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It’s black magic, I tell you!

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“It’s black magic, I tell you!”

Father Layne winced a little as he and Mr. Kimber walked into Mr. Fell’s bookshop. Mr. Fell looked up from his desk, looking a bit bewildered. “Excuse me?”

“I saw him move shelves with a wave of his hand!” Mr. Kimber exclaimed. “He worships the devil!”

Mr. Fell suddenly looked like he was swallowing a laugh. “Oh, I think perhaps you have the wrong shop.”

Father Layne gave Mr. Fell an apologetic look. Mr. Kimber was one of Father Layne’s parishioners, but not one that the priest had gotten to know very well yet. He was, however, aware that Mr. Kimber owned a bookshop down the street from Mr. Fell’s.

“Just do a blessing or something!” Mr. Kimber hissed.

“Oh, I’d rather you didn’t, actually,” Mr. Fell spoke up. “My husband isn’t fond of that sort of thing.”

“See!” Mr. Kimber said.

Father Layne tried to speak gently. “Lots of people aren’t fond of the church.” To Mr. Fell he said, “I’m sorry. This is—we’ll go.”

“No!” Mr. Kimber said forcefully. “I’m not leaving without an explanation.” He pointed at Mr. Fell. “You have all the customers, but no cafe, no specials, no sales. I know you’re using black magic to steal them from me!”

“Well, people come here because they feel comfortable,” Mr. Fell said. “I actually don’t sell a great deal of books, to be honest.”

“Then how do you stay in business?” Mr. Kimber demanded.

Mr. Fell opened his mouth and then shut it again. 

Father Layne rushed to fill the space. “It does feel very nice in here.”

Mr. Fell smiled. “Will you sit down and have some tea? I’d really rather not have any hard feelings.”

With Father Layne’s urging, Mr. Kimber reluctantly agreed. As they sat down, a red-haired man wearing sunglasses walked out from the back of the shop.

“Gentlemen, my husband, Mr. Crowley,” Mr. Fell said. “This is Father Layne and Mr. Kimber, dear.”

“Oh, bookshop down the street. Nice place.”

“Ask him about it!” Mr. Kimber exclaimed, pointing. “The black magic that draws people in here!”

Mr. Crowley flicked his gaze from the visitors to Mr. Fell. “You think he does black magic.” He dropped down onto the couch opposite them. “Usually people think it’s me.”

“Crowley,” Mr. Fell complained. Mr. Crowley simply looked amused. 

“Neither of us does any magic. To draw in customers,” Mr. Fell said.

Father Layne suddenly found himself wondering if he’d imagined the pause between those two sentences.

“But you use it to move shelves!” Mr. Kimber accused. “I saw you!”

Mr. Crowley groaned. “Angel, did we not just talk about having the blinds shut?”

Mr. Fell said, very calmly, “My dear.” It was clearly not what he meant.

Mr. Crowley grinned at him. “Oh, just tell them the truth. I mean, he saw what he saw. If you don’t close the blinds while you’re practicing, that’s hardly his fault. I know you’re nervous, honey, but your magic act is getting really good. It’s drawing people in like mad now. Cat’s out of the bag.”

“My...magic act.”

Mr. Kimber sputtered. “You can’t move shelves with a—”

“Which do you think is more likely, really?” Mr. Crowley asked, leaning forward. “That Mr. Fell, the bookshop owner, has a magic act, or that he practices the dark arts? I mean, look at him. He’s practically an angel. Even named for one.”

“Oh?” asked Father Layne. “Which one? Gabriel?”

For some reason, both Mr. Fell and Mr. Crowley looked mortified. “Aziraphale,” Mr. Crowley corrected. “Much nicer fellow than Gabriel.”

“Aziraphale? Principality?” Father Layne asked.

“Mmm,” said Mr. Fell, still looking displeased, until a new person came around the corner of a shelf and Mr. Fell broke into a beautiful smile. “Eli! How nice to see you!”

Eli was a young man with bright blond curls. “Just stopped off on my way to work to bring you guys some biscuits. My spouse and I made them last night.”

“Oh, how delightful,” Mr. Fell said. “Do you have a moment? Please join us.” 

Mr. Kimber fixed Eli with a look. “So are you here because of his magic act?”

The young man laughed. “Ah, yeah. I quite literally am here because of—” He seemed to catch a look from Mr. Crowley and broke off his sentence.

“These biscuits are just lovely, Eli,” Mr. Fell said smoothly.

“They really are,” Father Layne agreed.

Mr. Kimber opened his mouth again, and Mr. Crowley gave an impatient sigh. “Look, Aziraphale, just handle a blessed object or something and send them on their way.” To Mr. Kimber’s questioning look he said, “You know the damned can’t touch things like that. I’m sure Father Layne is carrying something. Medallion in his pocket, perhaps?”

Father Layne was, in fact, carrying two medallions in his pocket. He debated a second and then handed one to Mr. Fell. To Father Layne’s partial surprise, Mr. Fell immediately looked confused. “Oh, this—” He didn’t finish the sentence, though.

“Now him!” Mr. Kimber said, pointing at Mr. Crowley.

“Not part of the deal,” Mr. Crowley countered.

“Actually, my dear, I think there’s no harm in it just this once,” Mr. Fell said.

The two men exchanged a look, and then Mr. Crowley took the medallion for a quick second before handing it back.

Father Layne stood up and Mr. Kimber reluctantly did the same.

“I’m sure sales will improve,” Mr. Fell said with a smile. Mr. Kimber just stalked out of the store. 

Father Layne walked around the corner too, but he stopped when he overheard Mr. Crowley say, “Angel. He’s been nothing but rude to you. Superstitious git like that deserves to be out of business.” And then, more softly: “Oh, why do I even bother? They don’t deserve you, you know.”

The shop owners came around the corner and were surprised to see Father Layne still standing there.

“You, um—you knew the medallion wasn’t blessed,” Father Layne said. When Mr. Fell didn’t answer, he pressed on. “Look, I wouldn’t ask, but—is there any way that you could bless it for me?”

Mr. Fell parried the request. “Why do you need it blessed?”

“I have a parishioner who’s in a bad way.”

“Oh,” Mr. Fell said, brightening. “Well, perhaps I could visit.”

“Aziraphale,” Mr. Crowley growled. “No. Not being careful with that sort of thing got you into this whole mess.”

“But, my dear, I can’t—”

Mr. Crowley groaned. “Yeah, I know you can’t. Fine, then. Just do it with the—” He gestured to the medallion.

Mr. Fell took the piece from Father Layne’s hand, and for a second, he seemed to be something entirely other than a bookseller. And then he handed the medallion back to the priest. “I’m sure Cora will get to feeling better soon,” he said.

Mr. Crowley caught Father Layne’s eye. “Just a little earthly magic. And not the sort of trick that can be repeated.”

“Right,” said Father Layne. “Well—thank you.”

As he left the shop, he heard Mr. Fell say, “Eli, did you know I really do have a magic act? Would you like to—”

Mr. Crowley cut him off. “NO.”