inhaled very slowly, feeling the air flow in through his nose, feeling his shoulders rise, and then he exhaled and his shoulders fell, his gaze still locked on his wrist.
He’d never seen it this low before.
He remembered looking down at his wrist when he was a child and the shame that came with seeing he had 402 years until he met his soulmate. He remembered lying to his friends and his family, saying it was only a few years, and he remembered lying in bed at night, thinking there must have been some kind of mistake, that he must have done something wrong.
He’d varied his answers to the inevitable question for believability, and no one ever expressed any doubt as to its veracity, but he’d stopped looking not long after he’d found out that if he did make it that long, there probably was someone waiting for him at the end of those 400 years.
And then, about two decades ago, things had started to change. Instead of rather steadily counting down, the time began to flux, going from decades to hours multiple times a day. The first time he had noticed it, he’d panicked and had canceled his next meeting, but then he’d watched it change back to nineteen years and two hundred and thirteen days, and he’d gotten used to it again. But never had he ever been this close to meeting his soulmate.
Magnus took another deep breath, and he left his sleeves rolled up as he conjured a portal and stepped through it into the alley behind Pandemonium.
Magnus spotted Louis by the bar and made his way over. It was too dark and crowded to make out much, but he could vaguely see two men standing next to Louis who appeared to be looking for someone in the mass of people. They were craning their necks and seemed oblivious as to Louis’ presence, and Magnus could see that Louis was fidgeting even from here.
Someone bumped into his left side, and he turned, raising his arm slightly. In a flash of pink light, Magnus saw the inky black twenty eight seconds. The stranger ignored him completely, and he pressed on, emerging from the crowd and seeing Louis freeze.
In another flash of light, Magnus just barely caught the words six seconds.
He took the last few steps and shifted his gaze from Louis to the man standing next to him who was staring at Magnus, his left wrist raised just in front of him as if he’d been looking at it.
Magnus took a deep breath and extended his hand to the stranger.